SCOTT TAYLOR, MyToba.ca
The last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers faced the Toronto Argonauts, it was at Investors Group Field in the 2014 CFL season opener. That night, the Bombers pasted a very bad Argo outfit 45-21.
The shoe was on the other foot on Tuesday night.
Playing on a short week, the Bombers went into Rogers Centre and took it on the chin. Toronto whipped Winnipeg 38-21 as the Argos improved to 3-4 and now have a lock on first place in the East.
The Bombers, meanwhile, lost their second straight game and are now 5-3. On the upside they don’t play for another 10 days and on that night they face the worst team in the league, the sad-sack Montreal Alouettes. On the downside, they play Saskatchewan back-to-back after they get the Als at home.
For Toronto, running back Curtis Steele scored two touchdowns to lead the way, but once again the story of the game was penalties and line play. There were 31 penalties in the game, slowing a difficult game to watch down to a walk. The Bombers also got whipped in the trenches again and while the O-line has been trouble all year, the D-line took a dusting for the first time this season.
With an embarrassingly sparse crowd of only 18,106 (announced) looking on, the Argos fell behind 7-0 and 14-7 before scoring two late TDs to finish the first half and take a 21-14 lead into the break.
First, Argos receiver Maurice Mann scored on a 15-yard pass from Ricky Ray and then, with 43 seconds left, Ray hit fullback Zander Robinson to give the Argos a seven-point halftime advantage.
Nic Grigsby, who didn’t get the rock often enough on Tuesday, scored on an eight-yard run early in the third quarter to tie the game for Winnipeg, but that was it. The Argos ran off the next 17 points — all in the fourth quarter — and Winnipeg had lost for the second time in five days. Shockingly, 5-1 became 5-3 in a hurry.
Drew Willy finished the night 23-for-31 for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and that should have been good enough to secure a win, but for the second straight game, Willy was sacked five times as the Bombers offensive line looked lost again.
This time, however, the defensive line took a beating, as well. Ray went 26-for-33 for 297 yards and four touchdowns while Steele rushed for 92 yards on 10 carries. In total, Toronto had 471 total yards and put up 38 points. The Bombers couldn’t shut down the league’s best offence and while Winnipeg might have looked tremendous against Saskatchewan last Thursday, they looked tired and beaten against Toronto on Tuesday.
Perhaps Bomber fans can chalk this one up to the short week. After all, the teams were tied at 21-21 after three quarters and Winnipeg obviously had nothing left in the tank in the fourth. And what the heck, they get a practice at home next weekend against Montreal.
Two straight losses certainly aren’t reason to back up the truck and go searching for new players. However, the key to the season might be how this team responds to back-to-back games against the Roughriders.
Tuesday’s loss, a loss that few people outside the TV audience even saw, was the product of too much, too quickly. However, let’s hope our short week assessment is correct. If it’s not, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea might have to re-introduce himself to the drawing board.