Bombers stun Ticats, end Grey Cup drought (& 12 other thoughts)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 107th Grey Cup by a score of 33-12 in front of 35,349 fans at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

Below are my thoughts on the game.

The drought is over

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are Grey Cup champions for the first time since 1990.

There is a generation of Manitobans who grew up watching elite players — Milt Stegall, Doug Brown, Khari Jones, Charles Roberts, Jovon Johnson, Terrence Edwards — come up short in big games. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

I am part of this generation. I was born on January 10, 1991 — six weeks after Winnipeg’s most recent Grey Cup victory.

Growing up in a city where the Blue Bombers never won anything wasn’t fun. It makes me happy to know there’s a new generation of football fans in Winnipeg who will remember this Grey Cup forever.

They’ll remember watching it with family and friends. They’ll remember Andrew Harris’ performance. They’ll remember Jake Thomas hoisting the Grey Cup.

It’s beautiful.

The Tiger-Cats are a powerhouse who will probably be back in the Grey Cup next season. It’ll be fitting if they win — after all, the club’s most recent championship in 1999 came one year after losing the big game.

Sunday simply belonged to the Blue Bombers and their fans. Winnipeg was the better team in all three phases of the game from start to finish.

The party has already started in The Peg.

Enjoy it, Bomber fans. You deserve it.

#1990 is no more.

What an upset

Sunday’s game provided one of the biggest upsets in the recent memory of the Grey Cup.

Hamilton was only a four-point favourite, but the club seemed to get more support as the week went on. The only pundits who picked the Blue Bombers to win said they would do it by a small margin — likely a Justin Medlock field goal.

Winnipeg won Sunday’s game by 21 points. The club led by 15 points at halftime and didn’t allow a score in the fourth quarter. The Blue Bombers forced seven turnovers, which is an unofficial Grey Cup record.

Ottawa and Toronto upset the Stampeders in 2016 and 2017, respectively, but those games were close. The Redblacks needed double overtime to defeat Calgary.

The Blue Bombers mopped the floor with Hamilton. This game was never close, which was a shocker.

Building an early lead was key for Winnipeg. Playing ahead allowed the club to use its rushing attack throughout the game, while putting all the pressure on Dane Evans.

Evans was put into a challenging position and failed to overcome the obstacle in front of him, though Brandon Banks going down with an injury didn’t help his cause.

MVP & MVC

Andrew Harris was named the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian, becoming the first player in CFL history to win both awards.

The 32-year-old finished the game with 18 carries for 134 yards and one touchdown. He also caught five passes for 35 yards, one of which went for an 18-yard score from Chris Streveler.

Harris was vocal in his post-game interview about feeling disrespected this season when he was passed over for league awards due to his two-game suspension.

He cleaned up on Sunday, winning all three available pieces of hardware and helping his hometown team capture a championship.

I’d call that redemption.

An honourable mention goes to Nic Demski who, like Harris, graduated from Oak Park High School in Winnipeg. Demski caught four passes for 45 yards and had one carry for 22 yards.

Willie good performance

Willie Jefferson had one of his best games as a Blue Bomber in the Grey Cup, causing Hamilton fits along the line of the scrimmage.

The 28-year-old was quiet in two post-season games against Calgary and Saskatchewan, but was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Defensive Player. He lived up to that title on Grey Cup Sunday.

Jefferson finished the game with three sacks, two tackles, and two forced fumbles, leading Winnipeg’s defence in what was a tremendous group effort. Jackson Jeffcoat was outstanding as Jefferson’s bookend, finishing the game with four tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Defensive coordinator Richie Hall deserves recognition as well. Hall has faced adversity this season after his brother passed away in September. His defence gave up just 39 points in three post-season games, which is outstanding.

Bravo.

The #DroughtBowl

With one-year contracts leading to unprecedented league parity, it is doubtful we will ever see another Drought Bowl like we did on Sunday.

Consider Toronto and Ottawa. The two teams struggled this season, yet both have won a Grey Cup over the past three years. If the right steps are taken — coaching and quarterbacking are the primary concerns — the Argonauts and Redblacks will be legitimate Grey Cup contenders before long.

Montreal is another prime example. The Alouettes had every reason to struggle this season: a late head coaching change; a young roster; a fired general manager; and no proven starter at quarterback. Yet the club finished 10-8 in 2019, reigniting the passion for CFL football in La Belle Province.

Coincidentally, Montreal now owns the CFL’s second-longest Grey Cup drought at nine years. The club fell short in 2019, but I’d bet we won’t have to wait another decade before the Alouettes win another championship.

We probably won’t witness another Drought Bowl, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The CFL is a nine-team league — having multiple franchises go this long without a championship isn’t good for the league.

Credit to fans in Hamilton and Winnipeg for supporting their teams through thick and thin.

Hoggies rollin’

Winnipeg’s offensive line did a great job controlling Hamilton’s front seven on Sunday, providing Zach Collaros with time to throw and opening a ton of running lanes for Andrew Harris, Nic Demski, and Chris Streveler.

Stanley Bryant was passed over for a third-straight Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award on Thursday. Drew Desjarlais is a rookie out of a small program in the OUA. Cody Speller went undrafted in 2017 coming out of McMaster. Patrick Neufeld was traded away by his hometown Roughriders during a Grey Cup run in 2013. Jermarcus Hardrick was discarded by two teams before becoming an all-star in Winnipeg.

What a dominant performance from a unit that turned in a number of strong performances this year. Credit to Paul Boudreau for helping his unit achieve so much success in the trenches.

From third to first

Winnipeg became just the sixth team ever to win a Grey Cup as a third seed in the CFL post-season. The last team to do it was the 2005 Edmonton Eskimos.

Pants guy

Winnipeg resident Chris Matthew has garnered national attention for a proclamation he made 18 years ago.

The Blue Bombers were a powerhouse in 2001, finishing the regular season 14-4 on the arm of CFL all-star Khari Jones. Matthew proclaimed he would wear shorts until the club won a Grey Cup, expecting it to happen in November.

Winnipeg lost the championship game that season to the 8-10 Calgary Stampeders in one of the largest upsets in Grey Cup history. Matthew went on wearing shorts and has done so ever since — 18 long years.

His wife, Darla Robinson, was considered by many to be the star of this video that chronicled the couple’s 18-year clothing conundrum.

“We have been walking down the street when it’s been very cold and I have a fur coat and he’s in shorts and people stare and I just assure them, ‘yes, he’s an idiot,'” said the wife who describes herself as “beyond caring.”

Matthew put on pants on the sideline after the game was done. What a story for a man, his fandom, and the lower half of his legs.

Proulx’s crew

Sunday’s game was a well-officiated affair. The flags were kept to a minimum and a number of key calls — including a first-half Dane Evans pass that was almost ruled a fumble — were made correctly on the field.

The only controversial call came with six minutes left when Rasheed Bailey’s touchdown reception was overturned upon review. Looking at the replay, it’s easy to see the ball touched the turf. It wasn’t a catch.

You never want to see officiating become a big story in championship games and it didn’t on Sunday. Proulx’s crew were solid.

Jones-ing for some players

June Jones was at Sunday’s game in Calgary, supporting the team he coached last season to an 8-10 record.

Jones left the Tiger-Cats to become the head coach of the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks. There are already five former CFL players on the team’s roster: receiver Jalen Saunders; offensive tackle Avery Jorden; centre Demetrius Rhaney; linebacker Taylor Reed; and kicker Sergio Castillo.

I wonder if Jones will look to recruit any of Hamilton’s pending free agents for his new franchise. Bralon Addison — who was raised in a suburb of Houston — is a pending free agent.

Somebody (not) like you

Keith Urban performed well at halftime and did so without the aide of lip-syncing, which was refreshing. The country star has some catchy songs and is clearly an excellent musician.

Urban overstayed his welcome, though, when he conducted a long interview in the booth during the third quarter of the game.

Fans sent a loud message to TSN on social media: “teaching” an Australian musician about Canadian football during a championship game is terrible content.

Brandon Banks left the game early in the third quarter after landing awkwardly following a reception. Fans were clamouring to learn the status of the CFL’s newly-minted Most Outstanding Player, an update that didn’t come until early in the fourth quarter.

I’m all for bringing in star-studded musical acts — even if they aren’t Canadian — but let’s keep them on the stage and out of the booth in future Grey Cup games.

Twinning

Rookie defensive back Mike Jones was promoted to the starting job at field-side cornerback after Chandler Fenner was benched in October.

Why is this relevant? Because Mike Jones is also the name of the field-side wide receiver for the Tiger-Cats.

Mike Jones versus Mike Jones. What a story. We were deprived of this match-up during the regular season, but we got it in the Grey Cup. Bless.

The Drought Bowl moniker was clever, but the Mike Jones Bowl would have been an equally appropriate nickname.

Free agent list & podcast

Check back to 3DownNation Monday for a comprehensive look at Winnipeg’s pending free agents. The list isn’t as long as some teams, but it still features plenty of top-notch players who will require new contracts for next season.

Tim and I will be taking questions on the season finale of the Blue Bomber Talk Podcast this week, which will record on Wednesday. Hit us up on Twitter and use the hashtag #BBTPQ if you’d like us to answer your question on the air.

Finally, I want to thank everyone for reading my work this season. It’s been a pleasure writing post-game columns this year, chronicling one of the wildest seasons in the 89-year history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Stay tuned to 3DownNation as I’ll be producing plenty of content all winter — Blue Bomber coverage and otherwise — about a wide variety of topics. Cheers.

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