Blue Bombers' relentless defence leads to Grey Cup glory
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended a 29-year championship drought on Sunday as they defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in the 107th Grey Cup.
Despite being a celebration almost three decades in the making, this is the team’s 11th Grey Cup win which is the third most in league history. The Bombers are also the first team to win after finishing third in their division in the regular season since the Edmonton Eskimos did it in 2005.
As the party goes on in the ‘Peg, Here are some takeaways from an unpredictable Grey Cup.
Andrew Harris takes his awards
Andrew Harris used the biggest stage in the CFL to enact his revenge and became the first player to win Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian in the same Grey Cup. The Winnipeg native was just three years and 215 days old the last time Winnipeg were crowned champs and joined the Blue Bombers in 2016 to specifically to help end the drought.
Harris had another outstanding year, ending as the rushing champion for the third consecutive season. However, he was suspended two games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy due to what Harris claimed was a cross contamination issue.
In the Grey Cup Harris went off for 18 rushes for 134 yards plus five receptions for 35 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bombers’ recipe for success all season has been to get Harris the ball — they are 18-2 when he had 20 or more touches — and it paid off again in the big game.
Winnipeg spent the entire post-season on the road and held Calgary to 14, Saskatchewan to 13 and then Hamilton to 12 points. That’s three of the most explosive offences in the league that weren’t able to get anything done against a Winnipeg defence — and front four specifically — that was relentless.
The Bombers’ defence only gave up three touchdowns and was plus-13 in turnovers during the playoffs. From halftime of their first playoff game in Calgary, Winnipeg out scored their opponents 83-25. In the Grey Cup, the pass rush led the way, sacking Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans six times.
The Hamilton drought continues
While one drought has ended, another has been extended. Hamilton now has the longest Grey Cup drought — having not won since 1999 — and it’s not even close. Every other CFL team has won it this decade with the second longest drought belonging to the Montreal Alouettes, who last won in 2010.
Hamilton will get another chance to snap their losing streak next year in Regina.
For Hamilton the game was about turnovers and they lost that battle by six.
Specifically, two third and one situations where they turned the ball over on downs really changed the game. The Tiger-Cats were 17-17 on third and one coming into the game but their inability to control the line of scrimmage was the reason they weren’t able to protect the football.
Jake Thomas touches it first
It was only fitting that Jake Thomas — the longest serving Blue Bomber — held the Grey Cup first. Often the commissioner will pass the Cup to an owner, team president or even a captain but this time head coach Mike O’Shea insisted that the former Acadian Axemen and eight year Bombers veteran would be the first player to lift the trophy.
O’Shea gets a Cup and will soon get a new contract
Life is often about timing and leverage, and Mike O’Shea has a good sense of both.
O’Shea couldn’t have picked a better time to win his first Grey Cup as a head coach after winning three as a player because he also happens to be entering a contract year.
A couple months ago when the Bombers were missing their starting quarterback and fighting for playoff positioning, some questioned if O’Shea was coaching for his job. Now after winning a Grey Cup in a league that already has two coaching vacancies, O’Shea is in the driver’s seat in terms of dictating his coaching future.