April 12th, 2024

Bombers have edge heading into West Final


By Lethbridge Herald on November 8, 2023.

Graham Kelly

INSIDE THE CFL

The 14-4 Winnipeg Blue Bombers and 16-2 Toronto Argonauts are rightfully favoured to win their division finals Saturday and advance to the 110th  Grey Cup in  Hamilton November 19th.  But the play-offs are sudden death.  Anything can happen.

    Like 1960.  Bud Grant’s Blue Bombers were 14-2. After splitting the first two games of the Western Final with Edmonton, they lost 4-2 in a driving snow storm at home when quarterback Ken Ploen broke his hand in the first quarter but carried on anyway.  Of the Bomber teams of that glorious era, most regard the 1960 version as the best. In  1957, the Eskimos of Bright, Parker and Kwong were 14-2 on what those players considered their  greatest team  ever,  They lost toWinnipeg in game three at Clarke Stadium.

    Or take 1970 when the third place Calgary Stampeders faced the 14-2  George Reed Roughriders in Game Three   at Regina. Larry Robinson kicked the winning   field goal in a blizzard. “I aimed it about ten feet right of the goal posts and the wind carried it in,” he said.          

    How about the 1993 Stampeders,15-3, losing in the cold and snow at McMahon to their northern rivals. And the following year a battered third place B.C. team beat Edmonton in the semi-final 25-23 and then limped into Calgary and dispatched Doug Flutie’s boys  37-36.  They then won the Grey Cup in Vancouver 26-23 over Baltimore. In each of these cases a superb first place team lost the final at home.     

   “The tragedy of our game,” said Stampeder boss Wally Buono, “is the fact that you play one game to get to the next step and sometimes that isn’t the game you are at your peak.”

     The B.C. Lions were certainly at their peak last Saturday against Calgary. Quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr. played the greatest game of his seven year career in winning his first CFL playoff game. He was sensational, completing 28 of 39 passes for 413 yards and two majors.  He also ran for three touchdowns. His defence will face Zach Collaros, CFL Most Outstanding Player the last two years. He was second in passing yardage to Adams, Jr. but first in points, touchdowns and efficiency. In the Bombers’ two wins over B.C., he racked up 447 and 389 yards. Unlike Adams,Jr.  Collaros is the model of consistency, giving his team the edge at the most important position.

    Both teams have superb receiving corps. The Bomber O-line surrendered the 2nd fewest sacks,  B.C. ranked 6th. Winnipeg had fewer turnovers and a better turnover differential, +8 to the Lions’ 

-12. Defensively, the Bombers allowed the fewest points and yards in the league.  They were third in sacks, B.C., led by Mathieu Betts’ eighteen takedowns, second. It will be Jermarcus Hardrick’s job to keep Betts at bay.  Hardrick is the West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.

    The Bomber defence, led by the great Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Adam Bighill and Brandon Alexander will show Adams,Jr. different looks to disrupt him. They want to force him out of the pocket. No team is better at making in-game adjustments than Winnipeg. 

    But both teams are superbly coached.  B.C.’s Rick Campbell got his first head coaching job with the expansion Ottawa Redblacks and  led them to the Grey Cup his first, second and fourth year, winning once.   Michael O’Shea is looking to  contest his fourth straight Grey Cup. 

    The last regular season game in Calgary meant nothing in the standings to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  That didn’t matter; they brought their A-game and beat the curds and whey out of the hometown team 39-13. They  never let up.  They are relentless on both sides of the ball.

    When you look at statistics the one that stands out is rushing.  B.C. ranks dead last in rushing, the Bombers first. Vernon AdamsJr. led his team in rushing with 54 yards vs. Calgary but that won’t cut it.  Canadian running back Brady Oliveira, the Western nominee for Outstanding Canadian and Most Outstanding Player led the league with 1534 yards. In addition to moving the ball, he allows Winnipeg to control the clock. In November the team with the best ground game and defence almost always wins which the Bombers will do Saturday. 

    Or, as per above,  will the Bombers be hit with a bolt from the blue?

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