The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Ottawa Redblacks by a score of 31-1 in front of 25,350 fans at IG Field on Friday night.
Below are my thoughts on the game.
Slow start, quick turnaround
The offence started out sluggish beginning the game with three two-and-outs. The ball hit the turf on a poor exchange between Matt Nichols and Andrew Harris and Harris later fumbled on the third offensive drive. Luckily, neither play resulted in a turnover.
Winston Rose’s pick-six off a Jon Jennings pass with just over six minutes left in the opening quarter provided a spark for the offence, which went on three-straight touchdown drives to effectively put the game away by the middle of the second quarter. A two-yard Chris Streveler run with 22 seconds left in the first half sealed the victory with 30 minutes of football still to come.
Nichols on target
Matt Nichols broke a 38-year Blue Bomber franchise record by completing 19 consecutive passes in Friday’s game, good for fourth all-time in CFL history. He was simply outstanding in the game, showing fans across the nation why he’s been the best quarterback in the CFL so far this season.
Nichols began the game with four incompletions but would go on to miss only one subsequent attempt, finishing 25-of-30 passing for 295 and two touchdowns. The one remaining incompletion was an overthrow to Kenny Lawler in the middle of the second quarter, which was followed by a 54-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
Nichols sat out the Bomber’s last two drives giving Chris Streveler some time under centre. Had Nichols played those last two drives, the all-time completions record set by Jeremiah Masoli in 2016 (23) could have been within reach.
Doug Brown summed up the first 20 minutes of the game perfectly — the Bombers really didn’t seem to have broken a sweat and were up by 20 points in the mid-second quarter.
It seems like the Blue & Gold have barely broken a sweat, and they’re already up by 20, in the second quarter
— Doug Brown (@DougBrown97) July 20, 2019
The Bombers have improved on what was already the CFL’s top scoring offence last season. Nichols is getting plenty of time in the pocket and is considerably more mobile than last year, giving his receivers ample time to get separation. We haven’t even factored in Andrew Harris and the run attack the Bombers can bring yet.
Simply put, the Bombers made a quick 21-0 lead look easy to attain. And that’s not something to take lightly.
Eight good quarters
The Bombers have played eight of their last 12 quarters of football against Ottawa, coming away with some spectacular stat lines including: outscoring the Redblacks 60-15; allowing a total of only 461 yards; and scoring eight touchdowns while holding Ottawa to zero.
It’s no secret that Ottawa isn’t playing amazing football right now, but even taking that into account those are some gaudy numbers.
Petermann hot off the bench
I was once again impressed with the play of backup Canadian receiver Daniel Petermann. After Nic Demski was injured on a first quarter running play, Petermann came in and caught all five passes tossed his way for a respectable 46 yards. He’s got great hands and is very effective after the catch — the Bombers’ third touchdown drive would have resulted in a field goal attempt had it not been for Petermann’s push to get a first down deep in Ottawa territory.
Friday night marked Jonathan Jennings’ debut as starting QB for the Redblacks. It was a game Ottawa football fans will be trying hard to forget as Jennings finished just 6-of-15 passing for 45 yards in three quarters of play. For perspective, that’s nine yards less than the Nichols touchdown pass to Lawler. Jennings was replaced by third stringer William Arndt in the fourth quarter with the game well out of hand.
It seems the fall from grace hadn’t yet reached its end for Jennings after taking the CFL by storm in 2016 and throwing for a season total of 5,226 yards with the Lions. He never regained his form with B.C. and, frankly, looked terrible against Winnipeg.
In fairness to Jennings, his offensive line had a night to forget. Jennings was under pressure constantly at IG Field and was sacked three times. There are a lot of moving parts in Ottawa this season — it will be interesting to watch the play at QB and the offensive line moving forward.
Crockett left it all on the field (literally)
Friday night’s contest was a coming out party of sorts for Ottawa’s John Crockett, who finished the game with 15 carries for 88 yards, most of which came in the first half.
Crockett provided the Redblack’s only meaningful offensive output, but that wasn’t his only output during the game (pun intended).
Crockett “lost his lunch” on the field a number of times throughout the first half of the game, and it immediately made the rounds on social media. Hopefully his game is remembered for moving the ball in the first half of the game and not the extra-curriculars between plays.
Adam Bighill missed his third consecutive game on Friday night. While his lingering injury has never seemed serious, the Bombers have been hesitant bringing Bighill back to the starting lineup. He’s the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the CFL and the club wants him fully healthy before getting him back into games.
With respect to the Ottawa Redblacks and Toronto Argonauts, the Bomber’s defence hasn’t been tested a whole lot during Bighill’s time on the bench. This coming Friday’s game in Hamilton will be a larger challenge for Richie Hall’s defence and it’s expected the club will want Bighill back in the lineup.
Unlike last week’s victory over the Toronto Argonauts, the Bombers were able to keep pressure on the Redblacks for a full 60 minutes. The Boatmen added loads of yardage on offence in the second half while keeping the Bombers’ offense in check last week. The game was well out-of-hand by that point, but there was much made by Winnipeg players this week about not letting their opponents back into a lopsided game. It was great to see the team practice what they preached and completely snuff out the Redblacks for the entire game.
Tribute to Chris Randle
It was nice to see the Winnipeg Football Club put up a tribute video honouring Chris Randle at Friday night’s game. Randle was one of the club’s top defensive leaders who played five years at boundary corner at a high level. Randle’s play dropped off a bit last year with the Bombers and those struggles have continued into this season with Ottawa. He was a healthy scratch in the contest Friday after losing his starting spot following last week’s matchup with the Alouettes.
It’s vitally important for a football club to bring in talented players, but it’s also important to know when it’s time to move on. Free agent signing Winston Rose — Randle’s replacement this season — has been spectacular, currently sitting second in the CFL with three interceptions.
The Bombers travel to Hamilton this Friday night to take on Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Hamilton is coming off a bye and is currently sitting in first place in the East with a 4-1 record. The contest has all the makings of a great football game — two first-place teams in their respective divisions squaring off — and will be a great test for the Blue Bombers to try and continue their winning ways.
Programming note: Pending international travel being on schedule, John will be back from his honeymoon shortly before the Bomber’s next game against Hamilton. Keep an eye on 3DownNation for his post-game thoughts next week.
On a personal note, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to step in for my brother over the last two weeks and provide my thoughts on the games. If you’d like more from myself and John, please check out the Blue Bomber Talk Podcast where we elaborate on our thoughts after every Bomber game (unless one of us is on their honeymoon). We will return following next week’s game.