Bombers silence doubters in Calgary despite late loss (& 10 other thoughts)

1. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers dropped their first game in eight weeks on Saturday afternoon, losing a 36-34 contest to the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on a last-second 53-yard Rene Parades field goal. The Bombers overcame an early 24-point deficit to push the Stamps to the final play of the game long after many (myself included) counted them out by the second quarter.

2. It was tremendously refreshing not to see Justin Medlock attempt a field goal on Saturday afternoon. Winnipeg scored four offensive touchdowns in Calgary, a far-cry from the anemic red zone production they’ve had for weeks now. Proving he can finish drives — against the CFL’s best defence, to boot — should be a huge monkey off Matt Nichols’ back.

3. I was fully prepared to rip the Bombers’ Canadian receivers in this space until Julian Feoli-Gudino made the touchdown reception that put the Bombers up 34-33 in the final minute of the game. Many in Bomberland have been critical of the club’s receiving corps as of late, claiming the club needs more size and speed at the position. While I don’t necessarily disagree with the criticism, I think you need to look at upgrading the club’s Canadian content before replacing Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith or Clarence Denmark. Feoli-Gudino and Rory Kohlert combined for just three catches for 29 yards in Calgary — that’s simply not enough from two starting pass catchers.

3. Speaking of Canadian receivers, Lemar Durant did enough in Saturday’s game alone to prove that the Bombers should have selected him at eleventh overall in the 2015 CFL draft. Regina’s Addison Richards, the receiver Winnipeg selected with the pick, has yet to record a statistic through seven games this season. Durant, meanwhile, had four receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in Calgary’s win over Winnipeg, including the 32-yard reception that set-up Rene Parades’ game-winning field goal. Unless Richards — who doesn’t play special teams, for the record — blossoms into a star sooner rather than later, passing on Durant will continue to haunt the Bombers for the foreseeable future.

4. Spencer Wilson’s “dribble” after Jerome Messam’s second quarter fumble earned him 23 rushing yards on the CFL’s official stat sheet. Talk about a number that leaps off the page. For the record, Wilson now owns the CFL’s best rushing average this season at 23 yards per carry.

5. Speaking of Messam’s fumble, Johnny Adams’ decision not to fall on the ball deep in his own end was simply unfathomable. Adams, a Western Division all-star a year ago, went on the one-game injured list in June and never really came off. The Michigan State product has looked sluggish and hesitant in five starts this season, hardly resembling the player he was a year ago. When Terrence Frederick returns from injury, don’t be surprised if the rookie returns to his starting position at boundary cornerback.

6. I was an early proponent of the CFL’s decision to expand video replay and coaches challenges, but I’ve done a full 180-degree turn on the issue. Marquay McDaniel’s third quarter (almost) reception was the subject of two different challenges — Mike O’Shea challenged the catch (overturned) before Dave Dickenson challenged for illegal contact on the play (also overturned). What a farce. The CFL needs to go back to allowing coaches to challenge turnovers and catches only — and I’m not the only one.

7. Speaking of McDaniel, the Bombers are going to need to figure out a way to slow down the veteran slotback if these two teams meet in the West Final. McDaniel finished the first half with five receptions for 87 yards before suffering an injury in the third quarter. Whatever the solution to corralling McDaniel, the Bombers need to come up with one. Fast.

8. Calgary’s ability to keep Bo Levi Mitchell upright is simply astounding. Even without Justin Cole, Winnipeg’s pass rush is formidable — often good for at least of two sacks per game. Even so, Mitchell did not take a sack in 43 dropbacks on Saturday. That’s ridiculous.

9. The Bombers can’t put Timothy Flanders back on the practice roster when Andrew Harris returns from injury. Flanders, who has 279 yards from scrimmage and two scores in just two starts this season, will need to find his way to the one-game “injured” list if the Bombers can’t find a way to dress both him and Harris down the stretch. Not many people saw Timothy Flanders making the club this year — Carlos Anderson, a running back and return specialist, was the heavy favorite to back-up Harris this season — but the Sam Houston State product has been outstanding the past two weeks. Bravo.

10. Curt Overhardt, the agent of Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Jacob Trouba, announced that his client has requested a trade from the team just ten minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s game in Calgary. This means that the Bombers’ shocking (near) comeback in Calgary is no longer going to be the hottest topic of discussion in Winnipeg come Monday. It’s wonderful that the Jets returned to Winnipeg in 2011, but it’s too bad that the Bombers now sometimes take a backseat in the Manitoba sports scene as a result.

11. The Bombers didn’t come away with a win in Calgary, but that doesn’t mean the club has nothing to show for its performance against the CFL’s marquee franchise. McMahon Stadium has long-since been a graveyard for visiting teams — the Stamps are now 37-6 (.860) at home since 2012 — and the Bombers did nothing in the clubs’ two meetings early this season to suggest that they could beat Calgary on the road in the West Final. After a tremendous second half on Saturday, Winnipeg erased any doubt that they are a true contender in the West Division. There’s no guarantee that the Bombers will make it to the West Final, of course, but it’s possible the Bombers planted enough doubt into the minds of the Calgary Stampeders to help them eek out a win at McMahon in late November. Time will tell.

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