Are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers the real deal?
As Dave Ritchie used to say, is the sky blue?
In a battle that delivered on its pre-game hype, the Bombers and Eskimos went toe to toe in a superb CFL game of the week. The Bombers, behind a suffocating defence and a boisterous sellout crowd, handed Kavis Reed his first loss as a head coach with a 28-16 triumph.
Considering Winnipeg and Edmonton are 5-1, they can both say theyíre the best team in the league, but the Bombers currently have the bragging rights.
So yes, through one third of the season, the Blue and Gold are a team to fear. The arguments in support of this theory are plentiful:
- Winnipeg is 4-0 this season when trailing at the half, which is a slight improvement on the 1-26 mark of the last three seasons combined. Jovon Johnson admitted last week, even though it was obvious to everyone who watched them play, that they basically knew they were toast when down at the break over the last three seasons.
- The Blue and Gold are off to their best start in 24 years. Not since 1987 have they started a season with a 5-1 record. Thatís a nice head start, and they already have more wins this year than they did in all of 2010.
- Swaggerville isnít a real place, and neither are haunted houses, but both put plenty of fear into people, especially quarterbacks. Ricky Ray came into Swaggerville as the top quarterback in the CFL but threw for only 226 yards and was intercepted three times. That has to give offensive co-ordinators outside of Manitoba the willies.
- The Bombers have plenty of pluck and fight in them. That much was evident when 5-foot-7, 174-pound Alex Suber was exchanging blows with 6-foot-3, 319-pound Aaron Fiacconi late in the fourth quarter.
- The Bomber offence can explode when necessary. It hasnít been consistent this season, and the first half on Friday was nothing to write home about ó with the exception of Buck Pierceís 48-yard touchdown run. The second half, however, was remarkable. Fred Reid got to within four yards of his first 100-yard effort of the season, Pierce marched the team when needed, and Clarence Denmark recorded the first 100-yard game of his career.
- Unlike recent seasons, theyíre not pooched when they lose veteran talent. The dean of the defensive line, Doug Brown, was already in civvies thanks to a foot problem, and Dorian Smith left the game in the first half with a leg injury. No problem. Don Oramasionwu and Bryant Turner, appearing in just his second CFL game, were part of the stellar defensive effort. Turner had a key sack in the fourth.
- Their fans believe, too. After Jovon Johnsonís fourth-quarter interception, they chanted ďDe-fence! De-fenceĒ as the players came off the field. Then they yelled it even louder when they sacked Ray for the fourth time later in the fourth. Canít recall the last time that happened or the when the stadium was as loud as it was on Friday night.
- The Bombers have recorded back-to-back sellouts, which hasnít happened since 2001 without the aid of a special event like the Milt Stegall touchdown record pursuit.
- As electric as Friday night was, head coach Paul LaPolice is not going to let their heads get too big. The B.C. Lions, who were winless going into Friday nightís late game against Saskatchewan, are up next, and you can bet LaPolice will have his troops ready.