Game Recap | WPG 29 OTT 14
OTTAWA – Attention: Manitoba – There is just one unbeaten, unblemished squad remaining in the Canadian Football League and it’s dressed in blue and gold and calls Winnipeg home.
The Blue Bombers knocked off the Ottawa REDBLACKS 29-14 in front of 20,429 at TD Place Stadium on a sticky Friday night to improve to 3-0 for the first time to start a season since 2014. Ottawa, meanwhile, falls to 2-1 and coupled with the Montreal Alouettes victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Thursday night, the Bombers are the only team in the land not to suffer a setback yet this season.
Yet, as you might expect given this team’s leadership group, while there was a ton of celebration inside a raucous Bombers dressing room, the euphoria will be muted quickly with the team back on the field Monday to begin preparations for next Friday’s home game against the Toronto Argonauts.
Example: asked if the win over Ottawa sends a message to the rest of the CFL, slotback Nic Demski offered this:
“We’ve been trying to send a message all year so far. I mean, we’ve only played three games but that’s what we want to do – we want to win every game. That’s our goal, win every game, win every week, so we’ve just got to keep doing that.
“I know that the rest of the league knows that we’re a good team, but we’ve got to go out and prove it. There’s a lot more than just saying it… we’ve got to go out there and prove it every week.”
The Bombers victory did come with a few breathtaking moments, both good and scary. The club finished the game with quarterback Matt Nichols on the sidelines after he took a hellacious shot after an 18-yard run in the third quarter. He was taken for concussion protocol, but was on the sidelines afterward in shorts and a T-shirt and did speak to the media after the game.
“That was just dumb by me not sliding earlier,” said Nichols afterward with a grin. “I know better than that. I had to come out and with where it was in the game, I didn’t go back in. But right now I feel great.
“I had someone blocking to my right so I thought I might be able to get away from the defender and maybe pick up a few more yards. Last second I felt they were closing in from the other side also and tried to slide late and was kinda caught in an awkward position.
“I probably should have slid earlier. It’s important for me to be out there and make sure I don’t take unnecessary hits like that.”
The Bombers defence once again had its fingerprints all over this victory, not yielding an opponent touchdown for the second straight game. Winnipeg has not given up an offensive score since early in the second half of their win over B.C., a stretch that has now covered 34 possessions.
Missing Adam Bighill, the Bombers still forced four turnovers – a fumble, two interceptions and once on downs – while limiting Ottawa to just 236 yards net offence. Winston Rose had one of the picks, Chandler Fenner the other, and also recovered a fumble which was forced by Marcus Sayles.
“That was just great team defence,” said Rose. “Everybody came in and did their job and that’s all coach asked for: just come in and do your job and the rest will fall into place. Coach preaches takeaways, either fumbles, interceptions, sacks. Tonight we did that.
“(Winning with Bighill absent) says a lot about our team that when one person goes down, the next person comes in and is able to do their job. We’re as strong as our weakest link.”
Nichols was solid before exiting, completing 16 of 20 passes for 262 yards and an 82-yard strike to Nic Demski on the Bombers second offensive play of the game.
The club also got scores from Drew Wolitarsky on a pass from Chris Streveler, and two short TDs by Streveler on sneaks. Streveler was 6-of-8 for 42 yards with a TD and an interception in relief, while also rushing 11 times for 44 yards.
His second TD came on arguably the game’s most important play. With Ottawa rallying after a defensive score by Jonathan Rose after a fumble recovery, Justin Medlock landed a punt inside the Ottawa five-yard line. But with Ryan Lankford slow to jump on the ball, Medlock raced upfield and in diving for the ball, managed to knee it out of bounds to give the Bombers possession. Two plays later Streveler was rumbling into the end zone for a decisive kill shot.
“That’s a big one right there,” said head coach Mike O’Shea of the play by Medlock. “He hit the ball it lands and I think it went into the end zone and came back out – it’s hard to tell from the sideline – but 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, but that one was massive and our team responded.”
0: The amount of offensive touchdowns the Bombers surrendered Friday, the second straight game they have kept an attack out of the end zone. The Bombers have given up just one offensive score in three games.
Chris Matthews did not finish the game after being injured in the first quarter on a pass attempt. The veteran receiver threw his helmet down on the field in disgust while being attended to on the sideline by the training staff.
The Bombers implemented a variety of different personnel groupings to replace him, including using Mike Miller at fullback with Charles Nelson and Daniel Petermann also taking snaps with the offence. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea did not have an update on Matthews immediately after the game.
The Bombers inactive player was OL Jamar McGloster… With Kyrie Wilson starting at middle linebacker for Adam Bighill and Jesse Briggs lining up at weak-side linebacker the Bombers started eight Canadians Friday night: Briggs and safety Jeff Hecht on defence with Andrew Harris, Drew Wolitarsky, Nic Demski, Cody Speller, Michael Couture and Geoff Gray on offence.
39:01: The Bombers held the ball for a whopping 39 minutes and one second to Ottawa’s 20:59
82: The Nichols-to-Demski 82-yard strike on the second offensive play of the game for the Bombers was the longest TD in Demski’s career. Demski finished with four catches for 105 yards – the first 100-yard receiving game of his career
100: The Demski TD was also the 100th of Nichols’ career.
75%: The Bombers were three for four in the red zone.
200: Bombers veteran long-snapper Chad Rempel suited up for the 200th game of his 15-year CFL career.