Bombers win fifth straight at home (& 12 other thoughts)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Ottawa Redblacks by a score of 29-9 in front of 26,588 fans at Investors Group Field. Here are my thoughts on the game.

1. Darvin Adams may finally start earning the respect he deserves following his 195-yard receiving performance on Friday night. Adams is now the CFL’s fourth-leading pass catcher, on pace for career highs in yardage (1,441) and touchdowns (9). Matt Nichols has often called Adams the CFL’s most underrated receiver — hopefully that’ll change as Adams pushes toward his first 1,000-yard season.

2. He may be a CFL rookie, but I can’t imagine how the Redblacks weren’t disappointed in Ryan Lindley’s performance on Friday night. There’s a baseline level of accuracy passers need to possess in order to prove they are worth developing; Lindley doesn’t have it. NFL fans will remember Lindley’s 82-yard passing performance in the 2014 NFC wildcard round — in what is just the latest example of former NFLers struggling north of the border, Lindley recorded just 151 passing yards in Winnipeg, completing just 16 of 36 pass attempts (44.4%). The weather was a likely a factor in a couple of drops, but the Bombers have given up a ton of yardage through the air this season. That’s a bad look of the 28-year-old.

3. Weston Dressler left Friday’s game in the second quarter with what appeared to be an arm injury. Dressler missed three games earlier this season due to injury and has been mediocre after a strong start to the year, averaging just 34.6 yards over his past five games. Dressler, now 32, may finally be starting to show his age. The Bombers have a number of pending free agents to re-up before next season — Maurice Leggett, Stanley Bryant, Justin Medlock, Chris Randle, T.J. Heath, and Jamaal Westerman, among others — and Dressler could be the odd man out.

4. Speaking of Dressler’s injury, rookie receiver T.J. Thorpe left the Bombers this past week after growing tired of sitting on the practice roster. He’d have been the first man up as a result of Dressler’s injury. Oops.

5. The Bombers announced this past week that Jamaal Westerman will miss the rest of the season due to an undisclosed injury. Westerman will be missed — he currently leads the team in sacks, while serving as one of the team’s key leaders — but his absence opens the door for the club to potentially add Andy Mulumba. Mulumba, the second overall pick of the 2013 CFL draft, is a perfect positional fit for Westerman at defensive end. He would be a huge addition for the club’s playoff push.

6. It’s a shame Matt Nichols was charged with an interception early in the fourth quarter. The ball slipped backwards out of Nichols’ hand before his forward throwing motion began, falling into the waiting mitts of Jonathan Newsome. How can a quarterback throw an interception if he never technically threw the ball?

7. Faith Ekakitie recorded his first career CFL tackle in the second quarter of Friday’s game. It was an underwhelming game for the interior of Winnipeg’s defensive line (#FreePoopJohnson), but it was nice to see this year’s first overall pick get on the stat sheet for the first time in his career. Justin Vaughn and Kwaku Boateng — both fifth-round picks — have been strong contributors in Hamilton and Edmonton, respectively. The Bombers need more production from Ekakitie.

8. Andrew Harris can still realistically record the CFL’s first-ever 1,000-yard rushing/1,000-yard receiving season. Harris needs just 261 rushing yards in the club’s six remaining games to reach the century mark and, following a 49-yard receiving performance versus Ottawa, is now on pace for 956 yards through the air. With Dressler potentially out for awhile, Harris is likely to get more work in the slot — that could put him over the top.

9. On a night that saw both teams struggle against the run, Taylor Reed recorded eleven tackles to Sam Hurl’s two. Scheme plays a role in determining player stats — Ottawa and Winnipeg deploy their middle linebackers quite differently — but Hurl needs to be more engaged in the run game. The road to the Grey Cup will almost certainly run through Calgary; as it stands, I’m not sure Hurl is the man to shutdown the Stampeders’ rushing attack.

10. On the plus side, the Bombers will get a boost to their linebacking corps soon — Ian Wild is one week away from returning to the starting line-up.

11. Friday night’s win guaranteed the Winnipeg Football Club its first above-.500 home record since Investors Group Field opened in 2013. Now 5-1 at IGF this season, the Bombers close out their home schedule hosting Hamilton (October 6) and B.C. twice (October 14 & 28).

12. Congratulations to former Blue Bomber and University of Manitoba product Teague Sherman on signing with Ottawa earlier today. Sherman is one of the CFL’s good guys — the league is a better place with him in it.

13. It’ll be awhile before things are locked in mathematically, but the Bombers have an opportunity next week in Edmonton to virtually guarantee a home playoff game. Winnipeg beat Edmonton 33-26 back in August, meaning a win at Commonwealth or a loss by less than a seven points will give the Bombers the season series. A victory would put the Bombers (9-3) six points ahead of the Esks (7-5) with the tie-breaker, making it virtually impossible for Edmonton to surpass Winnipeg in the standings. Winnipeg already has a six-point lead and the tie-breaker versus Saskatchewan and a six-point lead against the Lions, whose game against Hamilton is still underway at the time of this writing. Keeping a firm grasp on second place — while keeping the Stampeders within reach — hinges on next week’s game. Stay tuned.

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