Bomber Thoughts: Week Sixteen, Winnipeg at BC

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.

Sergio Castillo

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the BC Lions on Saturday night by a final score of 29-26. Here are my thoughts:

1. The Bombers desperately needed a win and they got it — simple as that. Though his decision to ice his own kicker (yes, that’s a thing now, apparently) was unconscionable, Mike O’Shea called two fake punts at key moments of the game, one of which led to the team’s game-tying touchdown with less than four minutes remaining. Bomber fans anticipated dominant special teams play when O’Shea was hired as the team’s head coach prior to the 2014 season and, for the first time in 33 tries, special teams won the Bombers a game in the O’Shea era. Kudos to the Bombers for finally getting a game — this win, ugly as it was in spots, saved the 2015 season. For now, anyway.

2. Congrats to rookie kicker Sergio Castillo for booting a 41-yard game winner in his first professional game. Castillo’s perfect 5-for-5 performance should earn him the club’s placekicking job for the remainder of the regular season. I expect Lirim Hajrullahu to maintain his role as the team’s punter.

3. Teague Sherman, whose blocked punt was returned by Ian Wild for a touchdown in the third quarter, is one of the three most underrated Blue Bombers in my book, along with Michel-Pierre Pontbriand and Bruce Johnson.

4. The three most overrated Blue Bombers in my opinion: Bryant Turner, Demond Washington, and Dominic Picard.

5. Speaking of Dominic Picard, the offensive line has been just as productive this season with 2014 second overall pick Matthias Goossen at centre. Goossen has his detractors, but I think the kid is ready. And he costs $110,000 less than Picard. Hm…

6. Chris Greaves and Stanley Bryant got their signals crossed in the Labour Day Classic on a stunt that resulted in a Saskatchewan sack. One week later, John Chick landed a strip-sack on Matt Nichols when left guard Sam Longo misread the same stunt. Tonight, left guard Selvish Capers was victimized for a sack by Khreem Smith on a similar call. For a coaching staff that constantly touts the importance of ‘mental toughness’ and ‘watching the film,’ they sure allow their players to make a lot of repeat mistakes.

7. One last offensive line thought: giving up zero sacks to the Edmonton Eskimos a week ago was unbelievably impressive given the tenacious nature of Chris Jones’ defence. Giving up three sacks to the BC Lions on Saturday was awful. Outside of defensive tackle Michael Brooks, the Lions don’t have a single defensive lineman who would be capable of starting for any other team in the CFL.

8. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: it’s a back-up quarterback’s job to give him team a chance to win. Matt Nichols was far from perfect on Saturday night — 19/34 for 179 yards and one touchdown — but he’s given the Bombers a reasonable chance to win in four of his five starts in blue and gold. I’ll take it.

9. Jamaal Westerman recorded two sacks versus BC, extending his league-leading mark to fourteen. If the Bombers had a winning record you could hand Westerman the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award now. As it stands, he’ll be lucky to get the nod in the West Division.

10. Rookie Lion pivot Jonathon Jennings torched the Bombers for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. After Richie’s Hall’s halftime adjustments, Jennings went just 8/13 for 68 yards and an interception in the second half. Nice work.

11. I’ve been tough on Troy Stoudermire this season, but — and this point goes back to last week’s game versus Edmonton — he appears to have finally found his rhythm. Stoudermire protected the football, found some seams, and avoided negative yardage. He even chipped in two receptions for eighteen yards.

12. The fact that Eric Fraser’s head shot on Rory Kohlert went unpenalized is a joke. I don’t care who delivers head-to-head contact or which team he plays for — head shots simply have no place in the game. They should be penalized with game misconduct penalties and subject to fines and/or suspensions. Football will never be a safe game, but we can demand that our players keep their heads up when engaging in a hit so as to avoid contact above the opponent’s shoulders. CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge can talk all he wants about how the league is working to make the game safer — until he takes serious action to penalize these dangerous hits, his words mean nothing. Shame on him and shame on Andre Proulx’s officiating crew.

13. Proulx’s crew also missed a blatant offensive pass interference call on Troy Stoudermire that would have wiped out Clarence Denmark’s touchdown reception with two minutes remaining. Again, shame on them. And why is offensive pass interference not reviewable when defensive pass interference is? Sometimes, the CFL makes no sense whatsoever.

14. I posted a poll on twitter midway through the game asking people whether or not they’d like to see O’Shea fired at the end of this season. As it stands, there are 29 votes to keep him and 28 votes to can him. Personally, I’d voted to keep him around next season, albeit on a relatively short leash.

15. Don’t look now, but the lowly Bombers (5-10) are in a playoff spot. There’s a lot of work to be done, but with BC’s remaining schedule being so tough (at Edmonton, Hamilton, at Toronto, Calgary) and Montreal currently pivot-less, I think it’s fair to say that Winnipeg is the front runner to earn the third and final playoff spot in the West. And while I pronounced the Bombers dead three weeks ago after the debacle in Montreal, there’s no telling what could happen in the post-season now that the team has proven they can hang with Calgary and Edmonton, albeit at home. I’m not saying I’m back on the bandwagon just yet, but I suppose it’s possible that my leap was premature.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.