Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Montreal Alouettes by a score of 35-24 on Saturday afternoon at IG Field.

Below are my thoughts on the game.

Welcome to Winterpeg

Manitoba was hit with a shocking storm on Friday and Saturday, covering the province with approximately two feet of snow. The storm caused over 150,000 homes and businesses to lose power on Friday, which Manitoba Hydro claims is the most single-day outages ever recorded.

Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency during Saturday’s game. Conditions in the province remain that poor.

The poor weather clearly affected the crowd — the Blue Bombers announced an official attendance figure of 20,907, but the seating at IG Field was extremely sparse. Almost all of the highways into the city were closed and traffic within the city was slow-moving. Manitobans are tough, but it’s easy to see why people had a hard time getting to the game.

The Winnipeg Football Club did an excellent job of preparing IG Field for the contest, ensuring that the teams had a good surface to play on — unlike, say, last year’s Grey Cup in Edmonton.

I would like to thank all of the first responders, snow clearance workers, and other support staff across the province who have worked tirelessly to combat this storm. Manitobans appreciate your hard work.

Big men rollin’

Winnipeg’s offensive line had arguably its best game of the season on Saturday, controlling the line of scrimmage and providing Streveler with plenty of time to throw.

Andrew Harris was often given wide running lanes, finishing the game with a career-high 166 yards on a season-high 24 carries. Chris Streveler also rushed for 64 yards on nine attempts, most of which were designed runs.

The offensive line has been a key part of the Blue Bombers’ success over the past four years. After suffering some key losses this off-season, the unit is peaking at the right time.

Toe the line

Vernon Adams Jr. threw an impressive touchdown pass in the third quarter of Saturday’s game, evading Adam Bighill with some impressive footwork.

Upon replay, it looked as though Adams Jr. had crossed the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball to Jake Wieneke. The ball was snapped just shy of the 30-yard line and Adams Jr. delivered it beyond the stripe.

The league’s football operations department took to Twitter to explain the ruling. Adams Jr. had one foot behind the line of scrimmage, which is all that is required to throw a legal forward pass.

I think it’s great when the CFL provides quick, concise responses to controversial calls during games. I want to see more of it.

Nick’s pick

Nick Taylor made an outstanding pick-six early in the fourth quarter to make the score 31-17.

Taylor appeared in 15 games with the Eskimos in 2018, but was released after training camp this season. He was brought back for a brief three-game stint before getting cut again in early August.

The 31-year-old joined Winnipeg’s practice roster two weeks later as a depth defensive back. He didn’t dress for a game until last week’s game in Saskatchewan, starting at field-side halfback.

Winnipeg’s defence has been much improved since an embarrassing effort against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats two weeks ago. The Blue Bombers recorded four interceptions, two sacks, and allowed just 335 net yards on Saturday.

Record scratch

The Blue Bombers scratched Lucky Whitehead for Saturday’s game, which was a surprise. Whitehead’s probably not completely healthy — most football players aren’t this late in the season — but it’s believed he was healthy enough to play.

I had a discussion about Whitehead with a CFL scout back in June following his 155-yard performance.

“He’s quick, but is he really a receiver?” asked the scout. “Can he run good routes? Can he high-point the football? Can he win 50-50 balls? I’m not sure.”

Excluding his monster performance against the Eskimos, Whitehead has just 328 receiving yards in 13 starts this season. 64.4 per cent of Whithead’s yardage has come after the catch this season, mostly on screen passes and quick hitches.

Whitehead provides Winnipeg with essentially the same skill set as return specialist Janarion Grant — speed, elusiveness, and return ability. Getting Rasheed Bailey — a six-foot-one, 210-pound rookie with more traditional receiving chops — into the lineup was a good move.

Bailey dropped two passes, but still caught eight balls for a game-leading 86 yards. I have a feeling we’ll see him remain a starter into next week.

Air it out, man!

The Blue Bombers committed four turnovers inside of Saskatchewan’s 35-yard line last week, which was arguably the deciding factor in a 21-6 loss. One of those turnovers came on an interception by L.J. McCray on an underthrown pass from Chris Streveler.

Tommie Campbell picked off Streveler late in the second quarter of Saturday’s game on a pass that was also underthrown. If you watch the plays back-to-back, they look strikingly similar.

Young quarterbacks make mistakes, but the good ones avoid making the same mistake twice. Underthrowing a pass like that — when there’s no safety help over the top — is pretty inexcusable.

Let’s make a deal

The Blue Bombers made the league’s only deal prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline, dealing for Toronto Argonauts’ quarterback Zach Collaros.

Winnipeg has made it clear that Chris Streveler remains the club’s starter, but it’s hard to imagine Collaros not playing before the season is over.

I don’t see Collaros as an elite quarterback anymore, but I think the club deserves some credit for acquiring him. Streveler has struggled as of late and his backup, Sean McGuire, has yet to take a regular season CFL snap.

The Blue Bombers haven’t won a Grey Cup since 1990. With a postseason berth secured, this team needs to do everything it can to generate some playoff success. Collaros might be able to help them do that.

Bench bosses

The Toronto Argonauts made a splash this week when they hired Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons to replace Jim Popp as the team’s general manager.

Clemons has a close relationship with Mike O’Shea and will pursue him to become the Argos’ next head coach. O’Shea’s contract expires at the end of this season and he’s turned down multiple offers from the Blue Bombers to remain with the club beyond 2019.

Among those expected to replace O’Shea — if he departs for Toronto, that is — is Khari Jones. Montreal’s head coach has completely turned the Alouettes around this season, leading them to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

It’s entirely possible that the next time Jones coaches at IG Field he will do so from the home sideline.

Cowtown countdown

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-6) will meet the Calgary Stampeders (10-5) in back-to-back games over the next two weeks.

Winnipeg defeated Calgary 26-24 in early August, so the Blue Bombers need just one victory to secure the season series. Calgary secured the season series over Saskatchewan (10-5) with a win Friday night, while the Roughriders won the seasons series against Winnipeg last week.

The Blue Bombers will finish above the Stampeders in the West Division standings if they sweep the next two games. They may also finish above Calgary with a split, provided the Stampeders lose in Week 21 in Vancouver.

The Stampeders are playing their best football of the season, having won five of their last six games. The Blue Bombers have locked up third place in the West Division, but they will have to play well if they hope to move to second or beyond.

Comments

It was recently brought to my attention that the comments on my post-game piece last week disappeared the day after the game.

This is due to a technical issue we’ve recently been having with our Facebook plug-in. We’re currently working to fix it and restore the comments.

The best place to reach me anytime you have feedback on my content is via my twitter account. I read my mentions daily and, though I’m sure I miss some occasionally, always try to answer questions when asked.

Comments

John Hodge
John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist in the Jon Gott lookalike contest.