By John Gaudes (@johngaudes)
— WPG Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) September 17, 2016
WINNIPEG — Over a win streak that’s now stretched over half their season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have succeeded with good offence, great defence, and mistake-free football. That trend continued on Saturday, as the Bombers hung around against the Toronto Argonauts before an explosion in the fourth, earning a 46-29 win.
For most of this afternoon’s game, both sides of the ball looked to be climbing uphill for Winnipeg. The offence was stalling and settling for field goals, while the defence was giving up open throws — and four passing touchdowns — to Argos quarterback Dan LeFevour. Winnipeg’s only touchdown in the first half came on special teams, as Quincy McDuffie electrified the 25,943 in attendance with a 98-yard kick return score.
“That just takes so much pressure off our team,” said quarterback Matt Nichols on the kick return. “For Quincy to take one back like that, credit to our kickoff return team, that was a huge play. That might be my favourite play of the night.”
The positive momentum for Winnipeg really came around after a critical LeFevour interception by Winnipeg’s Chris Randle. Matt Nichols’ offence took over and finally put together a touchdown drive, finishing with a 15-yard Clarence Denmark reception.
That was shortly followed by another touchdown drive, set up and finished by running back Timothy Flanders, who filled in admirably for an injured Andrew Harris with 136 yards from scrimmage on 19 runs and four receptions.
“I can’t say enough about Timothy Flanders,” said Bombers coach Mike O’Shea. “He does all the scout team work on special teams, and he pays such close attention to what the opponent is doing that he steps out there and puts guys in the right spot. Those are the little things that a coach notices and goes ‘that is awesome’. I’m very happy for Timothy Flanders. He grabbed his opportunity and did great with it.”
One more touchdown, finished by Nichols himself, and all of a sudden the Bombers were ahead by two scores. After a slow, sloppy start, it was a blowout and the team’s seventh straight win.
Nichols finished with 232 yards and a touchdown on 24-for-33 passing, but was buoyed by Justin Medlock, who kept his team afloat with six field goals on the afternoon, bringing his season total to 41. A week after missing two of his three tries, Medlock was spot on against Toronto, scoring points when the Bombers could find no other way.
“I was pretty pissed (after last week),” said Medlock. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, I knew exactly what I did wrong and just came back, watched a lot of film from the last few years and figured out what I was doing. I thought I hit the ball really well today.”
In assessing his team’s early struggles, Nichols was particularly complimentary of Argos defensive coordinator Rich Stubler, who kept the Bombers working short yardage plays. “It’s a little bit frustrating when you aren’t putting up touchdowns every single drive, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to go out and do that for your team. It’s one of those things where you just have to be patient against Stubler’s defence, they don’t like to give up a lot of deep plays. We had some things dialed up that they did a good job covering.”
Winnipeg is now 8-4 on the year, while the Argonauts fall to 5-7. After being acquired by Toronto via trade earlier in the week, former Bombers starter Drew Willy didn’t see any action in his return to Winnipeg.
The Bombers will now head to Calgary for a big test against the 9-1-1 Stampeders on Saturday. Winnipeg lost to the Stamps all the way back in Week 5, 33-18. They’ll be back home on September 30 to take on the Edmonton Eskimos.