Doug Brown

Doug Brown

Columnist

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Recent articles of Doug Brown

Nothing came easy, that’s why this is so sweet

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Nothing came easy, that’s why this is so sweet

Doug Brown  5 minute read Monday, Dec. 2, 2019

It was most likely the hardest Grey Cup ever won, and because of that, it will probably end up being the most rewarding too.

There is a saying in life that without the bitter and sour, the sweet isn’t as sweet. You can’t fully appreciate what you’ve accomplished, without first mucking through the contrast of failure.

Fair comment then, that the Winnipeg Football Club and the fans that have stood by this team over the decades, are appreciating this win more than most anybody else has in CFL history.

The internet tells us that the Saskatchewan Roughriders own the all-time Grey Cup drought of 56 years—from 1910 to 1966—almost double the era of emptiness that Winnipeg escaped from, but this is the end of a story in Manitoba that will most likely never be repeated.

Monday, Dec. 2, 2019

The Winnipeg Football Club and the fans that have stood by this team over the decades are appreciating this win more than most anybody else has in CFL history. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press files)

Bombers saved their best for last

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Bombers saved their best for last

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Nov. 25, 2019

It may not have been a performance you would wait 29 years for, but it was definitely as good as any of us could have imagined.

In Sunday's Grey Cup victory that ended a near three-decade-long championship drought, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers did everything they usually do when they win — only this time, they did it even better.

The quarterbacks passed the ball for 222 yards and no interceptions. They ran the ball like they usually do with Chris Streveler, but they also had him catch a pass too, just because they could.

The Bombers ran a very balanced attack, like they always do, rushing for only 36 yards fewer than passing. For a good stretch of the game, running back Andrew Harris was averaging nearly 10 yards a carry, instead of his season average of just over six. Of course, none of this happens without the involvement of the offensive line, which has been one of the best all season, but with only one sack allowed in the Grey Cup — against a terrific Hamilton Ticats front four — and Harris not seeing contact until five plus yards down the field, this performance may also have been its best.

Monday, Nov. 25, 2019

CP
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris pushes off Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Simoni Lawrence during first half football action in the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

Some sage Grey Cup advice from a couple of multiple-time losers

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Some sage Grey Cup advice from a couple of multiple-time losers

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Nov. 18, 2019

On their way to the 107th Grey Cup game in Calgary, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to need all the help they can get. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were a league-best 15-3 this regular season and are the only team in the CFL the Bombers have not beaten this year. Yet.

So with that being understood, local entrepreneur Obby Khan and myself have decided to form a partnership — with the intent of helping the 2019 squad take home the silver chalice and finally put an end to this ridiculous drought.

With a combined six Grey Cup losses under our collective belts, including one that Obby had in Calgary, we have decided to offer our services as consultants to the team. Call us the 6L Grey Cup Consultants, if you will.

It hasn’t been easy for us, entering the marketplace. The initial response has been, if the Bombers wished to benefit from the experiences of former players in the Grey Cup, why wouldn't they consult with one of the many players in this province who have WON multiple championships?

Monday, Nov. 18, 2019

Bombers alumni Doug Brown (right) and Obby Khan deliver sage advice from their combined six trips to the school of hard knocks. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press files)

At a crucial moment, Bombers go back to the basics

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At a crucial moment, Bombers go back to the basics

Doug Brown 4 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019

The Winnipeg Football Club couldn’t have picked a better time to return to the characteristics and fundamentals that made it successful over the past few seasons.

In the statement win over the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday — in a place where Blue Bomber teams have most frequently gone to die — this team got back in touch with its identity, and the key elements that used to be automatic indications for its success.

There used to be few things more consistent on this team than the fact that they would win the turnover battle. In their last four losses of the year, they were minus three, or they turned the ball over three more times than they took it away.

The number of times this team has won games where they’ve coughed up the football more than they’ve robbed it are few and far between. For multiple years, this squad was renowned for how frequently they stole the football, and how well they protected it. In the semifinal playoff, they didn’t turn the ball over a single time and took it away four times. That was what this team used to pride itself on, and made an absolute priority. The last four losses of the year, this team had been intercepted seven times.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler, right, celebrates his touchdown with teammate Zach Collaros during CFL West Semifinal football action against the Calgary Stampeders, in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019.

Life in the playoffs could have been easier for Blue with experienced QB

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Life in the playoffs could have been easier for Blue with experienced QB

Doug Brown 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 4, 2019

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will start the 2019 playoffs in the most difficult scenario imaginable: on the road against the Calgary Stampeders. It won’t be impossible for them to secure a berth in the Grey Cup this season, just very, very, difficult.

While the goal of this regime, every year, is to win that elusive Grey Cup — by any means necessary — this was supposed to be the season where they made things easier on themselves by finishing first in the Western Division, getting a first-round bye and a single home playoff game to punch their ticket into the championship game.

For more than half the year, that’s exactly what it looked like Winnipeg was going to be able to do, especially when they were sitting pretty with nine wins and three losses with six games to go. Yet by losing four of those final six games, they now find themselves in the exact same spot they were in last year: staring down two road games in Calgary and Saskatchewan, simply for a spot at the big dance.

So what went wrong? It never helps when your starting quarterback goes down for the count, but not pulling the trigger on bringing in an experienced backup — and overestimating the in-house talent at pivot — may be written on the medical examiner's report for this season if they don’t survive the next two on the road.

Monday, Nov. 4, 2019

Zach Collaros beat Calgary at home with only two days running the offence, so how well will he do after two weeks of practice? (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Collaros passes durability test, easily makes Bombers better

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Collaros passes durability test, easily makes Bombers better

Doug Brown  4 minute read Monday, Oct. 28, 2019

What a difference a day can make. On Friday night against Calgary, many of us weren't sure if this would be the last professional game of Zach Collaros’s career, as he was seemingly one hit away from having everything ended for him. But by the end of the day, and with two days of running the starting offence under his belt, he not only took down the defending Grey Cup champions — who had everything to play for — but he brought a pedigree and polish to the offensive attack that gave hope to an entire province of Bombers fans.

It’s fair to say that Collaros was running out of opportunities when he landed in Winnipeg. Once the most highly prized and sought-after pivot in the CFL, he re-signed in Saskatchewan this season only after they failed to land Bo-Levi Mitchell, and he was quickly traded away to Toronto once he sustained yet another concussion in Week 1.

Being traded twice in one season is an ominous sign for any player, especially when you’re about to become a free agent and playing out a one-year deal.

It wasn’t just the seemingly increasing susceptibility to concussions that made us wonder about his longevity, it was also his declining performance during the 13 games he played in Saskatchewan in 2018. Even though he was the author of 10 wins last season, his touchdown to interception ratio wasn’t good; let’s face it, didn’t make anybody long for his skill set.

Monday, Oct. 28, 2019

Zach Collaros only had two days of reps with the offence leading into Friday's game against Calgary. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

Streveler needs to take a knee

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Streveler needs to take a knee

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Oct. 21, 2019

Sometimes, you have to rely on fluke circumstances to force your hand, when you otherwise would not pull the trigger, or make a move. In the case of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it appears the only way either one of the pocket passers on the depth chart are going to actually see any meaningful reps this season — before the playoffs — is if Chris Streveler is too banged up to play on Friday, and I fully expect that he is.

No one ever wants to see anyone miss a game due to injury, especially not someone like Streveler, who seems to be the epitome of everything you’d want in a perfect teammate. This guy would literally sacrifice an appendage for the betterment of his football team, and do it with a smile on his face. But let’s face the facts here. Stuff happens in pro-football, and Mike O’Shea is too stubborn to give any of his backups any live-fire experience with this offence, unless Streveler is actually too compromised to play.

In the game on Saturday against Calgary, Streveler was caught in a pinball machine of battery and abuse. He had four more carries than Andrew Harris —15 in total, which is a whole other column unto itself — and he delivered, received, and was caught up in a cornucopia of violence. On one play his throwing hand was used as a landing pad for a Stampeder helmet that came crashing down, unforgivingly, into the turf. On several other plays he was a bumper car gone awry, caught in a corner on a concrete rink at the local fair grounds, as two or three of the Stampeder school yard bullies teed off on him from all directions. He slowly limped back to the huddle, he took a knee, he held his ribs, he grabbed at his ankle, and he eventually missed a total of two whole plays. In any other context you would write Chris Streveler a heartfelt letter, insisting he leave such an abusive relationship, but this is a gladiator sport, and punishment loves good company.

It says here that the best thing that could happen to Streveler, and this football team — after what we witnessed on Saturday — is that he takes a seat for the final regular-season game, and takes the next three weeks to recharge his hulk smash mentality, for the seemingly inevitable, Western semi-final on the road. We know full well what this physical dynamo brings to the table, and he will need to be at 100 per cent for this team to have a legitimate chance to move on to the final. And from what I saw at McMahon stadium, playing six days later, even for Superman Streveler, would be a near impossible feat.

Monday, Oct. 21, 2019

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler was pummelled Saturday in Calgary. That game should be his last until the first playoff game, Doug Brown writes.

Winnipeg reaching Grey Cup means knocking out Calgary

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Winnipeg reaching Grey Cup means knocking out Calgary

Doug Brown 4 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019

While the chances of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ending up first in the Western Division are stuck somewhere between remote and unlikely, they do control whether they will have a home playoff game, and they do have the opportunity to make sure it won’t be Calgary at the top of the heap, yet again.

The Calgary Stampeders have finished first in the Western Division five of the last six years. Subsequently, they’ve been to the Grey Cup four of the last five years. So it’s fair to say, over the last half decade, if the Stampeders won the West, 80 per cent of the time they were representing the West in the Grand National Drunk, and that has gotten old real fast. The last team to win the Grey Cup out of the West, without first winning the division in the regular season, were the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2013. While it pains me to say, it will most likely be Saskatchewan with the first-round bye and home game in the Western final — it just needs to be someone other than Calgary. They’ve been on top for far too long, and it’s high time the Western Division pecking order is revamped.

Since Saskatchewan and Calgary both have a game in hand, and the Bombers have a final bye-week, the only thing Winnipeg can control is whether they get a home playoff game, but not whether that would come in the form of first or second place.

Saskatchewan has the easiest path to first place in the Western Division. They are at B.C. — with quarterback Mike Reilly done for the season, that’s win number 11 — then they are at Edmonton and then home against Edmonton. Edmonton has nothing to play for, other than making sure that their QB, Trevor Harris, is healthy for when they cross over to the East and play Montreal. Unless the Riders somehow lose two of these three remaining games and Winnipeg wins both games against Calgary, Winnipeg has zero chance at first place, since Saskatchewan owns the tiebreaker against the Bombers. Most likely, the Riders will beat B.C., and at worst, split with Edmonton. That leaves them with 12 wins on the season.

Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019

The best chance Andrew Harris and the Bombers have of ending their Grey Cup drought, starts and ends with beating Calgary the final two games of the season. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

Bombers appear content to take a knee on rest of season

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Bombers appear content to take a knee on rest of season

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Oct. 7, 2019

It used to be, with this Winnipeg Blue Bombers regime, that you could always count on the football club to make moves when it was struggling. Now, after three losses in a row, for some reason, they are sitting on their hands when it comes to the most important position on the field.

This management group has never been about complacency or staying status quo. Over the years, if there was any indication the ship was starting to list, or take on water, they would address it, often before you could even take account of the situation. Heck, half the time they would be fixing problems none of us even knew existed. So why are the struggles at the quarterback position not provoking the same fury of activity and remediation?

This offence has scored one touchdown in the last 10  quarters. That’s one major in 2.5 games, if you’d like to see it put another way. If that isn’t a stage-three fire alarm of distress and dysfunction, I don’t know what is. What won’t surprise you is that Chris Streveler has thrown for the fewest passing yards of anyone who has played a bunch of quarterback this year, and his average yards per pass, 6.9 yards, is also lowest in the league.

What you might not know, is that even though he is throwing the shortest passes in the league, his interception percentage is still one of the highest. Short passes are supposed to be high-percentage throws. They are supposed to be the easy passes you can make to get into a groove and rhythm, like checkdowns, quick-hitters, and dump-offs. He currently has the same interception percentage as James Franklin and Logan Kilgore, and those skill sets speak for themselves.

Monday, Oct. 7, 2019

Justin Samanski-Langille / Winni
JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Blue Bombers' Defensive Back Brian Walker (L) takes a knee on the sideline with teammate Kevin Fogg (R) at Monday's practice.

170612 - Monday, June 12, 2017.

Defensive line key to Bombers’ fate on the field

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Defensive line key to Bombers’ fate on the field

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Sep. 30, 2019

At this point in the season, with four games remaining before the playoffs, and the Bombers on a two-game losing streak, it is more constructive to focus on what parts can be enhanced — as opposed to lamenting over what pieces may be irreparably broken.

A lot of the red ink on the grading pages of the last two games has been directed towards the play and coaching of the secondary. The “bending and breaking” comments have resurfaced, the play calling and scheme have been heavily scrutinized, and the missed assignments and coverage busts that we thought this defence had put behind them reared their ugly mugs yet again.

So what has happened to the defence that, at one point, was allowing the fewest points in the CFL — now fourth overall — and that is leading a team that is now third in the Western division, and fourth in the CFL overall? In these last two losses, against Montreal and Hamilton, the link between the defensive line and the secondary has been severed for extended periods of play.

It is nothing ground-breaking to discuss the connection between the pass rush of your defensive line, and the coverage of your secondary. The more effective and immediate your pass rush is, the better your secondary tends to play. And the longer your secondary can hold its coverage up, the easier it is for your pass rush to get home.

Monday, Sep. 30, 2019

John Woods / The Canadian Press
Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) gets hit after the throw by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Willie Jefferson (5) in Winnipeg on Friday.

Bombers seem to quit when they’re ahead — then lose

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Bombers seem to quit when they’re ahead — then lose

Doug Brown 5 minute read Monday, Sep. 23, 2019

The good news is that by the end of the Blue Bombers' game against the Montreal Alouettes, no one was talking about the Andrew Harris steroid fiasco anymore.

The bad news is that everyone was talking about the massive, record-breaking failure of the entire team instead.

You can learn a lot from a loss of this magnitude: surrendering a 24-point lead, and laying down for 21 points, late in the fourth quarter. It just comes down to whether you want to come to terms with the harsh realities it presents or not.

This team is much like a pro wrestling superstar without any finishing moves. No “people’s elbow,” no “sharp shooter,” and no “figure four leg lock,” to wrap up a match, and close out an opponent. The only “stone cold stunner” we tend to see are the looks on our faces when it all unravels in front of us. They have their opponent down on the mat, with their foot on their throat, and then all of a sudden have a crisis of conscience and offer them a Snapple and a cookie.

Monday, Sep. 23, 2019

To say this team doesn’t have a killer instinct is a gross understatement. (Graham Hughes / Canadian Press files)

Defence big reason for Bombers’ success

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Defence big reason for Bombers’ success

Doug Brown 4 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019

If everybody received the credit they were due, there would never have been awards created for “unsung” players, or polls done to determine who the most “underrated” was. It’s fair to say that when it comes to the Winnipeg football club, and the successes they’ve experienced so far this season, the interior of the defensive line hasn’t quite gotten their due.

They haven’t exactly been ignored — it’s pretty hard not to notice the kind of disruption and flashes of physical dominance they display on a regular basis. But they certainly haven’t gotten the kind of attention that many offensive weapons and players such as defensive end Willie Jefferson and defensive back Winston Rose have received. It says here that the interior defensive linemens’ contributions should not be ignored and are a critical component of why this team is currently sitting at 9-3.

A quick review of the statistics, two-thirds of the way through the season, tells us that the defence is indeed good.

But what can we attribute to the interior of the defensive line? The obvious is to start with how Drake Nevis, Steven Richardson and Jake Thomas stop the run. These guys are so disruptive against traffic on the ground, you’d think they work construction for the city in the summer — on their off-days.

Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019

If everybody received the credit they were due, there would never have been awards created for “unsung” players, or polls done to determine who the most “underrated” was. It’s fair to say that when it comes to the Winnipeg football club, and the successes they’ve experienced so far this season, the interior of the defensive line hasn’t quite gotten their due.

They haven’t exactly been ignored — it’s pretty hard not to notice the kind of disruption and flashes of physical dominance they display on a regular basis. But they certainly haven’t gotten the kind of attention that many offensive weapons and players such as defensive end Willie Jefferson and defensive back Winston Rose have received. It says here that the interior defensive linemens’ contributions should not be ignored and are a critical component of why this team is currently sitting at 9-3.

A quick review of the statistics, two-thirds of the way through the season, tells us that the defence is indeed good.

But what can we attribute to the interior of the defensive line? The obvious is to start with how Drake Nevis, Steven Richardson and Jake Thomas stop the run. These guys are so disruptive against traffic on the ground, you’d think they work construction for the city in the summer — on their off-days.

Bombers show the value of ‘next man up’

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Bombers show the value of ‘next man up’

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Sep. 9, 2019

Once upon a Banjo Bowl, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had approximately eight impact starters down, and they still crushed the Saskatchewan Roughriders by a score of 35 to 10. They then went on to win the rest of their football games, and lived happily ever after.

OK, so most of that is a fairy tale — for the time being — but not the part about whupping the team once thought to be their biggest rival in the West. It's safe to say that distinction probably now belongs to the Calgary Stampeders, but you simply cannot overstate how impressive it is to win when a team is this hamstrung with injuries.

Let’s start with the most important position on the field: the quarterback. The quarterback is usually the highest-paid player on the team, because they usually have the most influence on the outcome of games. Unless you are a team with no clearly defined starter, losing your number-one pivot for anything longer than two or three weeks is usually a death sentence to your football season. Not in Winnipeg.

At the most important position on the field, Chris Streveler has now beaten both the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the only thing that kept him from winning all three games he has started this year was a couple minutes of uncharacteristic play from the defence.

Monday, Sep. 9, 2019

Chris Streveler has now beaten both the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press files)

It’s time to meet Streveler where he’s at

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It’s time to meet Streveler where he’s at

Doug Brown  4 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2019

If one thing became apparent after the Winnipeg Blue Bomber’s narrow defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday, it is that this offence needs a new identity with Chris Streveler at the helm.

One of the first challenges we are faced with as infants is fitting the right-shaped block into the correct-shaped hole. The longer we bang on the square-shaped opening with a round-shaped block, the longer it takes us to complete the task and the more frustrated we get. Hoping and wishing that Streveler can fill in for — and become — Matt Nichols in this offence is essentially the same exercise in futility.

With Nichols at the helm, we knew what this offence was. A very balanced attack that led the league in average points per game, didn’t turn the ball over and gladly took what the defence offered up. Nichols was as comfortable in the pocket as a joey in the pouch of a kangaroo. He was warm and safe in there, protected by his offensive line, and the comfort of a small, secured space. On occasion, he would pop his head out and scramble outside of the pocket, but we all knew where he did his best work.

Continuing with animal-kingdom analogies, Streveler was born onto the harsh grasslands of the Savannah. He was brought into this world with mere moments to get to his feet, steady himself and start running with the herd. If he spent too long being immobile, he would be picked off by predators like Charleston Hughes and Micah Johnson. Streveler’s instincts tell him to bolt any time he senses danger. His strength will always be tied to his legs. Nichols knows he is safest — and most effective — when he stays within the confines of the pouch, or pocket. With these differences being understood, hoping Streveler learns to become like Nichols is contrary to their upbringings and natural abilities. This may be why, with limited work this season, Streveler has already thrown for as many interceptions as Nichols did in the first nine games. Nichols threw for 15 touchdowns and five picks when he was healthy, with a 107.2 quarterback-efficiency rating.

Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2019

MARK TAYLOR / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler scrambles during a play in the first half against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina on Sunday.

Bombers running their way to wins

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Bombers running their way to wins

Doug Brown  4 minute read Monday, Aug. 26, 2019

I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad is that it looks like it’s going to take starting pivot Chris Streveler more than a year to transition into the kind of throwing quarterback we all want and hope him to be. The good news is that it doesn’t appear to matter at the moment whether he rushes or throws for more yards in a game.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers continued their romp through the CFL with an emphatic win Friday night, and are continuing to do it in unconventional ways. They are playing with a dominant defence, precision special teams, and an offence that rushes for more yards than it passes for. It’s not normal, it doesn’t necessarily make sense in the CFL, but it’s been working.

The surprising thing about the Edmonton game was that everyone knew what the Bombers were going to do: rely heavily on the run game. They had a relatively inexperienced quarterback coming into the game, who is much more comfortable running the football than throwing it, and they had the best back in the game in Andrew Harris, and a good offensive line.

So what did the Bombers do to catch the Eskimos off guard? Did they use the threat of the run to open up the passing game? Nope. Did they fake to Harris and go long over the top to Chris Matthews? Nope.

Monday, Aug. 26, 2019

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler, right, runs the ball as Edmonton Eskimos' Larry Dean tries to tackle him during CFL action in Edmonton, last Friday.

Streveler will have to play to more than his strengths

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Streveler will have to play to more than his strengths

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 19, 2019

In his second go-round at the helm of the offence, Blue Bomber quarterback Chris Streveler’s first and only test will be whether he can make his opponents respect his arm.

Last year, when Streveler got thrust into the starting role, nobody had a book on him. We didn’t know whether he was going to be the next Matt Dunigan, or the next Michael Bishop. Heck, the Bombers probably weren't even sure themselves what they were going to get once the bright lights came on.

Not only did he exceed expectations, thrust into the starting role at the start of the 2018 season, he even managed to win a game in his first three starts as a rookie, and he kept the team in the hunt while they waited for Nichols to return from injury.

Now that Nichols is done for a while, and with nine games remaining, if Streveler is going to be the starter, and progress and transition out of his role as a situational quarterback, it will begin, and end, with what he can do slinging the rock.

Monday, Aug. 19, 2019

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler (17) during training camp in May.

Bombers’ offence set to break out, or break down

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Bombers’ offence set to break out, or break down

Doug Brown 5 minute read Monday, Aug. 12, 2019

If it's true we fear what we don't understand, then in the case of the Blue Bombers, and its most recent victory against Calgary, I'll be the first to admit this offence terrifies me.

The Calgary Stampeders came into Winnipeg last Thursday night, tied for the best record in the CFL, in spite of having their backup quarterback at the helm. In what was one of the more entertaining games of the 2019 season, your Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Stamps, and took a one-to-nothing lead in the season series, without scoring a single offensive touchdown.

If you think that doesn’t make a lot of sense, when you look at the season statistics, almost halfway through the season, things “not making a lot of sense” becomes a recurring theme.

When a team like the Bombers is in first place in the Western division, and tied with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for first place overall in the CFL, there are a few things that do, and should, go hand in hand.

Monday, Aug. 12, 2019

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) gets sacked by Toronto Argonauts linebacker Micah Awe (51) during first half CFL football action in Toronto on Thursday, August 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Extended road trip could explain Blue’s latest loss

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Extended road trip could explain Blue’s latest loss

Doug Brown 4 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019

We will never know precisely why the Bombers lost the past two games, but I can tell you, in my humble opinion, spending an extra week out East didn’t help.

Bonding is always a noble pursuit of football teams. Teams that like each other tend to play well together and enjoy each other’s company. That is the end goal. Of course, teams that have segments of their roster that don’t like each other can also play well together — but that’s not the point of this story. The team stayed out East in Guelph, to bond, but inadvertently, and possibly related, they also lost the two games they played out there.

If you’re going to play in the Grey Cup one day, you better get used to being on the road. If this team gets its act turned around, they could easily be a part of that conversation. But the difference between that scenario, and what they chose to do out East, is that the Grand Drunk usually has two teams that are on the road, and subject to the same disadvantages — not just one, like the Bombers setting up shop in Guelph.

So what did I hate most about extended stay-cations on the road? Mostly about how it affected your performances, and not in a good way.

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files
Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice (right), seen with quarterback Matt Nichols at practice on Sunday, said his own performance on Thursday was ‘terrible.’

Bombers’ loss to Ticats no ‘off day’

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Bombers’ loss to Ticats no ‘off day’

Doug Brown 5 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2019

It is not the fact that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally lost a game — after starting the season five and unbelievable — that should bother anyone. It is the fact that the Hamilton defence reminded the rest of the league how to beat them, and what the blueprint for it is.

You will hear all of the following platitudes this week: “We were never going to go 18-0 this season.” “It’s better to get a wake-up call early in the year than late.” “You want to be playing your best football as the schedule winds down, not as it starts up.” Yada, yada, yada. As worn out as these lines are, there are varying degrees of truth to them. And at the one-third mark of the season, this team is sitting in first place in the Western division, first place overall and has the Toronto Argonauts on deck. So any and all criticisms should still come from a place of a football team that is very likely going to be 6-1 in the near future and hosting the Calgary Stampeders at home.

Yet this game was more than just one of those days where things didn’t go right. It was a reminder to the rest of the league that even the team that looked virtually unassailable and unbeatable at times still has its own soft and vulnerable underbelly.

Quarterback Matt Nichols got full marks for owning his performance, and this game, on the post-game show. He lamented over his mistakes and errors with the football, and how it’s part of the job of being a professional quarterback. But do you really think that Nichols, after throwing for 12 touchdowns and only one interception this season, fresh off winning his 10th straight game for the Blue and Gold, just had a bad day at the office? Do you really feel he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, put his athletic supporter on backwards and sprayed the football all over the field, tripling his interception numbers in a single day?

Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2019

It is not the fact that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally lost a game — after starting the season five and unbelievable — that should bother anyone. It is the fact that the Hamilton defence reminded the rest of the league how to beat them, and what the blueprint for it is.

You will hear all of the following platitudes this week: “We were never going to go 18-0 this season.” “It’s better to get a wake-up call early in the year than late.” “You want to be playing your best football as the schedule winds down, not as it starts up.” Yada, yada, yada. As worn out as these lines are, there are varying degrees of truth to them. And at the one-third mark of the season, this team is sitting in first place in the Western division, first place overall and has the Toronto Argonauts on deck. So any and all criticisms should still come from a place of a football team that is very likely going to be 6-1 in the near future and hosting the Calgary Stampeders at home.

Yet this game was more than just one of those days where things didn’t go right. It was a reminder to the rest of the league that even the team that looked virtually unassailable and unbeatable at times still has its own soft and vulnerable underbelly.

Quarterback Matt Nichols got full marks for owning his performance, and this game, on the post-game show. He lamented over his mistakes and errors with the football, and how it’s part of the job of being a professional quarterback. But do you really think that Nichols, after throwing for 12 touchdowns and only one interception this season, fresh off winning his 10th straight game for the Blue and Gold, just had a bad day at the office? Do you really feel he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, put his athletic supporter on backwards and sprayed the football all over the field, tripling his interception numbers in a single day?

Bombers’ loss to Ticats no ‘off day’

Doug Brown 5 minute read Preview

Bombers’ loss to Ticats no ‘off day’

Doug Brown 5 minute read Monday, Jul. 29, 2019

It is not the fact that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally lost a game — after starting the season five-and-unbelievable — that should bother anyone. It is the fact that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' defence reminded the rest of the league how to do it, and what the blueprint for it is.

You will hear all of the following platitudes this week: “We were never going to go 18 and 0 this season.” “It’s better to get a wake up call early in the year than late.” “You want to be playing your best football as the schedule winds down, not as it starts up.” Yada, yada, yada.

As worn-out as these lines are, there are varying degrees of truth to them. And at the one-third mark of the season, this team is still sitting in first place in the Western division, first place overall, and they have the Toronto Argonauts on deck. So any, and all, criticisms should still come from a place of a football team that is very likely going to be 6-1 in the near future, and hosting the Calgary Stampeders at home.

Yet this game was more than just one of those days where things didn't go right for your team. It was a reminder to the rest of the league that even the team that looked virtually unassailable and unbeatable at times still has its own vulnerable underbelly.

Monday, Jul. 29, 2019

Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive end Adrian Tracy charges at quarterback Matt Nichols for the sack during the second half on Friday. (Peter Power / Canadian Press files)

At the half it’s Bombers by a couple dozen… hey! Where’d everyone go?

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At the half it’s Bombers by a couple dozen… hey! Where’d everyone go?

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

We’ve all heard of the Los Angeles Rams' “greatest show on Turf,” circa 1999 in the NFL. Welcome to the 2019 Winnipeg Blue Bombers' “Fastest show on Turf.”

Speed? Yes, this team has got it for days, in all three phases, but they might be the quickest show on turf simply because they are extinguishing their opponents in 30 minutes or less.

This team is so efficient right now, they’ve effectively removed much of the suspense, drama and intrigue of their regular-season matchups by severely manhandling their opponents right out of the gate.

Part of the fun in attending a CFL game is not knowing the outcome, or how things will unfold. Will the team struggle early and have to mount a late-game comeback? Will it be a see-saw battle with multiple lead changes? Will they storm out of the gate and hold on for a nail-biting victory? Will Matt Nichols lead a drive — late in the fourth, as time is expiring — and have Justin Medlock kick a game-winning 57-yard field goal?

Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

Kenny Lawler reels in a catch and scoots into the end zone for a 54-yard score, his first CFL touchdown, Friday night. Through the first five games this season, the Bombers have outscored its opponents 111-37 by the end of the second quarter. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

Taking foot off gas is natural when you’re winning by four TDs

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Taking foot off gas is natural when you’re winning by four TDs

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Jul. 15, 2019

You might think that no one could have a problem with the 4-0, and only undefeated team in the CFL, Winnipeg Football club, right now. Especially coming off a home game where the margin of victory was 27 points. You would be wrong.

While it’s true the Argonauts did win the second half of the game, 15-11, and had more total yards and more passing yards on the night, they were soundly beaten on Friday. Actually, that’s not entirely true. They were annihilated, outclassed and embarrassed on the football field. And this game was over before the first quarter was complete.

So why did we field a number of calls on the post game show, lamenting the second-half performance of the team, when they went into the half up 37 to 6? Why were people openly wondering why the team took their collective foot off the pedal, and were somewhat flat in the second half?

It may be that the general populace doesn’t realize how hard it is to play in a game when you are winning by more than four touchdowns, and there is still thirty minutes of football remaining. It’s like going to work the day after you win the Lotto Max. It might be understandable if you don’t get whatever reports you must prepare in on time. In fact, I would dare suggest, that if the team that is down by 31 doesn’t outscore their opponent in the remaining stanza, they should have their franchise revoked, and their corpse toe-tagged. Because there are no signs of life. But until the Grey Cup drought is taken care of, there will always be a problem perceived by a percentage of the observers, even when none really exists.

Monday, Jul. 15, 2019

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Nic Demsky celebrates with the crowd after catching a touchdown pass in the first quarter Friday, a quarter that could barely have gone any better for the Blue and Gold.

Break tendencies, just don’t break the quarterback

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Break tendencies, just don’t break the quarterback

Doug Brown 4 minute read Monday, Jul. 8, 2019

On an exceptional night from the offence, laden with masterful play calling and ball distribution to nearly every weapon in the arsenal — at least for three quarters — the only thing that may have curbed your enthusiasm in the Bombers' 29-14 win over the Ottawa Redblacks was franchise quarterback Matt Nichols leaving the game.

I’m a big fan of “tendency breaking” on offence, except when breaking those tendencies ends up breaking the quarterback.

OK, that’s a bit dramatic. He’s not broken by any stretch of the imagination, and by every indication, Nichols should be ready to play when the hapless Argonauts limp into town on Friday night. But the smash up derby that took place at the end of his quarterback-draw gallop was one of the few scenarios that could derail a promising season, for a team with great depth everywhere except, maybe, at the “pocket passing,” position.

In what was easily their most prolific display of the season, with 453 yards of offence and nearly 40 minutes of possession, this talent-stuffed group was having a statistical feeding frenzy of a game. Six different receivers, and two backs caught footballs in the passing game, and four runners contributed to 149 yards on the ground.

Monday, Jul. 8, 2019

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS
This is not the kind of pileup you want your franchise quarterback to be underneath. Bombers' Matt Nichols was injured on the play but should be ready to face the Argonauts.

Unselfish play on display in victory over Edmonton

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Unselfish play on display in victory over Edmonton

Doug Brown  5 minute read Monday, Jul. 1, 2019

Unselfish play will always be a key factor in the success of any football team. When you have a special player such as Lucky Whitehead, it becomes even more important.

When you talk about “unselfish play” in football, you are referring to those moments where players sacrifice themselves for the betterment and achievement of another or the group, for little to no personal gain. It is most commonly on display with the offensive line. They have to spend countless hours in the gym and on the field, honing their craft, just so a player such as Andrew Harris can win a rushing title, or so a quarterback such as Matt Nichols can stay upright in the pocket and has time to make good decisions. They don’t really have any statistics they can hang their hats on other than the success of those around them and the overall production of the offence. When Harris rushes for more than 100 yards, and Nichols doesn’t get sacked, that is about as good as it gets for the offensive line.

While it is inherent in the job description of offensive linemen to help protect and spring the weapons on their team, trust me when I tell you, if they don’t like or feel appreciated by the people they are shelling out for, they aren’t as eager to put it all on the line. It is why you commonly see running backs and quarterbacks — especially the insanely rich ones — lavishing their offensive linemen with gifts and perks. It doesn’t matter how talented a pivot or tailback may be, if your offensive line isn’t convinced you fully appreciate them and are fully aware of their efforts, you don’t stand a chance back there.

Unselfish play can be found in other areas on the football field, too. On the defensive line, you could take up two blockers so the linebacker behind you can flow freely to the football. You can occupy a blocker during a blitz so a defensive back can come free off the edge. And if one defensive lineman is winning all his one-on-one battles, you can run stunts and make concessions to keep him isolated on that matchup.

Monday, Jul. 1, 2019

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Lucky Whitehead makes on of his two touchdown catches last Thursday against the Edmonton Eskimos.