The Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ regular season opener was eerily reminiscent of the 2011 Grey Cup game. Only the score, 33-16 BC and a few details were different.
As in the Grey Cup game, the Winnipeg offence struggled mightily, managing just three first downs in the first half.
The Blue Bomber defence, after giving up a game opening 90-yard BC touchdown drive, settled in and caused Travis Lulay and the Lions offence nothing but grief until the Bomber defenders simply ran out of petrol in the fourth quarter, the Lions scoring 17 points in the final 15 minutes to put the game away.
The outcome of this game was really quite predictable, given that the Lions were at home, playing with virtually the same team as last year while the Bombers were incorporating roughly a dozen new players into their lineup.
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Winnipeg also played without six injured starters. Four of those six were on offence – tackles Glen January and Andre Douglas, slotback Cory Watson and running back Chris Garrett. And Garrett's number one understudy, Chad Simpson, was also out with injury, leaving the running back chores to unproven Bloi-dei Dorzon.
Combine the injuries with the implementation of a new offence run by coordinator Gary Crowton and an attacking veteran BC defence, and it spelled big trouble for Buck Pierce and the Winnipeg offence.
Pierce was forced out of the game late in the second quarter with a bruised right leg, and his successor Alex Brink had only slightly more success, leading the Bombers to a pair of touchdowns, one of which occurred in the game’s dying minutes when the Lions had taken their foot off the accelerator.
Losing teams always look for positives and the Blue Bombers did have a few of those.
Never mind the 33 points allowed, Winnipeg's defence held an explosive BC offence to 20 first downs and 358 total yards. That's quite acceptable, considering the Lions had the ball for nearly 36 minutes. Defensive tackle Bryant Turner had three quarterback sacks. The Bombers had one of the best defences in the CFL in 2011 and they look like they'll be good again.
Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB