Bombers win in Ottawa, await results from B.C. (& 14 other thoughts)

1. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Ottawa Redblacks at TD Place Stadium on Friday night by a final score of 33-20. The win improved the Bombers’ record to 11-7 on the season, the club’s best mark since 2003 (also 11-7). 2003 was also the last time the Bombers made the playoffs in the West Division, a berth that was secured with the blue and gold’s win in Ottawa.

2. Justin Medlock booted four field goals on Friday night to push his season total to 60, breaking Dave Ridgway’s CFL record of 59 set in 1990. It’s an outstanding individual achievement for Medlock who, with an 88.2 field goal percentage and a long of 58 yards this season, ultimately should have been named the Bombers’ Most Outstanding Player earlier this week. And while Medlock deserves a ton of credit for breaking a 26-year-old league record, his total is a regrettable indictment of the Bombers’ red zone offence. All four of Medlock’s boots on Friday night were from within 20 yards of the goal line — with the playoffs looming, Paul LaPolice’s offence needs to find a way to turn some of those threes into sixes.

3. Friday night’s victory improved the Bombers’ road record this season to 7-2, their best mark since 2001. Considering that both road losses came at McMahon Stadium where Calgary went undefeated this season, that’s pretty impressive.

4. Rush end Jamaal Westerman, who failed to record a defensive statistic in Ottawa, drew two roughing the passer calls that extended Redblack drives on Friday night. The second-year Bomber recorded plenty of pressures this season — second-most among CFL defensive linemen according to TSN stat guru Derek Taylor — but finishes the year with just eight sacks. That’s a disappointing follow-up to a seventeen-sack performance from a year ago that should have earned Westerman the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian award.

5. Danny O’Brien was disastrous on Friday night, completing just 10 of 22 passes for 133 yards and an interception. Outside of sheer sentimentality — O’Brien was Ottawa’s first developmental quarterback when they re-entered the league in 2014 — I see no reason why he’s still on the Redblacks’ roster. Henry Burris and Trevor Harris are an excellent one-two punch, while 26-year-old Brock Jensen appears to have a future in this league.

6. Speaking of Ottawa’s return to the CFL, the Redblacks have now gone 22-31-1 through three seasons since rejoining the league. That’s a respectable mark for a club that originated as an expansion team, but the fact that they are back-to-back East Division champions is laughable. It’s time for the CFL to seriously consider changing its divisional playoff format.

7. Ottawa became the first team in CFL history to win a division despite possessing a losing record. I don’t cheer for or against Edmonton or Ottawa, but a part of me would be very happy to see the Eskimos represent the East Division in the Grey Cup this year.

8. Darvin Adams had another stellar night versus the Redblacks, recording six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Had he maintained his level of play over a full eighteen-game regular season, Adams would have put up 1,595 receiving yards and fourteen touchdowns this year. Quietly, Adams has emerged as a true number-one CFL receiver.

9. Andrew Harris finished Friday’s game with 60 rushing yards on ten carries, bringing his season total to 974 yards on 195 carries (5.0 yards per carry). Harris has only two 1,000-yard rushing seasons to his name (1,112, 2012; 1,039, 2015), but his 998-yard performance in 2013 paired with his 974-yard performance this year need to be taken into account when judging his career as a whole. Two 1,000-yard seasons doesn’t jump off the page, but four (which he essentially has) does.

10. Winnipeg’s offensive line finishes the regular season with 35 sacks allowed, a respectable average of 1.94 per game. That number is 24 sacks better than last season (59 allowed) and 36 better than 2014 (71 allowed). It’s also worth noting that sixteen of the Bombers’ 35 sacks allowed came before Matt Nichols was anointed the club’s starter back in week seven.

11. Padric Scott made his CFL debut on Friday night after nineteen weeks on the Bombers’ practice roster. Scott responded by recording one tackle, one sack, and a forced fumble — not a bad day’s work for a guy making his first career start.

12. Blue Bomber fullback Christophe Normand, who entered Friday’s game with just one career carry, is a player who I’ve been high on since he was drafted by Winnipeg in the fourth round of last year’s draft. His 58 fourth quarter rushing yards on eight carries showed exactly why — Normand possesses a high level of athleticism for a big-bodied guy (6’2, 222) and has already learned the ropes of CFL pass protection. If Normand ever learns to catch the ball out of the backfield, he may have a future in this league as a legitimate, ratio-breaking tailback.

13. Rory Kohlert’s first quarter drop that was picked off by Nic Taylor was just the latest indictment of the Bombers’ Canadian receiving talent (or lack thereof). The receiver-heavy 2017 CFL draft can’t come soon enough for a Winnipeg club with two first round picks.

14. It was nice seeing Kevin Glenn take his first reps in blue and gold since 2008. Glenn had his ups and downs in Winnipeg during his five years as the club’s starter, but I don’t know a single Bomber fan who doesn’t respect him as a player.

15. Winnipeg’s victory over Ottawa means that the Bombers will face the B.C. Lions in next week’s West Division Semi-Final. When If the Lions beat the depleted Roughriders on Saturday, B.C. will finish second in the West and host the Bombers in next week’s playoff game. The Bombers will host the game if the Riders pull off a miracle and upset the Lions’ starters at home on Saturday evening. Game on.

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