September 19, 2022

Upon Further Review | WPG 31 HAM 48

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) throws during first half CFL football game action against the Hamilton Tiger Cats in Hamilton, Ont. on Saturday, September 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

Even given time to swirl the Winnipeg Blue Bombers latest effort around a bit – and resist the urge to spit it out instantly – it’s still not a simple performance to process.

Oh sure, when a team has established this kind of recent track record with back-to-back Grey Cup championships and a 29-5 record since late October of 2019, they have more than earned the right to a free pass/it’s-only-one game narrative.

That was certainly a common refrain heard from some of the participants post-game from a veteran crew so conditioned to go 1-0 each week. And as head coach Mike O’Shea said: “We went 0-1 this week. They put it on us. How we lose is not indicative of the team we’ve been for quite some time. I take it as an anomaly. We’ll look at the film and come back from the break better.”

Of that, there should be no doubt.

Yet, there must certainly be some concerns, especially after the defence was lit up for 41 points – the other seven coming on a strip sack/fumble/TD return on Zach Collaros – and surrendered five passing TDs to Ticats quarterback Dane Evans & Co.

Just FYI, the 48 points against was the most since a 52-16 loss to the Ticats back on July 2, 2015. A blip? Sure.

But the concern must be that when a defence which has been so dominant over the last two years gets dominated like that it becomes part of a blueprint teams will then further build on to try and beat them.

The Ticats amassed 26 first downs and 409 net yards of offence – interestingly, the Blue Bombers were better in both departments at 28 and 445 – but did not turn the ball over, were 4-for-4 in the red zone, as the embattled Evans finished the day 25-of-32 for 327 yards, the five TDs and a whopping 158.3 QB-efficiency.

Consider this: 11 of Evans’ 25 completions were for 10 yards or more, including big-play chunks for 44 yards, 19 and 54 yards – the last two for touchdowns.

“We just gave up some big plays that we normally don’t give up,” said veteran linebacker Adam Bighill. “Those plays, you look throughout the season, and we really haven’t had those. Those hurt. You can’t give up explosives over the top for any reason, whether it’s communication, technique, what have you. We just can’t have it.

“We realize stuff happens. It’s pro football. They get paid, too. But how it happens are things we look to correct. We want to have contested deep balls and if they go up and win and take it – that touchdown at the end Evan (Holm) is in good position and they catch it. Those are things we can live with, but you can’t give them anything.”

More on just the Blue Bombers second loss of the season against 12 wins in this week’s UPON FURTHER REVIEW

AS IFFY AS THE BLUE BOMBERS WERE IN THE FIRST HALF… and Winnipeg was down 34-14 at the intermission, they were certainly in position to finish what would have been an epic comeback in the fourth quarter.

A Zach Collaros-to-Rasheed Bailey TD with 9:24 left in game brought the Blue Bombers to within 10 at 41-31. But the Ticats then followed with a brilliant 14-play, 90-yard drive that was capped with an Evans-to-David Ungerer six-yard TD which also chewed up 7:20 of clock.

On that drive, the Ticats converted five second-down opportunities and one third and short to stay on the field.

“It’s frustrating because that’s not us, that’s not what we’re used to,” said Bighill. “There’s a reason for that and why those things happen and those are the things we’re going to go look to correct.

“It truly wasn’t our character. And when we come to the sidelines it’s not, ‘Oh, what happened?’ because we already know what happened. We’ve just got to play better to correct those things; it’s not a surprise as to how it hit or this or that. We’ve just got to play better fundamental football.”

IT’S ONLY NATURAL THAT SOME FOLKS ARE WONDERING… about the Blue Bombers losing both their games this year prior to the team heading into a bye week.

Both head coach Mike O’Shea and Collaros shot that notion down in the post-game, although Bighill said the thought had crossed his mind.

“I was just asking myself the same thing,” he said. “I’d like to say it’s a coincidence. For whatever reason, I don’t know… we’ve got good guys, good vets, guys that work every week. We understand the situation. We just didn’t execute and the highest level we needed to. It’s unfortunate, but I know we’ve got a lot more in us and we’ll get back to it and get back to work.”

Just for the record, even with the two losses this season the Blue Bombers are still 10-3 in regular season games heading into bye weeks dating back to 2016.

A POST-GAME QUOTE FROM COLLAROS… that says everything about his mentality and that of the rest of his team: Asked if the loss to the Ticats was easier to swallow because the team still sports a league-best record of 12-2, the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player offered this:

“No. It’s not. You play to win. You prep all week to win. That’s what you get paid to do. It’s an ongoing evaluation of yourself and the team, so nobody’s happy about this.”

THE JOCKEYING FOR HOME PLAYOFF DATES IN THE WEST DIVISION… will continue down the stretch here. A Blue Bombers win coupled with a Stampeders loss – which happened later Saturday night in overtime as Calgary fell to B.C. – would have secured at least a home playoff date in Winnipeg.

For what it’s worth, here’s the remaining schedule for Winnipeg, B.C. and Calgary:

  • Winnipeg (12-2): bye week; vs. Saskatchewan; vs. Edmonton; @B.C.; vs. B.C.
  • B.C. (9-3): vs. Calgary; vs. Ottawa; @Toronto; vs. Winnipeg; @Edmonton; @Winnipeg
  • Calgary (8-5): @B.C., vs. Toronto, bye week; vs. Hamilton; @Saskatchewan; vs. Saskatchewan

AND FINALLY… congratulations to Willie and Holly Jefferson – and daughter Kelley – on their newest addition, a baby girl named Rielley Rose. Jefferson quickly scrambled to the hospital after the team’s charter from Hamilton late Saturday night and was there for his daughter’s birth.