By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols could do almost nothing wrong during the Blue Bombers’ three-game winning streak earlier this year.
But now that the team is riding a three-game losing skid, many fans think the starting quarterback can barely do anything right.
Any suggestion it’s time to give backup Chris Streveler an opportunity to take the reins, however, was quickly shot down after the team practised Wednesday for Saturday’s sold-out Banjo Bowl against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“No, no. Matt’s our starter,” Winnipeg coach Mike O’Shea said.
“The point is we evaluate everybody after every game, win or lose, and the numbers still show that Matt is processing extremely well, running the offence extremely well, the ball’s going where it should go.”
O’Shea noted last Sunday’s 31-23 loss in Saskatchewan included the Roughriders (6-4) getting an interception that led to a touchdown, blocking a field goal and returning a punt for a major score.
“When you play a good football team, you can’t let those plays happen,” said O’Shea, adding it’s all three phases of the team (5-6) that aren’t clicking right now.
During the three-game losing streak, Nichols has been intercepted five times and thrown four TDs. In the previous three victories, he threw one interception and six TDs.
He completed 14 of 26 pass attempts for 166 yards with two picks and one TD in last week’s loss. The yardage was just barely more than the 158 yards Bombers running back Andrew Harris rushed for on 15 carries in the game. He had a day of rest Wednesday.
“He’ll make a mistake just like everybody else,” offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice said when asked to assess Nichols’s recent performances.
“Certainly, there’s plays he’d like to have back. I know the quarterback gets all of (the criticism). It’s our offence that’s got to play better for us to win the football game the other night.”
LaPolice said Streveler could continue to see limited action.
“It depends on the team we’ll see,” LaPolice said. “There will be times we keep him in to get him some runs. There will be a time we’ll keep him in to keep teams off balance and run some other things.
“You don’t take your starting quarterback and put him in, take him out on the sideline for four series to see what the other (team does). That’s not something we’ve done, we’d do.”
He also doesn’t see the need to switch starters.
“I have help on that call, but no, not at this point,” LaPolice said.
Decisions won’t be made based on what fans want.
“The fans are going to boo our offence if we don’t move the ball and that’s on all of us,” LaPolice said. “I have to be better when that happens.”
Prior to the Labour Day Classic, LaPolice’s wife, Tina, tweeted a photo of herself wearing a T-shirt that read “My husband doesn’t care what you think he should call — the coach’s wife.”
Nichols said he’s tuning out the personal criticism.
“I don’t care what people have to say,” Nichols said. “We have a talented group here, a group that’s been together for a while, a group that’s won a lot of games.
“Even great teams go through a little bit of a (bad) stretch. Edmonton was an awesome team last year and lost six in a row. Sometimes it’s the way she goes and it’s a long season. There’s no panic around here.”
The last time the Bombers had three losses in a row was the end of the 2015 season. It lost four straight during an eight-game losing streak in 2014.