CFL Pass

Bombers dominate Redblacks despite rash of injuries to key players, stay unbeaten

OTTAWA — Already without star linebacker Adam Bighill, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost big-play receiver Chris Matthews and starting quarterback Matt Nichols Friday night, but what they didn’t lose was the game.

In a display of smash-mouth football, the Bombers dominated on defence and did enough on offence to overcome a rash of injuries and mistakes and beat the Ottawa Redblacks 29-14 to improve to 3-0 on the season.

It’s the first time since 2014 that the Bombers have started the season with three straight wins.

And the Bombers got good news after the game when Nichols spoke to the media and said he felt fine despite being sent to concussion protocol in the third quarter.

“I feel great,” Nichols said. “Huge win for us — 3-0. Great start for this team this season and we’ll celebrate this one of the day and get back to work.”

Nichols was injured after running a quarterback draw for a first down from his team’s own 17-yard line. He had plenty of room to slide but didn’t until it was too late and he took a helmet-to-helmet hit on the tackle. He returned to the sidelines in shorts and a t-shirt for the remainder of the game.

“It was just dumb by me not sliding earlier … I know better than that,” Nichols said. “I had to come out, and with where it was in the game and everything, didn’t go back in but right now I feel great.”

This needed to be a complete team effort, and it was.

Matthews suffered a finger injury early in the game and didn’t return and Bighill was ruled out with a reported hamstring injury.

But there were plenty of players stepping up to contribute to the win.

“We’ve got a lot of depth and I’m proud of our guys,” said Nichols, who completed 16 of 20 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. “We came into a tough place against a tough team, a team that was 2-0, and clawed and scratched and found a way to win. It was a tough battle all the way through. That was a good football team and for us, I felt we played better this week than we did last week.”

Backup quarterback Chris Streveler ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, slotback Nic Demski caught at 82-yard touchdown pass from Nichols in the first quarter and had his first 100-yard receiving game and Drew Wolitarsky also caught a major.

The Bombers defence held the Redblacks to 236 yards and did not allow the opposition offence to score a touchdown for the second straight game. In fact, the Bombers defence has allowed just one touchdown all season.

“It was just an overall team win,” said Streveler, who went 6-for-8 passing for 42 yards and a touchdown and ran 11 times for 44 yards and two scores.

“Every game, different people contribute and they’re all equally important. Special teams plays a huge role, defence stepped up and made some huge plays. We were moving the ball early, got some quick scores and at the end of the game we just made enough plays to stay on the field and run the clock out.”

The Bombers ran into some trouble in the third quarter after taking a 22-4 lead.

First Nichols got injured, then Streveler had a pass tipped and intercepted, leading to a 42-yard field goal by Ottawa’s Lewis Ward, his league-record 59th consecutive successful attempt.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Streveler hit Charles Nelson — the replacement for Matthews — with a short pass but he was stripped of the ball and Jonathan Rose scooped it up and took it 39 yards for a touchdown.

The Bombers seemed to be reeling, but they were brought back to life on a tremendous special teams play by punter Justin Medlock.

Medlock, who missed his only two field-goal attmempts in the game, booted a 46-yard punt toward the Ottawa end zone, but it stayed out and Redblacks returner Ryan Lankford let it sit a little too long. Medlock raced down the field and knocked the ball out of bounds — only the punter can enter the no-yards zone — giving the Bombers the ball at the four-yard line.

That led to Streveler’s second touchdown of the game and was all the Bombers needed to salt away the win.

“I just saw the ball and saw the returner didn’t want to catch the ball so I just started running,” Medlock said. “That’s my job. Go get the ball.”

Bombers coach Mike O’Shea rarely looks at one play as a difference maker in a game, but he made an exception on Friday night.

“That was a big one right there,” he said of Medlock’s play. “He busts his ass down the field and makes a great play. You guys ask me about turning points a lot and I don’t usually have one because there’s a lot of plays in a game, but that one was massive and our team responded.”

Defensive back Winston Rose had an interception and a fumble recovery for the Bombers, while cornerback Chandler Fenner also had a pick.

Unlike in the first two weeks when the defence allowed yards but no touchdowns, they were rock solid in all areas of the field.

“That just says a lot about our team that one person goes out (Bighill) and the next person comes in and does the job so well,” Rose said. “We are simply doing our job on D.”

The Bombers will host the Toronto Argos at IG Field next Friday night.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

O’Shea explains challenge flag was to buy more time

OTTAWA — Blue Bombers coach Mike O’Shea wanted to make darn sure the CFL command centre saw every possible angle of a key play.

O’Shea threw a challenge flag in the third quarter after the Ottawa Redblacks scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery by Jonathan Rose. Winnipeg receiver Charles Nelson caught a pass from backup quarterback Chris Streveler and made a turn before he was stripped of the football.

Rose picked it up and rumbled 39 yards for the touchdown.

It was questionable whether Nelson had control but referees on the field ruled that he did and it was confirmed by the command centre, which reviews all turnovers and scoring plays.

O’Shea said he threw his last challenge flag anyway.
“It’s a big play, so I’m gonna try to give them as much time as possible to look at as many angles as possible,” O’Shea said.

“It’s a little bit of a risk but I also understand they might have one angle and if I can buy them more time, it might turn their opinion.

“In essence, throwing a challenge flag or calling a timeout gives them more time to possibly see more angles. I do not know how many angles they get to see. We’re not privy to that. They could just look at one at full speed and move on.”

The play eventually stood but it didn’t hurt the Bombers much as their defence refused to allow the Redblacks into the end zone after that.

— Wyman

Source: winnipegsun.com




More on this: 8 stories