HAMILTON – A memo to the Canadian Football League schedule makers for 2024 and the years beyond: scratch having the Winnipeg Blue Bombers visiting Hamilton for the annual Hall of Fame Game and, especially, in advance of a bye week.
The Blue Bombers spit out a sloppy and mistake-filled performance Saturday afternoon in front of 22,610 at Tim Hortons Field in Steeltown, dropping a 29-23 decision to the Tiger-Cats with the result having loosened their grip on first place in the West Division.
Winnipeg, has lost two of its last three, and falls to 10-4, while the B.C. Lions moved to 9-4 with a phenomenal comeback win late Saturday night in Vancouver against the Ottawa RedBlacks. Hamilton, meanwhile, has now won three of its last four to improve to 6-7 and move into a second-place tie in the East Division with the Montreal Alouettes.
And if you’re thinking that sounds familiar, it is, as the Blue Bombers also served up a dud in last year’s Hall of Fame Game – also before a bye week – and are now winless in the Hammer in four regular season trips since August of 2017. (Big emphasis on regular season, of course, as the Blue Bombers did win the 2021 Grey Cup in the same building).
“Not good enough, obviously,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “We just made enough mistakes and they capitalized on them.
“I thought they drove the ball well into the wind and really took some time off the clock and drove the ball well in the end and got points. We missed some opportunities for points, and we lose by six. It happened, and I think the most important thing now is for the guys to get on their break and forget about it and get some rest. It’s one of those games. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a good football team.”
The Blue Bombers committed four turnovers – three interceptions and a turnover on downs at the end of the game – and were still in position to steal an ugly win late. Ultimately, however, a positive result certainly would have glossed over too many mistakes in all three phases that included the interceptions, a missed field goal and missed convert that was returned for two points and a defence that gave up 160 yards rushing and 22 points in the first half alone.
“Games usually come down to a handful of plays,” said Zach Collaros, who finished the day 21-of-35 for 344 yards with TD strikes to Nic Demski and Kenny Lawler and the three interceptions – all in the second half. “Those are the typically the things that get magnified. You can’t turn the ball football over there – the first one in the red zone – and the beginning of the fourth our defence got us out of one of them (by forcing a turnover, too).
“I thought everybody fought hard. It didn’t start off the way we wanted to, but we clawed back and as an offense we’ve got to do a better job of executing there.
“… It’s boring to say, but it comes down to execution. Again, we got behind there and Hamilton did a good job of taking some of the things away that we like to do. There are plays to be made out there. Errors cannot occur, especially on my behalf, and we’ve got to do better for our team.”
More from our view in the press box on the Blue Bombers loss here in Hamilton…
POWELL, CRUM AND DOLEGALA OR… FALONEY, JACKSON AND LANCASTER?:
Winnipeg has had its issues with neophyte QBs this season, making the likes of Taylor Powell (Hamilton), Dustin Crum (Ottawa) and Jake Dolegala (Saskatchewan) looking like the second comings of legends like Bernie Faloney, Russ Jackson and Ron Lancaster.
Powell, making just his seventh career start, finished 20-of-26 for 236 yards with one TD and one interception also rushing four times for 23 yards. And while he did turn the ball over in the second half with the pick and a fumble – helping give the Blue Bombers some life – he got his club into the end zone and, more importantly, got the ‘W.’
“We just started slow, especially on defence,” said defensive tackle Jake Thomas. “I don’t know what the stats are, but it seemed like they were getting points on their first four-five drives (three TDs and two field goals in first six possessions).
“We’ve just got to execute better. Second half defensively I thought we started to play a bit better, but we’ve got to start playing a full 60 minutes. There are a lot of good teams in this league. There’s a lot of parity. It’s hard to win a game when you only play 30.”
UP AND DOWN ‘O’:
A week after running up and down the field in a 51-6 blowout win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl – scoring TDs on all six of their first six possessions, Winnipeg’s offence was all over the map against the Ticats.
Collaros threw for 344 and the two scores, Nic Demski (137) and Dalton Schoen (110) both went over the century mark receiving and the club got 93 yards along the ground – 46 yards from Brady Oliveira on nine carries – but it couldn’t complete a late rally.
THE BIG MOMENT
Despite the sloppiness and mistakes, Winnipeg was in position to potentially escape with a win, with the ball on their own 41 and 1:40 left in the game. But Collaros was sacked on first down for a five-yard loss, with two incompletions then following.
THE BIG STAT: 18-28
The Ticat offence converted 16 of 28 second down plays, for a percentage of 64.3. That included going 10 of 13 in the opening half.
GAME BALL: Nic Demski, SB
Finished the day with six receptions and a team-high 137 yards receiving, including one TD. That pushes him to 931 yards on the season – a career high.
NEXT: The Blue Bombers now head into their second bye week of the season before Andrew Harris and the Toronto Argonauts pay a visit on Friday, September 29th, with a 7 p.m. CDT start.