By Scott Edmonds, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie receiver Kenny Lawler was doing snow angels on the turf on Friday.
It might be a sign of things to come.
With winter weather hitting Winnipeg this week, the Bombers (9-6) carry a three-game losing streak into a Saturday game against the surging Montreal Alouettes (8-6).
“We don’t get nothing like this where I come from,” Lawler, the team’s leading receiver and a Southern California native, said.
The Bombers are embracing the conditions.
“Obviously the weather is going to be a factor but both teams have to play in it,” said Winnipeg quarterback Chris Streveler.
“(Coach Mike O’Shea) has done a great job this week reminding is all that this is what it’s going to be like moving forward the rest of the season. This is what post-season weather is like.”
A Colorado low swept north into the Prairies this week, walloping Winnipeg with rain and snow that started Thursday and may or may not continue at game time.
The heavy, wet snow downed trees still covered with green leaves and cut the power from thousands of households in the city.
It might not be a bad thing for the Bombers, though.
Their passing game, in the hands of Streveler after a season-ending injury to Matt Nichols, hasn’t set the CFL on fire lately, and any weather that keeps the ball on the ground could help even the odds or even tilt them in favour of Winnipeg.
Streveler has shown great talent running the ball himself and the Bombers also have the CFL’s leading running back in Andrew Harris.
Streveler has thrown for 1,256 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he has 577 yards and 12 touchdowns.
O’Shea is sticking with Streveler as No. 1, despite the Bombers’ acquisition of veteran Zach Collaros just before the trade deadline this week.
O’Shea says Collaros, acquired from the Toronto Argonauts, is still learning the Winnipeg playbook. He was getting his medical checkup Friday but made it clear there are no plans to make him No. 1.
“He’s coming in here as a veteran presence. This is Chris Streveler’s team to lead,” O’Shea said.
Winnipeg’s slide started with a loss in Montreal Sept. 21, when the Bombers surrendered a 20-point, fourth-quarter lead.
It also featured a play that cost Montreal quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. a one-game suspension. He snatched Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill’s helmet and smacked him with it but was allowed to remain in the game.
“We didn’t defend our lead and Montreal did a great job,” said O’Shea.
“They were very resilient. They didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard. They just kept chipping away and that’s what you get.”
Bighill is looking to stop the skid and didn’t put too much emphasis on the helmet incident. Instead, he’s focused on getting a much-needed win to improve Winnipeg’s current third-place playoff position in the West.
“There’s a lot on this game obviously,” said Bighill.
“We feel like we let that game slide and we want to be able to get them back for that. But at the same time, even more important, is every single win here on out is so important for our seeding, our standing.”
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (8-6) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (9-6)
Saturday, IG Field
THE STAKES: After a great start in 2019 with six straight wins, and following the injury to starting quarterback Matt Nichols, the Bombers have dropped to third in the West behind Calgary and Saskatchewan. All three have playoff spots but a bye and home-field advantage are still on the table. Montreal also has clinched a berth and is likely destined for second in the East.
BAD TIMING: If it does turn into a ground game, the Alouettes face challenges. Montreal running back William Stanback is out this week with an injury. The Bombers’ Andrew Harris, who is not only the CFL’s leading rusher but a Winnipeg native to whom snow is an old friend, is accustomed to playing in bad conditions.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The desire for home-field advantage in the playoffs is not hard to understand when you look at Winnipeg’s 6-1 record at IG Field this season.