It’s time for the nation’s most ironically named holiday and the classic rivalry football games that go with it. We get the Bombers. 14 of the previous 16 Labour Day’s have gone to the good guys. Unfortunately the most recent one in 2021 was a depressing crapfest that we’d all rather not talk about.
I know Bomber fans are cocky of late. Back to back championships and seemingly no viable contender to stop them from a third now that Rourke is hurt will do that. We can of course expect the standard “4 cups in 100+ years” insult to come from them this weekend. Which I always find an odd insult. I mean sure the 20s through 50s were rough but I’m not exactly insulted about that. If we look more recently, a more accurate jab would be “only 3 cups since 1989”. I mean what kind of an embarrassment of a franchise does it take to suck like that? So if bragging about stuff that happened 90 years ago makes you feel good, then I guess go for it.
On to the game. Look, we all know we are in tough in this one and were it not for the fact that it was Labour Day we would be betting the farm against our own team. We will need some Labour Day magic to win. But if we channel the ghosts of Rocky Butler, Michael Bishop, Kevin Glenn and Brett Smith we can maybe drum up enough of that Labour Day magic to squeak one out.
This is a damn good Bombers team. 3rd in points for, 1st in points allowed (just 16 TDs all season), least giveaways with 15 (or as Dane Evans calls is, a good half), least penalized, the list goes on. About the only thing we can say we do better is not choke epically to Montreal on home turf. So how do we go about beating the blue and gold behemoth and getting back to the tradition of celebrating a win on Labour Day?
Its starts on defense. They face a tough test. Best OL in the league. Now that Rourke is out, the unquestioned best QB in the league. It still saddens me that after enduring insanely bad health luck here, Collaros is enjoying the healthiest days of his life with our fiercest enemy. Can you imagine how different history would be if we had healthy Collaros? I’m talking in like 2018 and 2019. Collaros playing on this team now would of course be dead or at least wishing he was but not longer able to communicate that verbally. While I don’t advocate murder, our chances of winning do hinge on getting some good solid, legal, hits on him. I don't think anyone would oppose recreating the infamous Butler on Pierce hit. Give him time and he will carve you up. Also need to work on keeping him in the pocket. He has all the escapability of a greased up Scotsman and seems to make plays anytime he gets on the edge. Keep him contained and pressure the crap out of him. We also need to limit to big plays. Collaros has the most pass attempts over 20 yards. DBs need to stay sound in coverage (looking at you Marshall). As good as that OL is, I don’t think they are superhuman anymore. In 2021, they allowed 16 sacks in 14 games. Through 11 games they have already allowed 21. Still good but with a D-line as ferocious as ours, not unbeatable.
Offense has one chance. Run. Winnipeg has few flaws but run D is one of those areas where they at least appear human: 3rd most 1st downs rushing allowed. Hickson is averaging 7.3 yards per carry... and only has 2 carries over 20 yards. Even if you exclude his long TD run early in the season, he’s still averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Look, you can run the ball or hope that our O-line can block Willie Jefferson. (I’ll pause here to let you laugh at that suggestion… or cry, your choice). Don’t let their measly 22 sacks fool you, that D-line can still create pressure. Plus our O-line could make 4 stationary garden gnomes look like all-star pass rushers. Evan Johnson sucks. I realize that seems like a random statement but it needs to be said. Run… for the love of all that is good just run. 20 carries minimum. Passing game does look to get a boost from the return of Shaq and Lenius. While I have minimal faith our passing attack, I will say that if you go back over his time as a starter, there are only 2 players I have seen Cody consistently trust and be in synch with Evans and Lenuis. Maybe they are the boost he needs in confidence. Add in Schaefer-Baker (please Maas/Cody remember that only good things happen when we feed him the ball), Moore (who will have worked some rust off by now) and Picton (an underappreciated contributor on our O) and Cody has weapons… provided he can throw before being permanently affixed to the turf.
Key will be getting yards on first down. For all its strengths, the Bombers allow the most yards on 1st down. We need to capitalize there. The alternative is wasting first down and getting in second and long situation (obvious passing down + Rider OL + Jefferson/Jeffcoat = sadness). Also for all their strengths, they have allowed as many big play receptions as us (which is odd for the Hall bend but don’t break philosophy). Let’s not go thinking we can suddenly become an airshow but deep shots will be there if we press. Another important thing will be finishing. Sad stat for you in 3 of our last 4 games and 5 of our last 7 we have failed to register a 4th quarter point. Since I think we can safely assume we will not be amassing a massive halftime lead and coasting through the back half of the game, we should probably look to change that.
Special teams will probably need to be a difference maker here. Sounds like Alford is good to go and it would be nice to see him add to the list of big kick returns on Labour Day. Also, our kicker is clutch. He delivered our last Labour Day win. The Bombers kicker has missed 4 converts. He has also missed 3 kicks under 40 yards. Every other kicker in the west division combined has 3 such misses… the aforementioned Lauther has 0. Cruel as it may seem, I want the crowd to be on this kid all game and make him crumble.
Winnipeg is beatable. Despite a dominating record all but one of their games have been within 2 scores and 5 of them have been within one score (that includes games against the powerhouses known as Toronto and Ottawa back to back). Are they very good? Yes. Are the invincible? Lord no. The flip side is… are we very good? Not so much. Can we win? Yes.
Going to take a rock solid defensive performance (with at least 2 turnovers and 3 sacks), a big play on special teams, another long pass that tips off a defenders waiting hands into ours and a whole lot of Labour Day magic. Remember 2011 when we were 1-9 and they were 9-1… we somehow won that. Anything can happen on Labour Day.
If logic is your thing, or placing bets you expect to win, the correct call is on a Bombers win. But call me a sucker for disappointment and heartbreak but dammit if I’m not throwing logic to the wind and going all in on blind labour day faith.
Riders by a Cody Fajardo rushing TD on the final drive of the game. Let's make it loud!
I’ll end today with an acrostic poem in honour of our visiting rivals
W is for winning, those championships they be stacking
I is for intelligence which their residents are lacking
N is for Neufeld, who they sometimes call Patty
The other N is for their Nephew, who is often also their daddy
I is for IG field which is where they play
P is for their pearly whites, which like the stadium are in decay
E is for Education, which is something they can’t spell
G is for Got… as in they Got no chance in hell.