September 24, 2018

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Record: 6–7–0

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Blue Bomber Report (6–7–0)

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Bombers prepare for Lions to bare fangs

Struggling B.C. squad will be playing desperate football

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea talks to players during Thursday’s practice at Investors Group Field ahead of Saturday’s game in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea talks to players during Thursday’s practice at Investors Group Field ahead of Saturday’s game in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.

What the Winnipeg Blue Bombers saw from the B.C. Lions in last weekend’s 41-19 win was a team that struggled to move the ball on offence and a defence that didn’t fare much better stopping it.

But that isn’t what the Bombers (2-2) expect to get when they meet the Lions (1-2) again this week, with the two reconvening Saturday at BC Place to wrap up a home-and-home series — the final regular-season meeting between the two West Division clubs.

“We always believe we’re going to get the team’s best and you have to prepare that way,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said following practice Thursday. “You want to play to your standard every single week, and you want to set a high standard. You believe that you’re going to get the opposition’s best every week and that’s the way you prepare.”

Indeed, there are many factors that go into a game’s outcome, and Winnipeg isn’t simply budgeting that whatever worked last week will be good enough this time around.

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What the Winnipeg Blue Bombers saw from the B.C. Lions in last weekend’s 41-19 win was a team that struggled to move the ball on offence and a defence that didn’t fare much better stopping it.

But that isn’t what the Bombers (2-2) expect to get when they meet the Lions (1-2) again this week, with the two reconvening Saturday at BC Place to wrap up a home-and-home series — the final regular-season meeting between the two West Division clubs.

"We always believe we’re going to get the team’s best and you have to prepare that way," Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said following practice Thursday. "You want to play to your standard every single week, and you want to set a high standard. You believe that you’re going to get the opposition’s best every week and that’s the way you prepare."

Indeed, there are many factors that go into a game’s outcome, and Winnipeg isn’t simply budgeting that whatever worked last week will be good enough this time around.

They know Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings will be much better than the 105-yard passing, two-interception game he put up a week ago. In fact, Jennings might not even be under centre for the rematch, his inconsistency through the first three games enough to create a steady rumour stream that backup Travis Lulay might get the call.

Whether it’s Jennings or Lulay that plays, though, doesn’t change the fact the Lions possess an offence with a number of high-calibre weapons. While receivers Manny Arceneaux (two catches for 12 yards) and Bryan Burnham (a team-high three catches for 58) were held in check last game, defending them for the second straight game, when pride is on the line, is never as easy as the first game.

A better performance from Jennings and his receivers, paired with a consistent running game that racked up 107 yards and punched in two touchdowns in the first meeting between the two teams, could very well exploit a Bombers defence that has proven leaky at times this season. That’s why when watching film over the last few days, what was talked about by the Bombers’ defensive group most was what they didn’t do well rather than what they did.

"I’ve kind of critiqued and gone over the plays and there’s probably like 30 plays out of the 50 where it’s like, ‘Oh, they could have got us,’" cornerback Chris Randle said. "Each week, we just want to be consistent, and I feel like this is a great opportunity for us. That’s what we want to do, that’s what we strive to do every single day, and we have another opportunity to do that."

Randle said whatever good feelings were present in the locker room after the win are no longer there. He noted the Lions will also be focused on fixing their mistakes, and are likely reeling from having to watch film of the loss all week. B.C. is also at home, and defending your own turf always tends to bring out the best in teams.

"In back-to-back games, those second games are always harder to win," Randle said. "Because it’s not going to be the same performance, it’s not going to be the same scenarios, and it’s not going to be the same athletes making the same plays. They’re only 1-2 and they want to climb to second place in the West… everything is for the taking. It’s not like it’s a do-or-die game, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to lose two games in a row. That would be my mindset going into it, and definitely wouldn’t want to lose at home."

The Bombers were able to move the chains with relative ease, the offence rolling with the return of starting quarterback Matt Nichols. But no one is expecting to carry a 28-10 lead into halftime again, and the feeling is the yards are going to be tougher to come by against a defence hungry for a do-over.

"Any time you play a back-to-back, regardless of the score or outcome in the first game, it gets a little chippy in that second one," Bombers receiver Weston Dressler said. "You just get tired of going against the same guys, and the little things that guys are doing wear on you a little bit more. It’s no different than going through training camp against your own teammates, where it’s every day against the same guys and it grows old on you."

As for Winnipeg, the preparation has been much of the same this week. The team was given the day off the field Tuesday, to help alleviate any fatigue from the weekend. As for having enough plays to keep the Lions guessing, O’Shea said his coaches are ready to implement a solid game plan.

"You know what worked," he said. "You planned for two games, really, so you have some stuff left over from the plan and the players understand that they made enough mistakes that they can correct and we can play better than we did."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

Read full biography

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