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.

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This article was published 25/11/2019 (528 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

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.

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)

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)

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.

The offence played a clean game, which almost always happens when they win, but this time there were no turnovers — other than one on downs, late in the game.

Defensively, it was much of the same. The Bombers did what they tend to do when they win, only they did it exponentially better in the biggest game of all. With the offence playing clean football, it was easy for them to win the give-away, take-away battle, but they still ended up plus seven in that category, with two interceptions, three forced fumbles and three turnovers on downs. With a young Dane Evans at the helm of the Hamilton offence, the Bombers knew they had to pressure and disrupt him — to make him uncomfortable — but few expected the six sacks, and seven pass knockdowns they unleashed like hell on the quarterback.

In the four-game winning streak the Bombers went on since acquiring Zach Collaros at quarterback, the defence has been giving up precious few points. But they topped that once again in the Grey Cup, against the highest scoring offence in the league, by allowing only one touchdown and two field goals for 12 points all game.

Even the game plans by the coaches, which on the whole were good this year, became exceptional in the Grey Cup. Offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice added even more wrinkles and creativity to his attack, and practically threw the football to everyone on the roster that he figured could catch. Richie Hall had his defence, to a man, playing hell-bent for leather for all four quarters. That kind of focus, effort, and attention to detail doesn’t magically appear in the biggest game of all, if the head coach, Mike O’Shea, doesn't have his players understanding the magnitude of the game and 100 per cent dialed into his systems and approach.

Yet as amazing as this team played, and was coached, this was never just going to be about the regime that finally got it done. It had to be about the fans who suffered through generations of disappointment, and stayed with this team for almost 30 years of falling short. While the players only inherited this championship drought, the fans lived it every day. So while this Grey Cup was won, and this drought ended, by a platoon of players and coaches who stared down every conceivable obstacle, and smiled into the abyss, it had to be for a fan base that stayed true to their team, through all the years, when there were very few reasons to do so.

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.

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