Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 09/9/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Look, just about everything that could happen has already happened in the long and glorious history of the Canadian Football League.
And so while statistics were not immediately available on Sunday, the odds are still probably at least 50-50 that at some point over the last 80 years some sad-sack team has mustered just 23 yards of total offence in the first half of a CFL game and yet still somehow gone on to win.
But it hasn't happened very often and it most certainly has never before happened for a more deserving -- or long-suffering -- bunch than the fans of the 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
In a Banjo Bowl game that every year means a little more than the rest, the Bombers used a highly unusual formula of epic defence, opportunistic special teams and atrocious offence to defeat a genuinely befuddled Saskatchewan Roughriders team, 25-13.
The victory -- which snapped a seven-game losing streak for Winnipeg -- was just the second of the season for the 2-8 Bombers and just the second loss of the year for the formerly high-flying 8-2 Riders. And while it raised as many questions as it answered about this maddening Bombers team -- like, for instance, how could this offence get any worse than 23 yards in an entire half? -- at the end of the day all that mattered was for the first time ever, fans went home happy after attending a Bombers game at Investors Group Field.
Defence wins championships, or at least Banjo Bowls
The Bombers have just two wins this season and both came as a result of epic performances by their defence.
A Week 2 defensive performance that the CFL stats bureau ranked among the 15 stingiest since 1996 generated Winnipeg's first win of the year over Montreal.
And you could make the case that Sunday's performance -- coming as it did against the best team in the league with, by far, the league's best offensive line -- was even more impressive.
By game's end, a furiously blitzing Bombers team had sacked Riders QB Darian Durant eight times and it was reflected in Durant's final numbers -- 15-33, 129 yards and 1 INT.
Vaunted Riders tailback Kory Sheets didn't fare much better, held to just 65 yards rushing on a day when the Riders were held to a shockingly low 219 yards total offence.
It was offensive all right
The Bombers mustered just 23 yards total offence in the first half and did not record so much as a first down until three minutes into the third quarter.
And yet despite a woefully anemic performance in the first two quarters -- Bombers starting QB Justin Goltz was 2-7 for 12 yards and 1 INT in the first half -- Winnipeg trailed just 12-10 heading into halftime, thanks in part to a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by running back Will Ford in the first quarter.
While still far from dominating, Goltz and the Bombers offence were much improved in the second half, with the QB doing with his feet -- rushing for 56 yards and 2 TDs in the second half -- what he couldn't do with his arm.
Dare to Dream?
The combination of a Bombers win and Montreal loss to Toronto on Sunday means the Bombers wake up today just four points behind the Als for the third and final playoff spot in the East.
What's more, the Bombers now play back-to-back games against the only team in the CFL with a worse record on the field and even more dysfunction off of it -- the train wreck 1-8 Edmonton Eskimos.
The Bombers play in Edmonton next Saturday and then host the rematch on Sept. 20.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2013 C1
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