July 6, 2024

Upon Further Review | OTT 16 WPG 25

Chris Streveler threw for 127 yards and rushed for 79 in Friday's win over Ottawa -- photos by Cameron Bartlett

Chris Streveler stood in front of the cameras and reporters, his hair and beard soaked with sweat, the eye-black smeared across his cheeks.

Looking worn out and completely exhausted from surviving the car crash that was Friday night’s 25-16 win over the Ottawa RedBlacks at Princess Auto Stadium, he looked like a guy who needed an ice bath, a massage, a visit to the chiropractor and a team of physical therapists to attend to his every ache and pain.

In short, then, and as they say in the Maritimes, he looked like a man ‘who had been dragged through a knothole backwards.’

He praised his teammates on offence and defence and special teams while shouting out the offensive line and running back Brady Oliveira. And his every word carried the same passion and energy he flashed throughout the Blue Bombers first win of 2024.

Winning is fun. That’s a given. And winning when it’s been 1,721 days between starts? Well, that’s gold for a guy who has been all over pro football’s map trying to find a home before retracing his steps back to where it began back in 2018.

“It’s emotional,” said Streveler, who’s last pro start came on Oct. 19, 2019 in a loss to the Calgary Stampeders. “I just know how hard these guys work in this building and what we expect of ourselves is high. So to start the season the way we did is frustrating. The guys put their head down and they continued to work, continued to push day in, day out and it showed up tonight.

“It feels good. To not have played a lot of football in the last five years it’s very exciting, but it’s about the guys in that locker room. That’s why it’s so special — because I love this team and I love that locker room. That’s what makes it that much sweeter and it just feels great.”

Streveler spoke all week about opportunity and his appreciation for the chance to start after the injury to Zach Collaros last week in Calgary with much of that sentiment captured this week’s edition of ‘The Lede.’

And while so many talk about putting team first, Streveler genuinely lives it.

“That’s a guy who understands gratitude,” said head coach Mike O’Shea after Friday’s win. “I like that he has this opportunity. I believe other people would have given him an opportunity but that’s a guy who just gets it.

“He’s been plugging away and plugging away and not getting to exactly where he wanted to be and now he’s exactly where he should be and you always love to see a guy happy about that. The emotions… I mean, he’s an emotional guy. That’s why you don’t want him to change from that. That’s what helps drive his leadership style.

“It’s not hard to see — he puts it on the line every single play. You need everybody doing that and we’re closer, that’s for sure.”

ICYMI, our Game Recap from Friday night can be found here:

Game Recap | OTT 16 WPG 25

And a deeper dive into the Blue Bombers first win of the season in this week’s edition of UPON FURTHER REVIEW

THREE NUMBERS THAT STOOD OUT… after a deeper dive into the statistical package, which can be found here:

1 The 212 yards rushing Friday was the most by the club since last year’s Banjo Bowl, when they cranked out 263 yards along the ground as part of a memorable day in which the club had 603 net yards of offence in a 51-6 spanking of Saskatchewan.

Streveler rumbled for 79 yards and a TD on 13 carries while Oliveira had 129 on 23 carries — more than doubling his best outing so far this year and best numbers since storming for 169 in a win over Toronto last September 29th.

“It’s fun, man,” said Streveler. “To know that we’re both going to put our bodies on the line to move the football to win games… it’s exciting. I can’t say enough about the way our offensive line responded. We challenged them this week to be physical and they were physical. They got movement. We ran the ball on first downs and that’s our brand of football. I’m so proud of the way those guys fought and played. That’s our brand of physicality.”

“It’s better that they respond than they don’t, because then we’re into a different set of conversations,” said O’Shea of the O-line’s work. “They did well. They don’t need that (the challenge). They haven’t needed that in a long time. It’s not often.

“They certainly wanted to play more physical, too, they just had to let it go; not worry about things and just… run.”

2 Sergio Castillo was six-of-six in the field goal department, connecting twice from 53 yards, along with makes from 49, 28, 13 and 18 yards. Since going 1-for-3 in the Week 1 loss to the Montreal Alouettes — and the whole microchips in the footballs controversy that saw him fined for speaking out but helping force the league to make change — Castillo has made 12 straight kicks, including a club record 60 yarder last week.

FYI, the Blue Bombers record for field goals in a game is seven, which has been accomplished four times, most recently October 28, 2017 against B.C. by Justin Medlock.

Asked if the current run he is on validates the kicker’s decision to speak out about the microchips, he said: “I believe so. You see it with all of us — none of us have been messaging each other (as they were when they were struggling to make kicks in training camp) about, ‘Hey, we’re missing them in practice.’ I think the whole league is in a good rhythm… you see last week that three of the four games were (decided) on game winners (kicks). It just shows that all over the league there’s great freakin’ guys kicking out there Thursday through Sunday night.

“It’s fun to watch… except when they’re kicking against me.”

One more on Sergio, from O’Shea:

“We all love Sergio. You probably get a little taste of his personality but he’s so freakin’ awesome for the locker room, too. He’s just a great dude who manages to wiggle himself in everywhere and impart some joy.”

3 Time for a little love for the defence, who was certainly under the microscope after surrendering 500 net yards in the loss to B.C. a few weeks back. Since then? Just 307 net yards allowed in the OT setback in Calgary and 283 vs. Ottawa on Friday.

Included in that were three forced turnovers, including Terrel Bonds’ first career interception, a strip-sack/fumble recovery by Willie Jefferson and a lateral pass fumble (reviewed by the CFL Command Centre) by Ryquell Armstead that was recovered by Evan Holm.

“You put in a new system in a couple weeks of training camp and it takes a little bit,” said O’Shea of the defence. “Guys are three yards in a wrong spot. Guys are just a little bit off so as the season goes on I just think they’ll be better and better. I thought they were stifling in the first half which is pretty cool to see.

“I’m happy for the group. They know where they want to go and it just takes a bit of time to iron out all the pictures.”

TOUGH TO SEE DRU BROWN... have to exit the game in the first half after sliding and taking a forearm to the head by Blue Bombers dime back Redha Kramdi. There’s a ton of respect for Brown still in the Winnipeg locker room, including from Kramdi, who took full responsibility for the penalty.

“I’ve just to do a better job and not hurt Dru,” he said. “I never want to get someone injured — that’s not how I want to play. I get that the team and the fans and everything might say I’m a dirty player, but that’s not what I want to do.

“He was running for a first down and he slid and by the rules I don’t even need to touch him when he slides because they’re going to blow it dead. I’ve just got to do a better job. Dru played here so obviously I don’t want to get him injured.

“For whatever it’s worth, I’m apologizing. You obviously don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

“Redha’s a good player,” added O’Shea. “He can play so many different positions for us and the reason we drafted him is he plays football the right way — he’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s tough and he doesn’t take any crap. I’ve got no problem with that. It’s a mistake. It’s football.”

FYI: The Blue Bombers limited Ottawa’s dangerous return man DeVonte Dedmon to 63 yards on three kickoffs and 49 yards on six punts. Included in that was a mammoth hit by linebacker Michael Ayers on a punt return. O’Shea: “Michael Ayers… great hit. He runs hard and he plays the game the right way. Mike Miller is having a real positive effect on the way the guys want to play.”… O’Shea said he expects Collaros to be back at practice this week.

AND, FINALLY… for those who want to relive the ‘W’ one more time, here’s the video evidence: