The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence has been making life miserable for opposing offences to begin the 2021 CFL season.
The Blue and Gold forced four turnovers and held the Toronto Argonauts to just one touchdown in a 20-7 win Friday night at IG Field.
“I thought we took the ball away in a very timely manner,” head coach Mike O’Shea said. “And that’s very important, right. I’m not so sure that giving up a hundred (rushing) yards is really relevant.
“I thought our guys came up with, once again, some great takeaways in a timely fashion to allow us to win the game.”
The Bombers are 2-0 to start the season and have allowed just 13 total points.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bombers QB Zach Collaros again looked sharp, going 32 for 40 and throwing for two touchdown passes and 292 yards with one interception.
But Collaros felt he could have finished a few more drives.
“We left some points out there that really could have put the game out of reach,” said Collaros. “A win is a win, but we felt like we left a lot of plays our there, so we’re going to have to watch with a critical eye and continue to get better.”
Collaros hit receiver Rasheed Bailey for a 35-yard TD in the first quarter for the only major of the first half. It was Bailey’s first career CFL touchdown.
Bailey was playing with a heavy heart after his 12-year-old cousin had a bad allergic reaction. And he spoke with his family immediately after the final buzzer to get an update.
“I literally just got off the phone with them,” Bailey said. “They’re in the hospital right now.
“My little cousin is only 12-years-old and she had an allergic reaction and it’s not looking too good, but it’s always up to God at the end.”
The Bombers blanked the Argos in the first two quarters, and held a 10-0 lead at the break as kicker Tyler Crapigna nailed a 22-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
The Argos finally got some life late in the third quarter after Nick Arbuckle replaced McLeod Bethel-Thompson at quarterback. On Arbuckle’s first drive under centre, the Argos put together a 75-yard drive, capped off by a James White IV 30-yard TD run to cut the lead to 10-7.
It ended the Bombers’ shutout streak at 99 minutes as they went 23 straight possessions without giving up a single point dating back to the first quarter of the season opener.
But early in the fourth quarter, the Bombers forced a critical turnover after Jesse Briggs knocked the ball loose from White and Winnipeg recovered at the Toronto 35 yard line.
Two plays later, Collaros found Nic Demski in the back of the endzone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead after the converted extra point.
Demski had missed a key block and fumbled the ball earlier in the game, and he sounded relieved he was able to make up for it with the game clinching touchdown.
“There’s a couple missed blocks out there,” said Demski. “I hold myself to a high standard and I believe I can do all aspects on offence. So when I miss a block, or fumble the ball, that hits me hard. At the end of the day, I felt I owed it to my teammates to go out there and make a play, so I’m just thankful I got the opportunity.”
Crapigna added another chip-shot field goal from 22 yards out later in the quarter to extend the lead to 20-7.
Kenny Lawler led the Bombers in receiving with 99 yards on 10 catches.
The Bombers started three rookies in the secondary but newcomer Deatrick Nichols looked anything but a first year CFL’er. Nichols had his first career interception and a fumble recovery in just his second career CFL game.
“It feels good, man,” Nichols said. “That’s one thing that I was big on. Your first game is gonna be a little bit slow, but the second game got to be 100 per cent better. And that’s all I was focused on this game.”
Jackson Jeffcoat had a sack and a forced fumble in the victory.
It was a quieter night for Bombers RB Brady Oliveira, again replacing an injured Andrew Harris. Oliveira had just 29 rushing yards on 13 carries after a huge game last week.
The Bombers are now 13-1 at IG Field in their last 14 home games.
The two teams will lock horns again next Saturday afternoon in Toronto as the Bombers hit the road for the first time. The pregame show will begin on 680 CJOB at 1 p.m., with the kickoff shortly after 3 p.m.
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