February 6, 2017

Game Recap: OTT 23, WPG 10

Two days before Halloween, the 2016 Winnipeg Blue Bombers came to a party masquerading as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, circa 2012-15.

Chasing a home playoff game for the first time in five years, the Bombers were pushed all over their own backyard by the Ottawa REDBLACKS Saturday afternoon in a 23-10 loss that left an announced Investors Group Field crowd of 26,097 positively chilled.

The loss drops the Bombers to 10-7, but still with a shot at second place in the West Division – and still with the chance to finish third or tumble to fourth and be the crossover team as they head to the nation’s capital for their final regular season game next Friday.

Ottawa, meanwhile, improved to 8-8-1 and clinched first place in the East with the victory.


“We just weren’t ourselves today,” said Bombers running back Andrew Harris. “We were flat… I definitely felt that. In the second quarter even in the huddle I was trying to get guys to try and get that momentum and attitude up.

“I can’t really put my finger on it yet… we’ve got to watch film and break it down. Obviously, the turnovers were tough for us. We couldn’t get traction on offence and get into field goal range or get points. Just across the board we weren’t ourselves.

“We’ve got another game, a short turnaround, but we’ve got to come back from this. I’m not going to put excuses on anything… some days you come out flying and some days you come out flat. And today was one of those days.”

The Bombers turned the ball over five times, gave up three sacks, struggled to find any offensive consistency, were run over defensively and seemed to lack a collective fiery emotion – a trademark of their 9-2 run after a 1-4 start.

“Not good,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “In all three phases Ottawa took it to us.”

Veteran Ottawa QB Henry Burris completed 23 of 33 for 338 yards with no TDs and an interception, but rushed for a score and spread the ball out to seven different receivers. Mossis Madu carried 21 times for 125 yards and a TD while Ray Early – filling in for Chris Milo, who pulled up lame in the pre-game warm-up – connected on two field goals to round out Ottawa’s scoring.

Winnipeg’s lone TD came with just 10 seconds left in the game as Matt Nichols connected with Darvin Adams on a five-yard score. Nichols and his receiving corps looked out of synch at times and the mistakes were costly: he completed 35 of 46 passes for 289 yards, but was also intercepted three times.

Ironically, Nichols was 4-for-4 on the first drive before being intercepted by Abduh Kanneh at the Ottawa seven-yard line.

“It’s on me and any time you don’t score points as an offence it falls on the quarterback, so I feel like I kinda let the guys down today,” said Nichols. “I chose a bad time to play my worst game of the season.

“We’ve got to score more points than three. Our defence held a high-tempo, high-scoring offence to 23 points, that’s more than enough for us to come away with a win.”

“We’ve got to be better on offence and it starts with me.”

Matt Nichols

The loss means Winnipeg finished the regular season with a 4-5 home record and missed out on posting the first winning mark at Investors Group Field since it opened and the first since 2011.

The Bombers do have a chance to post an 11-win season since going 11-7 in 2003 if they can get it done next week in Ottawa. First things first, however, is to find the same mojo they had during a recent 9-2 run.

“We didn’t start fast, we didn’t play how we normally play,” said Bombers defensive end Jamaal Westerman. “We didn’t take the ball away, we didn’t protect the ball. Those are the things that have really led to all our wins this year and most of the time when we lose it’s because we didn’t do it. That’s our M.O. and we didn’t play how we were supposed to play and how we normally play.

“I don’t want to say we gave them everything – they’re a good team, too. They have a lot of guys who played in the Grey Cup last year, even though their record doesn’t reflect it.

“We just didn’t do a good enough job of being who we’re supposed to be, who we’ve been all year.”



-3: The Bombers have feasted this year on turnovers, but were on the wrong end of it Saturday against Ottawa. The Bombers spit the ball up five times – three Nichols picks, Harris stuffed on a third-and-one, while Jesse Briggs came up short on fake punt – and forced two of their own. It was just the fifth time this year the Bombers have not won the turnover battle and second time in the last 12 games.


“The first quarter didn’t go very well at all… so if that’s flat then describe it however you want to describe it. It’s just not good.”


Ottawa has now won four straight against the Bombers after dropping a 36-28 decision here in Winnipeg back on July 3rd, 2014 – the REDBLACKS first-ever game.


4 – The number of Ottawa receivers who have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season. Brad Sinopoli joined the crew Saturday by pulling in five passes for 73 yards to get to 1,036. Chris Williams (gone for the season) finished at 1,246 yards, Greg Ellingson is now at 1,260 while Ernest Jackson is at 1,225.

56 – Justin Medlock connected on his lone field goal attempt, giving him 56 this season. That’s already a club record and now just three shy of tying Dave Ridgway’s CFL record of 59, set in 1990.

212 – Medlock added four points to his season-total on Saturday, leaving him just one shy of Troy Westwood’s club record of 213, set in 1994.

+28 – The Bombers turnover ratio after Saturday’s loss. The club record is +31, set in 1987.

12: Burris opened the game completed his first 12 passes, including a pair of two-point converts.