The Winnipeg Blue Bombers may have missed an entire season due to coronavirus, but they apparently haven’t missed a beat when it comes to winning.
When we last experienced Canadian Football League excitement, the Bombers were breaking a 29-year drought by beating Hamilton for the 2019 Grey Cup championship. Momentum crashed to a halt, however, when the global pandemic arrived in the spring of 2020, causing complete cancellation of the 2020 season.
Now, however, things are back up and running and … well, speaking of running, Andrew Harris is running wild again, and his Blue Bombers are running away with the West Division of the league.
Through seven games of the abbreviated 14-game regular season, the Bombers posted a 6-1 record and were the clear class of the league. Their only loss was to the 3-3 Toronto Argonauts, 30-23, and if that game were to be thrown out of the statistical picture, the Bombers have given up only 68 points in their other six games.
Defence, Harris and quarterback Zach Collaros have been the key reasons for the Bombers’ success and for the enthusiasm in Winnipeg as fans look ahead to another possible Grey Cup triumph. The last time Winnipeg won back-to-back Grey Cups was 1961-62, when the Bombers in the Kenny Ploen-Bud Grant era won four cups in five years.
Standings in the West Division of the CFL look weird these days, as perennial powers Calgary and Edmonton are last and second-last, respectively. The Saskatchewan Roughriders stood second at 5-2, while the B.C. Lions were at 4-3 through seven games. The Riders’ only two losses came in their most important games of the regular season, the Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl, which they lost to Winnipeg 23-8 and 33-9. A win for Saskatchewan in a potential Riders-Bombers West final in late November, however, would eliminate some of that regular-season pain in the Wheat Province.
Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat and Adam Bighill have keyed the Bomber defence, and Collaros leads the league in passing yards and touchdown passes. The veteran Harris, a three-time CFL rushing leader and No. 1 among Canadians, remains a bull in the backfield for Winnipeg, and recently moved into sixth place on the CFL’s all-time rushing list.
The Bombers’ success is contingent, of course, on good health. Were Collaros to go down with an injury — and his record of sustained good health is not good — the team’s offence would be in the hands of Sean McGuire, who had thrown exactly one pass in Winnipeg’s first seven games.
So, there are no guarantees. But Bomber fans are liking what they see from their team through the first half of the season.
OUT OF BOUNDS
• Bob Molinaro of pilot online.com (Hampton, Va.): "In a bit part for a current TV ad, John McEnroe once again dusts off his 40-year-old lament, ‘You cannot be serious.’ Mac should seriously think about finding new material."
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: "Nothing is certain but death, taxes, and the fact that a pass-interference call will never go against Tom Brady in the last two minutes of an NFL game."
• Headline in the Winnipeg Free Press, on the suspension to Saskatchewan Roughriders’ A.C. Leonard for failing to pee in a bottle: "Either urine or you’re out, Leonard."
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: "Boxer Conor McGregor threw out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game and it went 40 feet wide right and hit the wall. The pitch was so bad he was immediately signed by the 48-102 Diamondbacks."
• Kaseberg again: "After scoring a touchdown, Green Bay Packer Aaron Jones lost a small football necklace charm that contained his father’s ashes. A team trainer searched until 2 a.m. and found it. ‘See, that’s why we don’t score touchdowns, you can lose stuff,’ said the New York Jets."
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: "The Washington Capitals became the first NHL team to sell advertising on their jerseys, and now the door is wide open: Molson Canadiens? STP Oilers? Bud Lite Sabres?"
• Another one from Perry: "Toronto plunked the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch, two days after he swiped Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk’s data card. Flummoxed scorekeepers couldn’t decide how to score it — hit by pitch or caught stealing?"
• Columnist Norman Chad, on Twitter: "I’ve got a feeling that, although Bill Belichick doesn’t hold grudges, he probably never joins Tom Brady for lunch at Subway."
• Another one from Chad, on his aversion to sitting in a middle seat of an airplane row: "I’d ride in a hot air balloon with Stephen A. Smith before I’d sit in a middle seat."
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: "Scientists said of recently-found planet PSOJ318.5-22, ‘We have never before seen an object just floating like this.’ I’m thinking they never saw Randy Moss play."