It doesn't usually take until week 17 of a football season, but the Bomber offence finally looks like it's formulating an identity and it's one that leaves a mark.
Watching this offence run roughshod over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday, I couldn't help but remark how long it had been since I'd seen the white jerseys dictate the terms of a game from start to finish and win in spite of an off day by their defence.
Every team that I've been on in the CFL that won 10 or more games -- there were five of them -- were almost exclusively headlined by 12 rabid poop disturbers on defence who could take over a contest to a degree where all the offence had to do was not screw it up. We implored them to give the ball to Charlie Roberts 20 times a game, throw a touchdown or two to Milt Stegall and then watch the rest from the sidelines. I never played on a team where the defence got free passes on a weekly basis, like we saw evidenced in a singular moment on Friday night.
One game does not forge an identity, but we have been noticing an offensive trend the past month or so that is becoming the standard. Whether it was intended or not, Friday gave us a glimpse at what this offence wants to be: a throw-back, two-back rotation with a line 'em up and knock 'em down, name-taking ground game.
I've heard of offences of this nature, seen glimpses of them, but I've never played with one. I remember years back when discussing the inabilities of yet another beleaguered Bomber attack, Lyle Bauer happened by and shared with us the offensive mindset that won him three Grey Cup championships in Blue and Gold. It never mattered to them whether the opposing defence had their tendencies figured out or who could outmatch who at the point of attack. They had such a competent and physically dominant group, it made little difference whether the defenders knew what was coming. They couldn't stop them if they held up wipe boards diagramming their plays.
This group is still miles away from any 1980's references of Chris Walby and Bauer steamrolling for Willard Reaves, but it is displaying the beginnings of similar tendencies and mindsets. As someone who has never been on the wrong side of 260 yards rushing, it is easy to suggest that for at least one game, Toronto knew what was coming and could do absolutely nothing about it. The Bombers ran inside with Chad Simpson and they ran outside with Will Ford. In total, they rushed the ball 43 times and threw it half as much. Next up is the worst defence in the CFL in terms of points allowed, and second to last in terms of average yards surrendered per rush.
When you are entering week 18 of the schedule, you don't often talk about an offensive unit coming together and finding themselves, but this may actually be the case in Winnipeg. At the start of the year, the Bomber attack had a centre that had never played the position before, a guard that had spent more time as a defensive lineman, two rookie offensive tackles, the wrong running back and an offensive co-ordinator that probably still doesn't know what "LCF" stands for (hint: French version of CFL). Last Friday night, not only did we stand witness to the maturation of an offensive line that has an appetite for the true grit of the run game, but a healthier than he's been all year Chad Simpson, a complementary rotation with Will Ford, a co-ordinator that is starting to understand what he's doing and a QB that isn't making mistakes.
It is way late in the season to be finding out what does and doesn't work offensively, but better late than never. With two games remaining, this group has an opportunity to reintroduce itself as a ground-and-pound, lunch-pail consortium. It is easy to dismiss last week's performance as a fluke. If it happens twice against Hamilton, you may even call it a coincidence. If it happens three times to close out the year, you have yourself a trend and the makings of a throw back to the days where nasty weather and even nastier football reigned supreme in these parts.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.