The Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the first-ever regular season CFL game at Mosaic Stadium and they have now won the first-ever playoff game at the new home of the Riders.
On a chilly Sunday where the windchill was at minus 20 and a light snow fell, the Bombers ended the Riders season in the Western Semi-Final with a 23-18 victory.
Brandon Bridge became the first Canadian to start a CFL playoff game since 1984, but he did not fare well. Bridge was just 12 of 22 passing on the night for 100 yards with one interception as the Saskatchewan offence had problems moving the football like it did for a majority of the 2018 season.
Bridge was not made available to reporters despite being seen in the dressing room after the game. As a result, he could not comment on his game or a late-game head shot by Winnipeg defensive lineman Jacksom Jeffcoat that was uncalled much like the head shot on Zach Collaros October 27th. That hit ultimately resulted in the team’s number one quarterback being unable to go in this game.
While Bridge wasn’t allowed to discuss the hit, head coach Chris Jones was able to talk about it and his displeasure was evident.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, but we’ve kind of revisited it two times in the last few weeks.” Jones said. “It’s an unfortunate event but I guess it’s part of football in our league.”
It was a play that forced CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie to come out with a statement saying a mistake had been made that must be and will be corrected.
While the play likely does not turn a defeat into a victory, Jones was quick to stand up for his team and the effort delivered this season—one that did not end up with the desired result.
“I love this football team. They came through a lot of adversity. A lot of people sitting in this room doubted them and wrote bad things about them and seemed to relish writing bad things about them. ” Jones said. “They never gave up on themselves. We had some blemishes and we had some things we certainly need to work on, but we were fortunate to have a bunch really good guys in that locker-room. We were in a position to play for a championship, but we came up short. At the end, you don’t really know what to say.”
Jones went on to say how much he loved the guys and how putting in the long days is worthwhile because of the players assembled—players whom he wants to wring their neck one minute and put their arm around them the next,
As for the game itself, it was one that was frustating on a number of levels for the fact the offence could not get moving while the defence could not force any turnovers or stop Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris who ran for 153 yards. Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was puzzled as to why his group just didn’t seem to have what was needed to be successful.
“I thought we’d have more juice than that,” a quiet Eguavoen said. “The second half, I feel we played a little bit better even though they did score 10 points. You just can’t start slow against a team like Winnipeg. I feel like they’re the only team in the CFL that wanted it as bad as we did.”
Another Rider left searching for answers was receiver Naaman Roosevelt. He says they just couldn’t get the play when it was needed.
“This doesn’t feel good.” Roosevelt stated. “It was frustrating because we just couldn’t make the plays. We went out there and tried as hard as we can.”
When asked what needs to be done to make this team one that can get into and win the Grey Cup, Roosevelt says the answer is simple.
“Defence is doing a great job making plays and creating turnovers, but as an offence we have to get better. I don’t know why we struggled so much this year but we have an off-season to figure out what the problem was. I don’t even know what the problem was. ”
The Bombers move on to their first Western final since 2002 and their first divisional final since 2011 as they will be in Calgary next weekend to face the Stampeders. The winner of that game will meet the winner of the Ottawa-Hamilton game in the Grey Cup November 25. Hamilton won the East final 48-8.
- Winnipeg had not won a playoff game in Regina since November 5, 1955
- With the weather being what it was the game was not sold out. The announced crowd was 30,609
- While Bridge only threw for 100 yards, he was the team’s leading rusher with 86
- Nick Marshall had the only Saskatchewan touchdown. It came late in the 4th quarter after a pass interference call put the ball at the one-yard line.