Bomber Thoughts is a blogging series for which Blue Bomber Talk author John Hodge writes new posts immediately following every Blue Bomber game of the season.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the BC Lions on Thursday night by a final score of 23-13. Here are my thoughts:
1. It’s hard to overstate the performance of Drew Willy tonight. Coming off a poor performance against the Eskimos that saw the Bomber pivot forced to leave the game due to a knee injury, Willy put up 341 yards — 269 passing and 72 rushing — with two touchdowns and no interceptions. I’ve had very high expectations of Willy since he signed a contract extension this past off-season that will pay him approximately $400,000 per season following the 2015 campaign and he surpassed them tonight. Willy will soon be paid like an elite CFL quarterback. Tonight he played like one.
2. One of the hardest things to do in the CFL is to win on just four days of rest. Short weeks kill football teams — a lack of practice time limits a team’s ability to properly game plan, while fatigued players become significantly more susceptible to injuries and mental mistakes. Give the Bombers full credit for earning a victory against a formidable BC Lions opponent
3. Johnny Adams and Khalil Bass — both CFL rookies — were the Bombers’ best defenders tonight. Adams made a highlight reel interception midway through the second half and unleashed a number of bone-rattling hits on opposing receivers. Bass, meanwhile, recorded a game-high ten tackles and provided a tremendous amount of energy to Richie Hall’s rapidly-improving defence. It’s nice to see such young players leading the way so early in the season.
4. Despite recording his first solid return of the season to open the second half, Troy Stoudermire might be at risk of losing his roster spot when Nick Moore returns from injury. Justin Veltung, the rookie receiver who handled the return duties while Stoudermire recovered from a broken hand earlier this season, had an impressive night filling in for Moore, making five receptions for fifty-eight yards and a touchdown. Veltung reminds me of Edmonton’s Kendial Lawrence — a versatile speedster who is capable of making an impact at receiver, running back, and as a returner. Though he’s been inactive the past few weeks, I think Veltung’s done enough to show he belongs on the field.
5. Though it’s important to consider the fact that Jace Daniels was playing hurt tonight, Daniels did little to boon my confidence in him moving forward. The Bombers have a bye week coming up relatively shortly that will coincide with the first wave of NFL cuts — expect the club to bring in one or two tackles to challenge Daniels on the right side.
6. Speaking of the Bomber offensive line, this unit needs to find a way to perform at a more consistent level. The hogs bullied the Lion defensive line for large stretches of Thursday night’s game, providing Drew Willy with the time he needed to make his reads and deliver accurate passes. These efforts were greatly diminished, however, when BC’s David Menard was able to record a third quarter sack on just a three-man rush. Giving up a sack against a three-man rush is simply unacceptable — it’s the football equivalent of giving up a shorthanded goal in hockey. This unit has now given up sixteen sacks on the season, too many considering the amount they’re paying their front five. To me, improvement starts with centre Dominic Picard. Getting repeatedly beaten by a rookie defensive tackle doesn’t warrant the $200,000 salary he’s paid.
7. Greg Peach is going to have a heck of a time winning his job back from Thaddeus Gibson when he gets healthy. If the Bombers need to free up some cap space to bring in an NFL training camp cut or two in a few weeks, Peach could be the first veteran on the chopping block.
8. Lirim Hajrullahu was strong in the kicking game tonight, making all three of his field goals and both of his converts. Sadly, the second-year Bomber specialist was called for illegal punts out of bounds twice (though, luckily for Hajrullahu, one was wiped out due to a penalty) and took it upon himself to run a fake punt on third and twenty from midfield. A fake punt on third and twenty? Really, Lirim? Really? That had to have been one of the most bone-headed decisions I’ve ever seen a professional football player make. To his credit, Hajrullahu throws more accurately than Brian Brohm.
9. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team apply as much pressure to an opposing quarterback as the Bombers did tonight without recording a sack.
10. Tonight was an excellent night for two of Winnipeg’s early-season whipping boys, newcomers Darvin Adams and Sam Hurl. Adams had his second great game of the season, recording 127 yards off four receptions and a touchdown. Though more consistency would be nice, it appears Adams is ready to be the deep threat this Bomber offence has been missing for quite some time. Hurl, meanwhile, put up seven tackles along with a red zone interception that took BC points off the board from early in the game. While Hurl’s seven tackles look great on the stat sheet, I was more interested to see whether or not he was able to win more of his one-on-one battles at the point of attack. Tonight, he won a lot.
11. Mike O’Shea said something on the CJOB post-game show that really rubbed me the wrong way. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact quote — I was in transit when O’Shea did his interview — but, speaking to his team’s loss last week, O’Shea said something to the effect of, “no, the guy’s never let up — they didn’t collapse.” Uh, come again? Sorry, Mike, but when your team gets outscored 28-0 in the final half of a game, they collapsed. Period.
12. Does Cameron Marshall start at running back next week in Hamilton? Paris Cotton has done nothing in recent weeks to earn his touches.
13. If I’m Mike O’Shea, the next player who takes a fifteen-yard no yards penalty is getting benched. Though I don’t have access to the league’s penalty statistics on a team-by-team basis — hopefully the CFL’s new website will carry such information — I’d be shocked if any other CFL team had more fifteen-yard no yards infractions than the Bombers. They’re stupid, undisciplined penalties that give up too much valuable field position.
14. The Bombers are now 2-0 at home after getting hammered 52-26 in their home opener. I could get used to this trend.
15. Considering the Bombers will be jockeying with BC for playoff positioning throughout the 2015 season, it’s hard to understate the impact of Thursday night’s win in the standings. Though many believe that the CFL schedule is meaningless before labour day, the reality is that every win is worth two points whether it comes in July or October. On Thursday evening, the Bombers got two very important ones.
John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk