November 20, 2011
Bombers all-out blitz: A fine stadium send off
By Ted Wyman, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - How fitting that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers said goodbye to their home for the last 58 years with a display of smashmouth football for the ages.
The Bombers were absolutely dominant in a 19-3 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL East Final, riding the legs of running back Chris Garrett and a punishing defence to a margin of victory that flattered the visiting team.
The Bombers earned their first trip to the Grey Cup since 2007 with a grinding victory on a frigid day in front of a raucous sellout crowd at soon-to-be-razed Canad Inns Stadium.
Everything went right.
The Bombers ran their game plan to perfection, keeping the ball on the ground, making big plays on both offence and defence, playing a clean special teams game and even capping the remarkable day by scoring a touchdown on the final play ever called at the old stadium.
It just doesn’t get any better.
The press box was warmer than the stands, but not much. Between the leaky roof and the broken heaters, it was pretty obvious that part of the stadium is good and ready for the wrecking ball. I know, I know, cry you a river … It was -14 with a nasty wind chill at game time, but other than a few fumbles that the Bombers were fortunate to get back, the cold didn’t seem to be a huge factor. Bombers trainer Brad Fotty was even sporting shorts on the sidelines for most of the game. Who cares about a little frostbite, right? … Hamilton won the coin toss and went for the wind in the fourth quarter, a decision many thought would be critical to their success. The Bombers defence made it a moot point … Buck Pierce was an absolute warrior in this game. He ran for 66 yards, many times picking up big first downs with his legs. Pierce is not always pretty but he’s tough as nails and he gets the job done. And you get the impression his teammates would follow him into water.
Bombers coach Paul Lapolice challenged the second play of the game after the refs ruled a completion to Marcus Thigpen. It looked like an incompletion on the replay but somehow the ruling on the field was confirmed … You knew it wasn’t going to be a normal kicking day when Hamilton elected to punt from the 49 rather than kick a field goal. Justin Medlock is a great kicker, but anything over 40 yards was almost impossible into that wind … The Bombers started to win the field position battle on their second possession and kept control of it for the rest of the game … Strange call by LaPolice on third and one from the Hamilton 28. The Bombers lined up in shotgun and the handoff to Garrett was five yards deep in the backfield. He lost yards and Bombers turned it over on downs. Bad gamble and worst play call by LaPolice.
On Pierce’s first big run for a first down, you could almost hear 30,000 people yelling “Slide, slide!!” … Great drive by the Bombers, with two Pierce first down runs and a solid run by Garrett to get the ball down to the three. Alex Brink came in and ran a bootleg, completing a pass to Jason Vega — yes, defensive end Jason Vega — for the Bombers TD. Good play call that apparently was talked about in one of the meetings Terence Jeffers-Harris missed … Not sure how many times the Ticats even made it into the Blue Bombers end of the field after their initial field goal drive, but the one time in the second quarter they got it to the 30, the Bombers defence swarmed them and forced a punt … Pierce fumbled for the second time but dove after it to get it back. He got clobbered and it reminded me of the play on which Kevin Glenn broke his arm in the 2007 East Final … Garrett fumbled on the next play but alertly batted it out of bounds. A long pass to Terence Edwards set up a 22-yard Justin Palardy field goal … Garrett was a beast in the first half, giving the Bombers exactly the production they needed from the backfield … It was only 10-3 Bombers at the half but the time of possession told the true story. Bombers had the ball for 19:37 while the Ticats had it for just 11:47.
Glenn limped off with an apparent knee injury and didn’t return. Does he always get hurt in East Finals? Would have been bizarre if the Ticats won and Glenn was unable to play in the Grey Cup, again … Palardy made a 37-yard field goal and finished the day 2-for-2, but he wasn’t the Bombers best kicker. That honour went to Jamie Boreham, whose directional punting was exceptional … Quinton Porter came in at QB after Glenn went down and did absolutely nothing. He must be close to done with the Ticats … Pierce just missed Edwards with a long bomb that could have put the game away. Edwards was open and likely would have been gone.
A huge catch by Clarence Denmark on second and four helped the Bombers get out from the shadow of their goalpost and allowed them to take back the field position advantage. The Bombers had a lot of productive drives that didn’t result in points but were still valuable … Thirty yards in penalties against the Bombers while protecting a lead late in the game? You have to be kidding me … Huge interception by Alex Suber got it right back for the Bombers. The defence was simply stifling in the final quarter … Was that really the same Tiger-Cats team that scored 52 points last week against Montreal … Pierce wasted a great drive and superb run by Garrett by throwing a bad interception in the red zone … Great game by the 13th man. That crowd gave the Bombers a big advantage, no question … The final nail in the Ticats’ coffin came when a trick play on a punt return went awry. The Bombers recovered the failed lateral and set up Garrett’s fitting touchdown on the last play of the game … Good to see LaPolice hand the trophy to Doug Brown. Wouldn’t it be perfect if the classy defensive tackle could hoist another trophy for the first time next Sunday after the last game of his illustrious career?