As the Bombers prepared to host the winless Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-2) on Friday — the club they beat for both titles — the focus was on correcting mistakes on both sides of the ball.
“It’s better to be 2-0 and have things you know you need to work on and can still correct, than being 0-2 and having that same situation, right?” Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill said after Thursday’s walk-through practice.
“So the key is to make sure you’re learning from your mistakes even when you win. We recognize there was a lot of mistakes we need to clean up to be able to win more games this season, win tighter games as we go forward and, ultimately, get to where we want to go.”
The Bombers have won a pair of games against the Ottawa Redblacks, a 19-17 home victory on a field goal with six seconds remaining on June 10, and 19-12 in Ottawa last week.
Winnipeg’s 38 points puts them in seventh place in the CFL. Hamilton is fifth with 43.
Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said the team has “a high standard” and the way they achieved a 2-0 start isn’t too much to celebrate.
“Obviously you’re happy after the game if you get the win, but there’s always six or seven things that you can do better and usually those things are either exposed or maybe look better on film the next day,” said Collaros, the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Player.
“We try to really be critical of the things that we can improve on. So the day after a game, win or lose, it’s generally, `OK we can do this better, this better, this better.'”
Hamilton is coming off a 33-30 overtime loss to the Calgary Stampeders, a game in which the Ticats had a 24-0 lead late in the first half. They also lost their season-opener 30-13 on the road versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Head coach Orlondo Steinauer said the Tiger-Cats will try to turn the tide.
“The elephant in the room is the final result on the scoreboard, but there was so much good, so much improvement from a week ago,” Steinauer told the media after a practice this week.
“So we’re just trying to get better every week. It’s got to show up in the win column. We know that, but we don’t focus on that. We took a lot of positives from the game. Definitely disappointed, whatever emotion you want to throw under there, but you better not sulk too much because we’re going to Winnipeg.”
Both teams will have changes from last week’s rosters.
Winnipeg will be without defensive back Winston Rose (foot) and offensive lineman Michael Couture (arm), who was put on the six-game injured list. Demerio Houston replaces Rose on the corner and Chris Kolankowski takes the spot of veteran centre Couture.
Hamilton added a fourth offensive lineman to its injured lists as last year’s East Division most outstanding offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg will miss Friday’s game. The Ticats have given up nine quarterback sacks, tying them for the most with Edmonton. Winnipeg has allowed two.
"The ball's kicked off and you're playing your play. You're not worried about what your record is, what it should be, how you played the last game."
— Winnipeg Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) June 23, 2022
The Bombers, who had the league’s stingiest defence last season, have given up 825 yards in net offence for seventh spot in the league. Hamilton is sixth with 753 yards.
“Last year, that was just a hallmark of us. We didn’t give up explosions and we definitely didn’t give up a lot of touchdowns,” Bighill said. “We can’t allow teams to move the ball consistently down the field and have explosive plays and put our offence in our own zone.”
So would a decisive victory over the Ticats mean the Bombers are progressing?
“I’m not necessarily really caught up in what the outcome is, score differential, scoreboard,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said. “I’m more interested in seeing how we play.”
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