April 12th, 2024

Bombers predicted to be pronounced a dynasty on Sunday


By Lethbridge Herald on November 17, 2023.

Graham Kelly

 INSIDE THE CFL 

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers won their regular season meetings with Montreal 17-3 on Canada Day and 47-17 August 24th.  While the Westerners are a team for the ages, the Alouette team  they will face   Sunday in Hamilton is not the same flock  they defeathered  a few months ago.  The Larks  have won seven in a row and have something to prove. 

    The 110th Grey Cup will be won in the trenches. 

    Can the Montreal offensive line of Nick Callender, Philippe Gagnon, Justin Lawerence, Kristian Matte and Jamar McGloster open holes for running back William Stanback and keep Bombers Jackson Jeffcoat, Jake Thomas, Ricky Walker and Willie Jefferson away from quarterback Cody Fajardo?  Conversely will  Montreal’s defenders, Shawn Lemon, Mustafa Johnson, Almondo Sewell and Lwal Uguak manhandle Winnipeg’s Stanley Bryant, Geoff Gray, Chris Kolankowski, Patrick Neufeld and Jermarcus Hardrick, shut down running back Brady Oliveira and sack Zach Collaros?

    The Bombers led the league in points, touchdowns, total offence, rushing and passing efficiency. Although second in passing yardage, Zach Collaros threw for a career high 4252 yards. Add rushing champ  Brady Oliveira and you have a difficult  attack  to contain.

    Montreal was fourth in points scored, 5th in rushing, sixth through the air.  Fajardo had the best percentage completion mark, 71.6. Collaros third at 69% .  Protecting the quarterback is key. 

    Toronto sacked Fajardo seven times in the Eastern Final.   The Bombers got to Lion Vernon Adams ten times. Collaros was caught twice. During the season, the Bombers not only gave up the second fewest sacks, DE Willie Jefferson, DB Deatrick Nichols and DB Evan Holm combined for 37 pass knockdowns.  Jermarcus Hardrick kept league sack leader Mathieu Betts at bay in the final.  Can he do likewise with Shawn Lemon?

    In their dominant defensive performance in the  Eastern Final, the Als didn’t blitz once.  They rely on their secondary to take away enemy targets.   Veteran Dbs Wesley Sutton, Ciante Evans, Avery Williams, Marc-Antoine Dequoy and linebackers Tyrice Beverette, Darnell Sankey and rookie Reggie Stubblefield are listed as interchangeable on the depth chart. It’s an exceptionally difficult defence to read. They are orchestrated by the great coordinator Noel Thorpe.

      Montreal surrendered the second most sacks. Last year Saskatchewan gave up the most.  The common denominator here is Cody Fajardo who takes too long to find a secondary receiver. Despite a gimpy knee, Fajardo ran 57 times for 341yards.  If he goes down, Montreal is stuck with the harmless Caleb Evans whereas if Collaros gets hurt, Dru Brown has proven to be an effective replacement. 

      Winnipeg’s best receiver  Dalton Schoen is nursing an injury and may not play tomorrow.  Not to worry, Collaros still has Kenny Lawler, Rasheed Bailey, Drew Wolitarsky and Janarion Grant to play with. And, of course, he has the superb Brady Oliveira in the backfield. Bottom line: Winnipeg has a great quarterback  making his sixth appearance in the big game, Montreal has a good quarterback starting his first Grey Cup.

    Although Montreal beat Toronto 38-17, the defenc e did the damage; the offence didn’t play very well. Fajardo can hand off to William Stanback but the receiving corps has been devastated by injuries, leaving him only the outstanding Austin Mack as well as journeymen  Cole Spieker, Tyler Snead and Tyson Philpot. I don’t expect them to give an experienced Winnipeg secondary much trouble. 

      Other factors to consider? Plus/minus, Winnipeg 4th, at +8, Montreal second best at +14.  They don’t beat themselves. Montreal has the best punter in Joseph Zema and the worst place kicker in David Cote. The return and coverage squads are equal. Bomber boss Michael O’Shea is a shoo in for the Hall of Fame. Jason Maas is a long way from being considered a legend.   

    Then there is the matter of experience. All Bomber starters on both sides of the ball have played in at least two Grey Cups, most three or more. 

   Is this a dynasty? Only if they win tomorrow. Otherwise they’ll be like the Lancaster/Reed Roughriders who went to five Grey Cups but only won once, or, Wally Buono’s Stampeders of the 1990s that also got to the big game five times with but two wins.

  Said Bomber defensive coordinator Richie Hall last week, “We haven’t played a bad game yet this season.”

 After tomorrow, the Bombers will be pronounced a dynasty. 

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