Bombers lose game and, more importantly, Nichols (& 11 other thoughts)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 30-13 in front of 26,204 fans at Investors Group Field on Friday night. Below are my thoughts on the game.

1. Winnipeg’s defence took a massive step back on Friday night following what was arguably the unit’s best game of the season last week in Edmonton. Jeremiah Masoli threw for a season-high 338 yards and two touchdowns, also chipping in 48 rushing yards on eight carries. The Bombers’ defensive dozen failed to force a turnover and generated just six quarterback pressures despite often rushing as many as six players. The unit was also caught completely off-guard when, following an injury to kicker/punter Sergio Castillo, Jeremiah Masoli performed a quick punt on third and two early in the third quarter. The ball was recovered at Winnipeg’s 17 yard-line by an onside Brandon Banks, setting up a quick Ticat touchdown. Richie Hall is already a fairly unpopular figure in Bomberland; the performance of his defence on Friday night will do little to quell his doubters.

2. I took some heat for what I tweeted following Matt Nichols’ departure from the game in the third quarter. To clarify, I was not insinuating that Dominique Davis was incapable of winning Friday’s contest in relief of Nichols. What I was trying to convey was the magnitude of Nichols’ injury in comparison to the result of the game at hand. Winnipeg didn’t need to beat Hamilton — the season series between the two teams is meaningless and the Bombers essentially have second place in the West Division already wrapped up. Win or lose, an injury to Matt Nichols was the worst-case scenario for the Bombers on Friday night… which is what happened. Bomber fans can hope that the decision to remove Nichols from the game was merely made for precautionary reasons, but hand injuries are finicky — particularly for quarterbacks. If Nichols returns from this injury quickly, people will forget about the Bombers laying an egg in a game that will likely have no impact on the standings. If Nichols is out long-term, this injury will completely change the complexion of Winnipeg’s once-promising 2017 season.

3. Speaking of Davis, I thought he played exactly as you’d expect a quarterback of his age and experience level to perform in relief of an established starter. Davis showed off his big arm and impressive mobility, but looked a little bit slow in his decision-making. I think Davis will be a good CFL quarterback — he just hasn’t gotten the playing time a pivot needs to properly develop.

4. Credit where credit’s due: Hamilton was by far the better team on Friday night at Investors Group Field. The Ticats are now 4-2 since promoting June Jones to head coach, which, frankly, is stunning given his lack of experience in the Canadian game. Hamilton has also achieved a lot of its recent success without much tweaking of the roster — Jones simply promoted a few players (Masoli, Adrian Tracy) and repurposed others (Brandon Banks, Abdul Kanneh) to get the most out of his talent. I can’t help but feel the success of Jones and Phil Lolley (who was promoted to the role of defensive coordinator back in August) is an indictment of Kent Austin and Jeff Reinebold. Hamilton started the season 0-8, losing by an average margin of 18 points with a roster very similar to the one fielded in Winnipeg on Friday night. That’s unbelievable.

5. The tweet of the night goes to former Blue Bomber kicker Troy Westwood. The Bombers need to get their defence sorted out — quickly.

6. Matt Nichols wasn’t the only Bomber player to go down with an injury on Friday night. Timothy Flanders left the game midway through the third quarter, while special teams ace Mike Miller appeared to suffer a leg injury near the end of the game. Canadian defensive end Trent Corney also appeared to have missed time, though it’s unclear whether or not he finished the contest.

7. Six years ago I told anyone who would listen that Chad Owens would never make it as a CFL receiver. Lots of teams around the league were looking to deploy their return men (Larry Taylor, Marcus Thigpen, Jason Armstead, and Tim Brown were among the league’s best at the time) as offensive playmakers, enjoying little success. I figured the same would be true for Owens — he was an outstanding returner, but wouldn’t excel as a full-time receiver. As we now know, Owens would go on to become one of the league’s better receivers for the better part of a decade. It appears as though Brandon Banks might be the next player to make the jump from dominant return man to legitimate star receiver. After an awful start to the season on special teams, Banks has 446 receiving yards over his last six games. Projecting that number over a full season, Banks would be on pace for 1,338 receiving yards — almost the exact same number Owens posted (1,328) during his M.O.P. season in 2012.

8. Darvin Adams’ 44-yard pass to Andrew Harris early in the second quarter was Winnipeg’s highlight of the game. Paul LaPolice ran two jet sweeps to Ryan Lankford last week in Edmonton and has moved Dan LeFevour around in past short yardage situations. This play will add to the laundry list of things opposing defences must now prepare for before playing against Winnipeg.

9. Speaking of LaPolice, just five of Winnipeg’s 29 first half offensive snaps were rushing plays. The ground game has been a huge part of the Bombers’ attack all season — why go away from it now? Hamilton, a club that barely ran the ball under Kent Austin, gave Alex Green twenty carries and owned the time of possession battle by a whopping sixteen minutes (38:19 to 21:41). That’s how you play good, fundamentally-sound football.

10. Speaking of Lankford, the first-year Bomber has just eight catches in the last nine games and appeared to be the cause of Matt Nichols’ late second quarter interception. Lankford slowed late in his corner route near the end zone — some suggested he simply lost sight of the football — allowing halfback Richard Leonard to make an uncontested interception. Canadians Matt Coates and Drew Wolitarsky looked serviceable on Friday night, while speedsters L’Damian Washington and Chris Givens are waiting for an opportunity on the practice roster. With all due respect to Lankford, it might be time to give someone else a shot in the starting line-up.

11. It was a shame to see just over 26,000 fans at Investors Group Field on Friday night. The Bombers came into the contest with five-straight home victories and the weather was gorgeous; then again, maybe those who stayed home had a premonition about Friday’s game.

12. The Bombers now sit at 10-4, six points up on the Riders (7-6) and Eskimos (7-6) for second place in the West Division. Any combination of two Winnipeg victories, two Saskatchewan losses or two Edmonton losses will clinch the Bombers the team’s first home playoff game since 2011. Aside from losing Nichols due to injury, the only real drawback of Friday’s loss for Winnipeg is the virtual guarantee that Calgary will win the West Division for the fourth time in five years. Had the Bombers beaten Hamilton, Winnipeg would have entered the final four weeks of the season just three points back of Calgary with one game between the two teams remaining. Now, down five points, it’s hard to see Winnipeg making up enough ground to bring meaning to the clubs’ meeting during week twenty.

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
John Hodge
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John Hodge
About John Hodge (280 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

30 Comments on Bombers lose game and, more importantly, Nichols (& 11 other thoughts)

  1. Bombers exposed. No roster depth bites hard.
    Fire Miller

    • Ahahaha

      Let’s fire MOS and Walters while we’re at it. We’re 10-4, blow up the organization! /s

  2. John: I think the loss of Sergio Castillo deserves a lot more space in your list of thoughts.A passing reference while making a point about a Masoli punt play, does not do justice to Castillo’s excellent performance so far this season. His knee injury could very well be career-ending. Castillo’s success during the 0-8 debacle, was about the only consistent bright spot we had.

    • Lancaster/Reed // October 7, 2017 at 11:05 am //

      You do know he is writing this from a Bomber perspective, right? If you want the ticat perspective, wait for an article from drew or dunk.

      • Lancaster/Reed: and do YOU know that his thought #4 is all about the Iiger-Cats? And that he devotes much of points 7 and 9 to Banks and Alex Green?
        And who says this is a territorial comment board?
        Knowing more about the Tiger-Cats is good for other teams! lol.

  3. Blue Rules // October 7, 2017 at 10:12 am //

    Bombers were flat for two games in a row, with Edmonton you could surmise that ESK’S had won 7 then lost 6 coming off the bye and desperate to push for a play off spot would be tough at home, so I was not overly concerned, not intended to criticize Hamilton (they’re a much improved team) but Wpg at home needed to be better, congratulations to Hamilton a well deserved win. making the east exciting.

  4. Blue Rules // October 7, 2017 at 10:15 am //

    “MAKING THE EAST GREAT AGAIN”… you heard it here first, make the hats.

  5. Cats will be scrounging the bars and flophouses looking for a kicker, but in the meantime, the Chick trade is making more sense with the game Tracy is playing, and I think Kanneh is gonna make it tough for Davis to get back in there. Kanneh’s more physical. Chop has lost his mojo. (I think Davis is the next trade) That 8 minute drive in the 4th was a game and a season changer. Masoli proved he could be an everyday QB in this league. Much quicker release last night. Coupla clutch catches by Tooz last night

    • Kanneh was playing the SAM LB spot – Davis plays HB so your comment makes no sense. Davis was injured early in the season and I suspect that might still be having a lingering effect on his performance. I doubt they’ll be looking to trade him. And it’s national DE Capicciotti who’s playing in Chick’s spot backed up by a couple of other solid Canadian DEs. For sure they’re going to be looking for a kicker although no one is likely going to be as solid as Castillo has been this season. Terrible injury for after playing so well all season.

  6. Unfortunately I agree that the Bombers were exposed. Richie Hall’s defense was brutal with no answers to Masoli. No pass rush, run defense was poor, Hurl and Alexander in particular were awful but the entire secondary was very weak with uninspired play and bad tackling. I agree that Lankford is not a great receiver and has not been producing as a kick returner either lately. He isn’t hungry enough and should be replaced with someone that displays a fire like the new Ticat returner. The Bomber receivers are too small and not physical enough for the playoff run. Nicol’s has been the Bombers MVP behind an overrated offensive line. The Ticats owned both sides of the ball. Without Nichols playing as an MVP the season will end in a whimper…

    • Lancaster/Reed // October 7, 2017 at 11:19 am //

      I always liked Richie Hall, but it seem like the game is passing him by

      • Richie Hall is a class act. I’ve run into him a few times and such an even-keel person. Is very modest and kind person. He’s a former player and now coach that every community would want to have representing them in some form or capacity. A great human being.

    • Last week the Reilly had 57 passing yards in the first half, but finish the game with somewhere over 300 yards, Edmonton looked equal or better than the Bombers in the second half until the interception. Yet Bombers fans anointed them the second coming, where are those fans today? If Nichols is out for even the one game the Bummers don’t have the depth deal with his injury

  7. Lancaster/Reed // October 7, 2017 at 11:01 am //

    Lots of surprises in the game, but i think im most surprised at the weak attendance number. 26,000? I know it was only hamilton ( no offense ticat fans ), but on a nice evening for some fall football, i assumed bomber fans would pack IGF.

  8. That pretty much settles 1st but was a longshot at best. Even if they took 4 of 5, Stamps would only have needed to split their games. I agree with Bomberland on most points except OL. Hall’s D was & is near the bottom in most key stats – gives up way too many yards. Need DT – Nevis isn’t the same guy. Made this mistake with Euclid last year. Playing beside Laing was great. Great again playing beside Sewell. Nevis benefitted playing next to Laurent. They are complementary pieces who excel beside guys who take on the double/triple teams. Hurl isn’t great in the middle. Lastly the comment re: small receivers is bang on. I will add our National depth there needs upgrade. If Nichols is out long term, watch out.

  9. Ditchbanger // October 7, 2017 at 11:52 am //

    Its unfortunate the low attendance numbers for a team playing so well, finally.
    The reality is that IGF will only see sell outs for the Banjo bowl. Poor location, poor access in and out, (a moose on one road can affect attenbence for kickoff?!) some of the most expensive beverages in the league, and not being able to bring in personal water, snacks (Mosaic you can) make it easier and more feasible for the moderate fans. What should be a fun night out with family and friends gets overshadowed by the hassle and the cost. Some things are fixable, most will be a
    legacy to poor decisions to get it built

    • Blue Rules // October 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm //

      @ ditchbanger agree I’ve haven’t been to a game in IGF for the exact reasons you stated, I use to attend almost all the games before! I live in a city an hour away, not worth Hassel anymore (lack of parking, difficult/delays leaving, concessions $$$). Should have been near the Downs!

    • Lancaster/Reed // October 7, 2017 at 2:16 pm //

      How much is it for a regular canadian beer at IGF? I know new Mosaic aint cheap.

  10. I thought it was pretty bizarre that when Nichols got injured, they opted to use some qb I’ve never heard of who has no experience in the CFL when they have LeFevour. LeFevour has experience and has actually started games before, so I don’t know why he isn’t higher on their depth chart.

  11. Blue Rules // October 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm //

    @Sean, I would suspect experience, Bombers never really had a good chance to take top spot in the west, they can lose this game and still work toward a home playoff game, they know what they have in LeFevour. Plus LeFevour is the on the short yardage team.

  12. White Horse // October 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm //

    Dominique Davis was a third string QB for Stamps three years ago. He has good potential but no chance to play. I was surprised to see his decent performance. O’Shea was correct in checking out his third stringer to see if he is worth a return next season.
    I was surprised but pleased to see tremendous effort and execution by the Cat’s.

  13. @Sean because Davis is the backup and Lefevour is the 3rd string? how it’s been since game 1 lol.

  14. Jeremiah Masoli was the best player on the field.

  15. For point #4 … it is all the more amazing when one considers that the Argos loss should have been a win and the Sask loss likely should have gone to overtime.

    Cat fans who have been watching/complaining about how Austin used the talent available to him likely are not surprised that small changes have made the roster far more competitive. The Austin offense is better than I thought … but depends far too much on continuity while ignoring what the players are good, mediocre or bad at.

    Reinebolt may have had the same issue but then again, the number of injuries plus what the backups were like may have been the bigger factor. Repurposing Kanneh is mentioned but that was not an option for Reinbolde.

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