Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Bombers fall to 0-2 on season start after loss in Ottawa

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Injuries are piling up – as are the losses – and now even Mother Nature seems to have a serious hate-on for a Winnipeg Blue Bombers team that has been so dominant for so long.

The Blue Bombers fell to 0-2 on the season with a 23-19 loss to the Ottawa RedBlacks at TD Place here in the nation’s capital in an ugly lightning-delayed affair that was lacking in artistic flair yet still featured a wacky and dramatic finish.

Winnipeg trailed 23-17 and the ball and a first and 10 at Ottawa’s 42-yard line with 2:09 left in the game when lightning hammered the area and sent both teams to the locker room. The two teams returned to the field for a warm-up 50 minutes later to resume play and the Blue Bombers marched the ball to the seven-yard line inside the final minute before two pass incompletions and a sack of Zach Collaros.

The defence held and, after the RedBlacks conceded a safety, Winnipeg saw Collaros complete a pass to Dalton Schoen to the Ottawa 51 before two incompletions brought the game to 00:00.

“I’m just glad we got a chance to get back out there and finish it for real. It would have probably left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth if we didn’t get the chance to finish it,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “We came up short. I thought we clawed back pretty damn well in the second half after a lacklustre first half.”

And with that Winnipeg is 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 2016 – a year in which they finished 11-7 after a 1-4 opening. What the result Thursday reaffirms is history, reputation, and success in the past means little when the curtain raises on a new season.

“I didn’t think this year was going to look last year, just like I didn’t think last year was going to look like the year prior,” said O’Shea. “The good thing about the way we approached things for years is we’re not excited about winning two in a row and we never think about losing two in a row.

“We lost this game, there are real reasons why we lost and when we watch the film there will be a couple of times where we should have stayed on the field in the first half, and we didn’t capitalize and then catching our wind a bit on defence. The guys responded very well; we just ran out of clock.”

More on the Blue Bombers second straight loss – the first time this team has lost consecutive games since the end of 2021 when starters were rested after clinching first place – from our view in the press box:

JUST FYI:

The game did appear headed to being called with 2:09 left, but the teams did return to the field at 11:05 p.m. local time and were back playing at 11:15. The CFL’s weather policy states ‘if there is a stoppage greater than 60 minutes after the game becomes official at the midway point of the third quarter, the game will be considered final. Two points will be awarded to the leading team, and in the event of a tie when the game is stopped, each team will receive one point.’

The last time a CFL game had been called due to weather since August of 2019 when the Saskatchewan Roughriders were awarded a 17-10 victory over the Montreal Alouettes with 2:41 left in the third quarter.

“We gave it a shot at the end,” said Collaros. “It was a weird way to end a football game, obviously, with the weather being that way, but we still had a fighting chance at the end.

“(On the second last drive) we got down there pretty quickly, two plays. First and seven from the seven… we’ve got to get the ball in there.

“I thought our defence played well tonight – I thought they played pretty well last week as well. I can really only talk about the offence, and I have to do a better job for us, for our defence for our special teams. We’ve got to do a better job of execution and I’m sure there will be some warts on the tape that we’ll be able to see and learn from.

“… I certainly think we need to figure out a way to start faster. It always comes down to execution and the details offensively.”

Meanwhile, Dru Brown was making his first start for the RedBlacks after spending the first two years of his career in Winnipeg and was 20-of-33 for 238 yards and a game-winning TD strike to Justin Hardy midway through the fourth quarter.

“He did a really good job,” said Collaros. “Like I always say, I love Dru so I’m happy for him.”

” data-entity-type=”file” data-entity-uuid=”c3f85732-8617-4818-99ce-b689e1e0747e” bad-src=”https://golden-west-content.s3.amazonaws.com/inline-images/blue%20bombers%20renegades%20june%2013%202024%20%28wpg%20football%20club%29.jpg”>Blue Bomber Devin Adams (94) attempts to tackle Ottawa Red Blacks’ quarterback Dru Brown as Miles Fox (90) closes in from behind. (Winnipeg Football Club)

INCREDIBLY, THE NEWS GET WORSE:

To make matters even worse – if that’s possible given the two L’s out of the gate – the infirmary is now getting stuffed with bodies as three players did not even see the field in the second half due to injury in defensive end Celestin Haba, defensive tackle Miles Fox and defensive back Deatrick Nichols.

This coming with Brady Oliveira and Kenny Lawler already in sick bay, along with Cam Lawson, Jamal Parker, Jake Kelly, TyJuan Garbutt and Noah Hallett – all but Oliveira on the six-game injured list.

“We’ll see what the reports say,” said O’Shea of the latest injuries. “I thought our guys gave full effort. They worked their asses off. Our guys were ready to play. If I was on the defence and somebody tells me I get to play 90 snaps or 100 snaps I’m going to be excited.

“I don’t know if you ever find a defensive player that would be worried about that.”

UNDERSTUDIES STEP IN:

The replacements for Oliveira and Lawler – veteran Johnny Augustine and rookie Keric Wheatfall playing in his first game – were both factors on a night when the offence struggled for consistency early and turned the ball over three times.

Making his fourth career start, Augustine rushed for 31 yards and a TD on just seven carries and pulled in two passes for 27 yards. There was a moment of miscommunication with Collaros late in the third quarter and a whiff on a block in the fourth, but otherwise he did what’s he’s always done in subbing in first for Andrew Harris and now Oliveira. Problem was, with the team trailing for so long and the offensive line struggles – they surrendered three sacks – the attack wasn’t on the field enough to even think about establishing a ground game.

Wheatfall, meanwhile, showcased the skillset which has so many in Bomberland excited, finishing the evening with three receptions for 111 yards – including latching on to a bomb from Collaros and for a 76-yard gain that led to a Chris Steveler score.

The Blue Bombers have now played two games and have yet to throw a passing touchdown, as Collaros finished the night 15-of-31 for 285 yards and the two picks.

a player in a blue and gold uniform wraps up an oppposing player in a tackleBlue Bomber Bailey Feltmate (36) makes a tackle on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Ottawa. (Winnipeg Football Club)

THE NEXT STEP:

Stanley Bryant on what the next step is to get this thing right again:

“Just not panicking. Just believing we can still get the job done. It’s early in the season. We’ve got a long season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and we’ve just got to find a way to get better each and every week.

“We’ve got the vets. Even though some guys went down tonight we’ve still got guys who can step in and be ready to play. It’s on us to figure it out and try to get some wins.

“We’re killing ourselves. We’re doing some things we don’t normally do. We’ve got to get back to the how we do things and still believe we’re a good and great team that can go out and dominant and win games.”

KEY MOMENT

The Blue Bombers were trailing 23-17 and were first and goal from the Ottawa seven when Collaros tried to hit Wheatfall at the back of the end zone on the first crack and then looked to have Dalton Schoen open on second down before a brilliant diving knockdown by Damon Webb.

KEY STAT: 24:57

Time of possession for the Blue Bombers, compared to 35:03 for the RedBlacks. That number is somewhat remarkable, given the club had just 9:51 of possession in the first half.

NEXT: Blue Bombers are back home at Princess Auto Stadium next Friday, June 21st, for a showdown with the B.C. Lions. Game time is 7:30 p.m.


This story originally appeared at bluebombers.com and is republished here with permission

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