Bombers need to be higher – Winnipeg Free Press

CALGARY— It’s going to be a tough act to follow.

When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders met at IG Field back in Week 6, the game had everything you could ask for.

And then some.

But the two sides will try to top it when they meet tonight at McMahon Stadium for a very important rematch.

The Stamps (4-1) had two weeks to think about what went wrong in their 26-19 loss in Winnipeg as they’re coming into this week off of a bye. Although it’s only Week 8, another loss to the back-to-back Grey Cup champions would put Calgary down a path that would make it almost impossible for them to win the West Division’s regular season crown.

As for the Bombers, they remain undefeated at 7-0 after grinding out a 24-10 victory in Edmonton against the Elks last week despite completing just seven passes. They’re going to need a better performance in Calgary and they know it.

Here’s five storylines to get you ready for kickoff.

1 Stamps feeling ill — Despite coming off a bye week, Calgary’s health is a big question right now. The Stamps had five players, left tackle Derek Dennis, linebacker Jameer Thurman, running back Ka’Deem Carey, linebacker Charlie Moore and short-yardage quarterback Tommy Stevens, start the week on the injury report under the tag “illness.” Head coach Dave Dickenson said it was a mix of COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Everyone but Moore will suit up against the Bombers as the linebacker was the one player to not return to practice later in the week.

It’s unknown when they tested positive for COVID or had pneumonia, but even if their bouts were during the week off, that’s not a long time to get their lungs back.

“I’m happy that the guys were able to overcome anything that they had. Now I gotta make sure they’re doing the right thing, staying hydrated, and getting their fluids. I’ll probably have to mix and match a little bit more because I have to keep guys a little more fresh,” Dickenson told reporters after Friday’s walk-through at McMahon.

“They haven’t practised much. The other guys that have practised have been doing a good job so that probably is best for the team to kind of mix and match.”

That’s about as close as you’re going to get to a coach admitting his players aren’t quite right. It could be a big problem for Calgary as Dennis, Thurman, and Carey — who rushed for 110 yards on 12 carries against the Bombers — are three of their most important starters.

2 Banged up Bombers — The Stamps have already had both of their bye weeks. The Bombers, on the other hand, haven’t had a break yet and won’t be able to kick their feet up until Week 11.

The Blue and Gold won’t admit it, but they could use a week away before then because they’re beat up right now. For the second straight week, receiver Greg Ellingson (hip), the CFL’s leading receiver prior to his injury, and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (hip) are out. The Bombers left Edmonton worse for wear as receiver Carlton Agudosi (ankle) has been placed on the six-game injured list and safety Malcolm Thompson (calf) on the one-game. Nick Hallett, who leads the league with eight special teams tackles, will replace Thompson.

But the Bombers did have one important piece escape sick bay in time for the game as Nic Demski will make his return to the lineup after four weeks on the sideline with a bum ankle. It’s hard to imagine he’s at 100 per cent as he hasn’t practised since the injury, but even if the Winnipeg-born receiver is around 80 per cent, it’s a big boost to an offence that didn’t look the same without Ellingson.

3 Bombers’ offence needs to rebound — Completing seven passes typically isn’t going to cut it in the pros.

But when you have a historically good defence, sometimes you can get away with those things. Regardless, quarterback Zach Collaros and Co. are going to need quite a few more completions to overcome Calgary on the road. The Bombers beat the Elks despite having six two-and-outs and only 12 first downs. Seven of those first downs came on one drive and they only managed to muster 90 yards in the second half.

Collaros also tossed two interceptions in Edmonton and had a 77.1 passer rating — his lowest since donning the blue and gold. For his sake, hopefully the turnovers are out of his system as the Stamps have scored more than half of their points (69 of 161) on takeaways.

But it wasn’t all bad last week as running back Brady Oliveira had an encouraging game. He had some impressive runs en route to going for 62 yards on 13 carries. It was a massive improvement over his Week 6 showing where the Stamps held him to a horrendous stat line: eight yards on nine carries.

The Bombers have, somehow, gotten this far without a reliable running game. But with so many injuries, especially at receiver, now would be an ideal time to get more production out of Oliveira and Johnny Augustine.

4 Jorden wants redemption — It’s fair to say Week 6 was the worst game of Kamar Jorden’s career.

The two-time West Division all-star caught one of seven balls that were thrown his way from Bo Levi Mitchell. Jorden had several drops, but he saved his best, or worst, for last. Instead of forcing overtime, Mitchell’s near-perfect pass to Jorden popped off the receiver’s hands into the grasp of Bombers defensive back Demerio Houston to give Winnipeg the win.

“I’d make that catch nine out of 10 times. I’ve made that catch in games and practice. I think the game in general got to me,” Jorden told the Free Press on Friday.

Jorden had 14 days to dwell on that play. You better believe he’s itching to get that taste out of his mouth and bounce back with a strong performance. But it’ll be tough to do it against the Bombers as they’re the only club to hold the Stampeders to under 30 points this season. Jorden and the Stamps also need to do better on second down as they converted just 4-of-16 times at IG Field.

5 Statement game — The Bombers haven’t won in the regular season at McMahon Stadium since Nov. 3, 2017, a game where the Stamps rested Bo Levi Mitchell. If you take that result out of the equation, you’d have to go back to Nov. 1, 2014, when quarterback Robert Marve (remember him?) guided the Bombers to an 18-13 win.

Calgary is also 19-2 after a bye week since 2008.

So with all that in mind, the Bombers have an opportunity to make yet another big statement if they can walk into enemy territory and outlast their West Division foe, especially when their roster is riddled with injuries. It’d also give them the season series with Calgary, meaning if the two sides are tied in the standings at the end of the schedule, the Bombers would have the advantage.

A win would also mark the first time since 1960-62 that the Bombers won their first five road games in a season. During that stretch 60-plus years ago, the Bombers set an all-time CFL record with 20 consecutive road wins.

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Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of…

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