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December 3, 2019

10 Numbers of Note | 2019 Edition

Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the 107th Grey Cup game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, AB, Sunday, November. 24, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL)

Huddle up, stats geeks, numbers freaks and any Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan interested in some of the minutiae that made up the 2019 Grey Cup championship season.

It was a wild and wacky ride filled with extreme highs and some gut-crushing lows. But with the season now fading, we thought we’d throw around some significant numbers and debate which is the standout.

Is it Andrew Harris winning his third straight rushing title, a first for any Bombers running back dating back to the club’s inception in 1930?

Is it the team going 4-0 under Zach Collaros, including the memorable playoff run that ended in championship glory?

Or is it simply this: the Grey Cup drought ending after 28 years, 11 months and 30 days between the win in 1990 and the victory over Hamilton just a couple Sundays ago?

Again, there really are no wrong answers here. But before we finish putting a bow on the 2019 campaign, we thought we’d toss out the numbers that resonate — from this perch, at least – in our third annual instalment of 10 Numbers of Note:


8-1

The stat: The Bombers posted a home record of 8-1 this season, tying the club record (now achieved 10 times). Winnipeg’s only blemish at IG Field was a 33-13 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday, September 27th.

What it means: The Bombers have turned IG Field into a difficult place to play, much the same way old Winnipeg/Canad Inns Stadium was in the late 1950s/early 1960s and throughout most of the 1980s when the club posted only one losing record at home.

Talking point: IG Field opened in 2013, but the Bombers hardly christened the new facility in style after the gates first swung open. Get this: from the opening through the first chunk of 2016, Winnipeg was just 7-23 in its new building, or a .233 winning percentage. Since August of 2016 through 2019, that home record is now 24-9, or a .727 winning percentage.

55

The stat: The Bombers finished with 55 touchdowns in 2019, second only to Hamilton’s 57.

What it means: The Bombers finished with 45 offensive touchdowns, behind only Hamilton and Montreal, which had 50, and added six on defence and four more on kick returns.

Talking point: Kudos to the three coordinators here – Paul LaPolice on offence, Richie Hall on defence and Paul Boudreau of the special teams – for getting scores from all three phases. It does also speak of the value of continuity of the coaching staff under head coach Mike O’Shea, although LaPolice is said to be a serious candidate for the vacant head coaching jobs in Edmonton and Ottawa.

+7

The stat: The Bombers finished +7 in the turnover ratio (takeaways minus giveaways), the fourth-best total in the CFL behind Calgary (+15), Hamilton and Saskatchewan (+8).

What it means: Over the last four years, the Bombers are a whopping +46 in the turnover ratio (+12 in 2016, +14 in 2017, +13 in 2018 and now +7 this year).

Talking point: No stat equates with winning and losing more than the turnover ratio and it’s no coincidence that Calgary and the Bombers – two of the CFL’s most successful franchises over the last few years – lead in this category. Consider this as well: the +46 turnover ratio since 2016 is in stark contrast to the number over the four previous seasons – a grotesque minus 60.

637

The stat: Rookie Kenny Lawler led the Bombers in receiving yards with 637 yards on 43 receptions.

What it means: A couple of things – first, the Bombers did not have a 1,000-yard receiver for just the third time in 10 seasons. And the 637 total is the lowest by the leading receiver total for the Bombers since Bob LaRose paced the group with 587 yards in 1985.

Talking point: The Bombers targeted upgrading the receiving group heading into 2019 and took serious looks at Derrell Walker, Greg Ellingson and Bryan Burnham in free agency before the dollars got too high. But with the numbers for Darvin Adams down – he had his 1K-season streak snapped at two and after missing five games, finished with 47 catches for 549 yards – and the team starting three different quarterbacks while continuing to pound the football along the ground, the receiver totals were bound to drop.

There are some intriguing younger import pieces here in Lawler, Rasheed Bailey and return specialists Lucky Whitehead and Janarion Grant to go along with Canadians Nic Demski, Drew Wolitarsky and Daniel Petermann, but this might be an area the team targets again this winter. Pending free agents include Adams, Wolitarsky and Charles Nelson.

37.1

The stat: Bombers running back Andrew Harris accounted for 295 of the club’s 795 offensive touches in 2019 – 225 carries and 70 receptions – or 37.1 percent.

What it means: It’s an astonishing number for a couple of reasons. First, Harris missed two games this season. And second, the percentage of those touches have been remarkably consistent over the last few years. He was at 38.4 percent in 2018 and 37.8 percent in 2017.

Talking point: Harris has been the Bombers’ offensive workhorse since joining the club in 2016 and just finished a campaign in which he captured his third consecutive rushing title. What should never be overlooked are his contributions as a receiver. In his four years as a Bomber, Harris has 300 receptions. That total is not only first all-time among Bomber running backs, but has put Harris in the club’s Top 10 for receptions.

128

The stat: The Bombers were hit for 128 penalties this year – down two from last year and by far the lowest in the CFL (Calgary had the second fewest at 146). Those 128 infractions led to 1,163 yards in penalties, also lowest in the CFL.

What it means: It’s a testament to the team’s overall discipline, given the offence was the least-penalized attack in the CFL with 39 penalties, while the special teams was flagged 30 times – also lowest in the league. The Bombers defence, meanwhile, was hit with 59 penalties, tied for fourth.

Talking point: Consider this: in 2015, O’Shea’s second year as the Bombers head coach, the team was called for 202 penalties. Since then the totals have dropped to 195, to 125, up slightly to 130 and now at 128.

64.2

The stat: The Bombers surrendered an average of just 64.2 yards rushing per game.

What it means: It’s a new club record, eclipsing the previous low of 72.8 rushing yards allowed per game back in 2003. It was also the second-fewest allowed all time in the CFL, with only the 1995 Stampeders (54.5 yards) stingier vs. the run.

Talking point: This is a tip of the hat to the entire defence, but especially to the front six. It also became a prominent part of the team’s run to the Grey Cup, with key short-yardage attempts by Saskatchewan in the Western Final and Hamilton in the Grey Cup stuffed in critical moments.

90.9

The stat: Dating back to a game in Ottawa in which Justin Medlock went 0-for-2 in field goal attempts – one clanging off the upright – the veteran kicker then hit 50 of his next 55 tries, or 90.9 percent.

What it means: There’s more to this: rewinding to early October and through to the Grey Cup win in the worst conditions for kickers, Medlock hit 26 of his last 27 attempts, or an incredible 96.3 percent of his kicks.

Talking point: It’s come to the point where Medlock – dubbed ‘Money’ – is almost taken for granted for what he continues to do for the Bombers. We’ll add this for further discussion: it says here he is also the best punter in the league.

212.2

The stat: The average per-game passing yardage for the Bombers this season, ranking last in the CFL.

What it means: Well, it means absolutely, positively nothing right now given the Bombers will soon be getting sized up for Grey Cup rings.

Talking point: The Bombers’ offensive identity has come from its ability to control the line of scrimmage and the clock by pounding the football along the ground. To that end, Winnipeg led the CFL in rushing yards per game (147.9) and time of possession (32 minutes, two seconds). It’s also the byproduct of starting three different quarterbacks this year due to injury. But the 3,819 passing yards this season was also the lowest dating back to 2009, when the offence managed just 3,600 yards through the air. One more number, for discussion: Winnipeg’s 78 pass attempts of 20 yards or more this season was the lowest in the CFL.

24

The stat: The number of pending free agents for the Bombers.

What it means: It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually the lowest in the CFL given the proliferation of one-year contracts over the last few seasons. Here’s the difficult part: keeping everyone is an absolute impossibility given cap restraints and potential opportunity elsewhere around the league.

Talking point: The list of free agents includes: quarterbacks Zach Collaros, Chris Streveler and Matt Nichols, offensive linemen Stanley Bryant, Michael Couture, Jermarcus Hardrick and Pat Neufeld, defensive linemen Willie Jefferson, Drake Nevis, Craig Roh and Jake Thomas, receivers Darvin Adams and Drew Wolitarsky, defensive backs Marcus Sayles, Winston Rose, Nick Taylor, Mercy Maston, Chandler Fenner, Jeff Hecht, running back Johnny Augustine.

All those players, it’s worth noting, started at least one game. Who stays and who goes as the Bombers head into 2020 with the goal of trying to be the first team to repeat as Grey Cup champs since the Montreal Alouettes of 2009-10.