Things are were looking up in Winnipeg following last week’s come from behind win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. We had a new hero in Joey Elliott, the sales-record setting Bomber store merchandise from last year was once again worn with pride, and we fans were asking questions of how well we played instead of who’s responsible for the loss. Then we took a look at the team we’re playing and a deep, deep sadness set in.
The collective mood of Bomber fans is akin to the future, and sure-to-be-named, Obama Presidential Biography: The Abandonment of Hope.
On to the game:
Holy Hell, BC is a damn good team playing at a damned high level. Their defence has given up 22 points in their last three games- TOTAL – 8,9, and 5 respectively. That ties the record for consecutive games allowing fewer than ten points (a record that was established in 1963 when low scores were the norm). Andrew at Yahoo’s 55 Yard Line has a good piece discussing just how impressive this achievement is.
Add to that is that BC’s offence has scored 76 points over the same span, meaning that they are beating their opponents by an average of 18 points per game. Those opponents were Calgary, Saskatchewan, and Toronto – and yeah – Saskatchewan sucks (they’re in the basement of the league with the Bombers), but Toronto and Calgary are right in the middle of the pack. What a team BC has. Wowsers.
While I’m not going to feel this way starting at 7pm tonight, and may not feel this way again for a few days should the Bombers lose, but it’s going to be a treat watching the BC Lions at top form. Let’s hope that BC and Winnipeg’s roles from 2011 are reversed and that indeed the Lions peak in August while the Bombers take the long road to success and peak when it really counts – November. (If we make it that far)
Keys to The Game
In order to win tonight’s game, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers need to play their best football of the year. I saw a tweet last week from Eskimo receiver Nathan Coehoorn that said “Chase perfection, settle for excellence.” While I’m sure this is blazoned across hundreds of motivational posters hanging in locker rooms across this great continent of ours, it’s especially true tonight… but Winnipeg can’t settle for anything – they need to be perfect.
Here’s the good news: Winnipeg defence is finally complete. For the first time this year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will have all of their key players on the field trying to stop Lulay, Simon, Harris, and company. Brandon Stewart is back from injury, moving Jonathan Hefney to his natural halfback position. Hef is next to Jovon Johnson, and the comfort and confidence with which these two play next to each other is tough to beat. Jovon’s struggles last week in defending Chris Williams should give him all the motivation he needs to have a stellar day. On the other side of the backfield, we’ve got Alex Suber and Johnny Sears playing together for the first time since July 6th – but they played well in both that game and the season opener in BC. Henoc Muamba is a beast, and his raw talent is going to yield impressive returns once he gets his reps up in live game action. His job will be to contain Lulay and Harris from scoring huge gains on the ground – and that’s it. Bowman and Stewart can handle the rest of the middle coverage efforts. Our defensive line may be facing off against the league’s best offensive line – but no doubt they’re up for the challenge. Turner torched them in week one for three sacks, and Alex Hall is the reigning CFL defensive player of the week – we have a chance to bump Lulay’s bumper in this one. Let’s get at them, early and often.
On offence, Joey Elliott earned another week of first team reps with his win over the Tabbies last Thursday – and he provides a different look to the BC Lions. Lions head coach Wally Buono Mike Benevides was very complimentary of Elliott’s ability, and I’m sure he’s preparing all sorts of schemes to entice the young pivot into poor decisions. Joey, on the other hand, doesn’t need to have another player of the week performance, he just needs to be consistent. Anthony Calvillo has won a lot of games by throwing six and seven yard passes for first downs after his running backs muscle out four and five yard gains. Elliott’s quick release is a good thing for those short passes, but his inexperience can lead to mistakes against an all-star secondary if he goes for too much, too soon.
In order for those short passes to open up – two key elements need to play lights-out football: our offensive line and Chad Simpson. Our offensive line gets a bit of a break, no pun intended, in not having to face Khalif Mitchell, sitting out the second of his two-game suspension. But they still are facing a group that eats up quarterbacks and roughs up tailbacks. BC’s middle linebacker, Adam Bighill, can more than make up for any blocked linemen, so Winnipeg’s going to need to find a way to eliminate him from plays if Simpson’s going to get any meaningful yards. Speaking of Chad – yeah, he really needs to be on point tonight. His ball protection has been great, and that needs to continue – his patience has been great, and that, too, needs to continue, and he needs to make defenders pay. He’s not afraid of colliding with the other team – and if he’s going to make an impact – it’s that he has to be the hammer more often than he’s the nail.
Special Teams is one area where we might have the edge. Woot! Demond Washington had some stellar returns against BC in their first meeting (one of which was called back because of a questionable holding penalty). With a full compliment of our starting defenders, Washington has been able to focus primarily on his return game. If he stays fresh, he can make big plays happen at any time. All the return game attention in the league is focused on Chris Williams of Hamilton (who deserves every single bit of it), but Demond is capable of making big plays himself. I think he’s going to provide the spark we need to either get ahead early, or to launch a late charge.
Realistically, BC should win this game. They should dominate the Bombers all night long – if Winnipeg can keep the game to within a touchdown, I’ll be happy. But you still have to play the games – and last year’s labour day classic (when 7-1 Winnipeg took on the 1-7 Riders… and lost) just goes to show that the games still need to be played, and that anything can happen.
Game Time is 7pm – bring a non-perishable food item or a cash donation for Purolator’s Tackle Hunger drive and get a pretty picture with the Grey Cup to plaster on your facebook wall or in whatever family album scrapbook your wife is making this year (yeah, I’ve got a good one). See you there!