GAME 18 | MONTREAL ALOUETTES (8-6) at WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (9-6)
Kickoff: 3 p.m., Saturday; IG Field
TV: TSN 1/3, RDS, ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB
Vegas line: The Bombers are favoured by 4 points.
Home/Road: The Bombers are 6-1 at home; Montreal is 3-4 on the road.
Streaks: Winnipeg: 3L; Montreal: 1W.
Recent history: This is the second and final regular season meeting between the two clubs this year and comes just three weeks after their epic showdown in Montreal back on September 21st. In that game the Bombers led 34-10 at one point in the first half and had a 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter before losing 38-37 in what was both the biggest blown lead by a Winnipeg team and the biggest comeback in Montreal franchise history.
Series (since 1961): The Alouettes lead the all-time series 49-46-2.
1. STEADY, STEADY, MR. STREVELER
It couldn’t have been a fun week for Bombers QB Chris Streveler, who was directly in the crosshairs following last week’s 21-6 loss in Saskatchewan in which he turned the ball over three times – two interceptions and a fumble.
Then, four days later, the Bombers added veteran pivot Zach Collaros just before the trade deadline. And while Collaros won’t dress against the Als as he didn’t land in Winnipeg until after practice Thursday and then began a crash course on the offence, there’s no doubt his arrival adds a ton of intrigue to the Bombers QB depth chart.
Collaros has had only two snaps this year after taking a hellacious shot to the head from Hamilton’s Simoni Lawrence in the first quarter of the first game of the year. He had been practising with the Toronto Argonauts before the Bombers made the trade Wednesday, but remains a huge question mark going forward.
That said, Streveler’s margin of error is also likely shrinking, too, and especially so as we reach the playoffs in a win-now business.
“I think Streveler is a pretty confident guy and he understands the business,” said Andrew Harris on Thursday after practice (a day when quarterbacks weren’t available to the media). “At this point (the trade) is probably more precautionary than anything. You’re always one play away from something happening and you want to be prepared for that. That’s not taking anything away from him or Sean (McGuire) or any of the guys in the locker room if they want to bring guys in, but being over-cautious and prepared for anything is for the best.”
2. FINISH, FINISH, FINISH
The Bombers will insist the Meltdown in Montreal has long been flushed from their memory banks – as is their mantra – but an epic collapse like that has to leave some sort of emotional scars. Doesn’t it?
“The guys understand where we’re at,” said defensive line/linebacker coach Glen Young. “They know what had happened last time (in Montreal) I think anyone in that situation understands that we’ve just got to lock it down. We’ve just got to finish and lock it down and that’s what we didn’t do. We didn’t finish the game the way we should have finished it. We didn’t lock it down how we should have.
“That’s not indicative of who we are as a team and I think that anomaly is going to be left in the past.”
That’s what is so critical now for the Bombers as they attempt to bounce back up after not only that defeat in Montreal, but losses in the following weeks to Hamilton and Saskatchewan. After all, it wasn’t too long ago – following a beatdown of the Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl – that the Bombers were 9-3 and looking down at the rest of the West Division.
Now they are looking up at both Calgary and Saskatchewan with the first-round of the playoffs just a month away.
“It’s upbeat around here,” added centre Michael Couture. “We preach and practice the 24-hour rule when it comes to losses.
“We all know what we’re capable of as an offence, a defence, as a team as a whole. It’s just about having that work ethic to get it back to where we need it. If everybody is on the same wavelength, we should be fine.”
A number just to hammer home this theme: the Bombers have been out-scored 37-3 in the fourth quarter in the last four games.
3. THE VERNON ADAMS, JR./KHARI JONES MAGIC
It’s a cool story currently unfolding in Montreal with the Alouettes, what with Khari Jones taking over a tire fire the week before their first game and then helping breathe life into the career of Vernon Adams Jr.
Kicked to the curb a couple of times, Adams Jr. is now one of the CFL’s most electrifying players and the Bombers – keep those curses under your breath, Bomber Nation – got an up-close look at his magic just a few weeks ago.
In the Montreal rally on September 21st, Adams Jr. threw for a career-high 488 yards, including 342 yards in the second half alone.
“You have to make sure your rush lanes are disciplined,” said linebacker Adam Bighill, when asked about containing Montreal’s QB. “You can’t be running up past the field, you can’t be letting him step up through the pocket and feel comfortable. You have to squeeze the pocket on him and make him throw from within.
“He made some really good throws against man coverage and he was poised and really stood in there and took some shots while throwing the ball. We talk about Mike Reilly as one of the best quarterbacks in the league because of his ability to do that year in, year out. That’s a good trait for a quarterback to have.
“At the end of the day it’s about affecting the quarterback with his feet and his eyes and getting him off rhythm.”
- Winnipeg’s Chris Streveler is 3-7 as a starter over the last two years – 2-4 this year – and 1-1 versus the Alouettes.
- Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr. is 11-4 in his career as a starter – 8-3 this year – and 1-0 in games against the Bombers.
The Bombers are making just one change to their 46-man roster this week. Coming aboard is WR Drew Wolitarsky, who missed last week’s game in Regina and replaces WR Malcolm Williams, who has been moved to the practice roster.
Of note: new QB Zach Collaros has been placed on the one-game injured list as he undergoes a crash course on the playbook.
3 BOMBERS TO WATCH
#9 Justin Medlock, K: The work of the Bombers kicker is always important, but especially so when the weather turns icky. Of note: Medlock needs just six points to become the 14th player in CFL history to hit 1,500 points scored in his career.
#24 Mike Miller, FB: Winnipeg’s special-teams ace leads the lead with 24 tackles and 184 in his career – tied for second place on the all-time list with current Bombers President & CEO Wade Miller. Number one on the all-time list is Jason Arakgi at 190.
#22 Chandler Fenner, CB: It’s unusual to see a cornerback leading a team in tackles, but Fenner has 74 to top the Bombers and ranks fourth overall in the CFL.
#7 Lucky Whitehead, WR/KR: The Bombers’ fastest player ranks fifth on the club in passes targeted 20 yards or longer with six, behind Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams (15), Nic Demski (10), and Drew Wolitarsky (8). Getting him behind coverage – and finding him – could be massive for the attack.
Andrew Harris needs 20 yards from scrimmage – either rushing or receiving – to move past Nik Lewis into seventh place on the CFL’s all-time yards from scrimmage list. Harris is at 13,818 yards; Lewis is at 13,837. The all-time leader is Mike Pringle, at 20,255.
Harris also needs 109 yards rushing to move past Bombers legend Leo Lewis into ninth spot on the CFL’s all-time rushing list.
One more: Harris leads the CFL in rushing and is attempting to become just the fifth player to win the rushing crown in three consecutive seasons. The others: Jon Cornish of Calgary (2011-13), Mike Pringle of Montreal (1997-2000), Saskatchewan’s George Reed (1965-69) and Johnny Bright of Edmonton (1957-59).
HALL OF FAMERS SALUTED
The Bombers will recognize their 2019 Hall of Fame inductees – Less Browne and Dr. Bert Longstaffe – at halftime of Saturday’s game.
To read more on the two inductees, check out the following stories:
- Of Montreal’s eight wins, four have been comebacks of 10 points or more.
- Last week’s loss in Saskatchewan marked just the second time this year the Bombers had not enjoyed a lead at any time during a game. The other game in the 23-15 loss to Hamilton on July 26th
- Montreal RB William Stanback leads the CFL with 12 runs of 20 yards or more. (Update: Stanback has been moved to the one-game injured list. The Alouettes will turn the RB chores over to six-year CFL vet Jeremiah Johnson and he’ll be backed up by rookie Jarveon Williams).
- Chris Streveler and Vernon Adams Jr. are tied for the league lead in rushing TDs with 12. The CFL record for rushing TDs by a QB is 14 and shared by Doug Flutie and James Franklin.
- Adams Jr. is 11-4 in his career starts for the Alouettes, for a winning percentage of .733. Since 2016 the other eight QBs who have started for Montreal have a combined record of 13-39, or a .250 winning percentage.