Winnipeg Blue Bombers snap losing streak

Winnipeg Blue Bombers snap losing streak
A lousy Manziel helps out OShea
The Winnipeg quarterback threw one touchdown pass and no interceptions as the Blue Bombers halted a four-game losing streak with a 31-14 victory over the Montreal Alouettes Friday.

“Any time you go through a stretch like that without getting a win, you almost forget what that feeling feels like, celebrating with your teammates in the locker-room after a good win and a much-needed win,” said Nichols, who was playing his 100th CFL career game.

“Obviously, it was an incredible feeling. Im proud of how the whole team responded this week and we came out and it felt like we were flying around in all phases.”

“Any time you go through a stretch like that without getting a win, you almost forget what that feeling feels like, celebrating with your teammates in the locker room after a good win and a much-needed win,” said Nichols, who was playing his 100th CFL career game.

Nichols, who was pulled at halftime in Winnipegs previous game after throwing three picks, completed 18-of-25 pass attempts for 256 yards and threw a touchdown toss to running back Andrew Harris.

Montreal quarterback Johnny Manziel, making his third CFL start, was sacked five times. The former Heisman Trophy winner went 18 for 25 for 212 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

Bombers defensive lineman Craig Roh pulled Manziel down three times and also had seven defensive tackles.

After going around the locker-room shaking his teammates’ hands, a disappointed Manziel told reporters he thought he knew the coverage the Bombers would present, but it didn’t work out and the interception hurt.

“Sacking quarterbacks is already fun, but when they have a million Instagram followers its even more fun,” Roh said, referring to Manziels social media popularity.

“It’s hard,” Manziel said. “It’s hard, you know, how hard these guys are working just to come up short like that in the end. Like I said, I’m sick to my stomach.”

The victory in front of 24,349 fans at Investors Group Field upped Winnipegs record to 6-7, while the Alouettes moved into double digits for losses at 3-10.

“It’s the little things that we’re not doing to keep us together as far as penalties, flipping the field when we need to, doing little bitty things that we can execute better on.”

Manziel was intercepted by defensive back Marcus Sayles with less than three minutes left in the game. Winnipeg used the turnover to score on a one-yard quarterback sneak by backup Chris Streveler with 31 seconds remaining.

After going around the locker-room shaking his teammates hands, a disappointed Manziel told reporters he thought he knew the coverage the Bombers would present, but it didnt work out and the interception hurt.

Montreal quarterback Johnny Manziel, making his third CFL start, was sacked five times. The former Heisman Trophy winner went 18 for 25 for 212 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

“Its hard,” Manziel said. “Its hard, you know, how hard these guys are working just to come up short like that in the end. Like I said, Im sick to my stomach.”

“Sacking quarterbacks is already fun, but when they have a million Instagram followers it’s even more fun,” Roh said, referring to Manziel’s social media popularity.

“It was just crazy. We knew we had to seal the deal,” Sayles said. “I feel like our momentum was going a little bit down towards the end of the third so we made a team decision to come back together. We made a play and everybody did their job.”

“Obviously, it was an incredible feeling. I’m proud of how the whole team responded this week and we came out and it felt like we were flying around in all phases.”

Harris caught his 10-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter, but left the game late in the second quarter with an injury and didnt return. There was no update. He finished with seven carries for 44 yards, giving him 1,028 yards for the season. Its his fourth season surpassing the 1,000-yard milestone.

The Winnipeg quarterback threw one touchdown pass and no interceptions as the Blue Bombers halted a four-game losing streak with a 31-14 victory over the Montreal Alouettes Friday.

His replacement, Kienan LaFrance, ran in a seven-yard TD. Justin Medlock booted three field goals, one from 50 yards and a pair from 43 yards. He also made his three converts.

His replacement, Kienan LaFrance, ran in a seven-yard TD. Justin Medlock booted three field goals, one from 50 yards and a pair from 43 yards. He also made his three converts.

Montreal backup quarterback Antonio Pipkin ran in a two-yard TD. Kicker Boris Bede connected on field goals from 47 and 31 yards out and was good on his convert.

Manziel was sacked in the end zone, fumbled the ball and it was pounced on by Roh, but defensive back Brandon Alexander was called for illegal contact on a receiver.

Manziel was sacked four times in the first half as the Bombers mounted a 20-6 lead just before the break.

The victory in front of 24,349 fans at Investors Group Field upped Winnipeg’s record to 6-7, while the Alouettes moved into double digits for losses at 3-10.

Winnipeg appeared to score a touchdown with a minute and a half left in the first half, but it was wiped out by a penalty.

Montreal backup quarterback Antonio Pipkin ran in a two-yard TD. Kicker Boris Bede connected on field goals from 47 and 31 yards out and was good on his convert.

Manziel was sacked in the end zone, fumbled the ball and it was pounced on by Roh, but defensive back Brandon Alexander was called for illegal contact on a receiver.

‘These guys want to win,” Manziel said. “There’s no denying the will and the want to in this locker-room and with this team.

“These guys want to win,” Manziel said. “Theres no denying the will and the want to in this locker-room and with this team.

“Its the little things that were not doing to keep us together as far as penalties, flipping the field when we need to, doing little bitty things that we can execute better on.”

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel avoids Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jovan Santos-Knox in their game Friday. The match is only Manziel's third professional start since 2015.

Bombers defensive lineman Craig Roh pulled Manziel down three times and also had seven defensive tackles.

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel avoids Winnipeg Blue Bombers Jovan Santos-Knox in their game Friday. The match is only Manziels third professional start since 2015.

“Im hurt by it,” he added. “To put ourselves in a position like that with a drive to go and a lot of momentum to win the game, Im sick sitting here right now with how that played out. Those guys want to win. Theres no denying the will and the want-to with this team. Its hard. Its hard with how hard these guys are working, to come up short like that in the end, like I said, Im sick to my stomach.

One guy was trying to relaunch his football career. The other guy was — maybe just maybe — trying to save his coaching career.

“We knew that on film,” Manziel said of the Bombers’ pass rush. “If you watch Winnipeg and you see them, what they have with Bighill and [Jovan Santos-Knox], theyre able to get pressure with the guys they have up front and the stunts they run. We anticipated pressure, it got to us a little bit in the first couple of drives of the game. Second half I thought we executed much better.

We will never know for sure what would have happened to Mike O’Shea Friday night if the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had done the unthinkable and lost to Johnny Manziel and the Montreal Alouettes because the Bombers won, 31-14.

Would Bombers head coach O’Shea have been fired if this deep and talented Bombers squad had lost their fifth in a row to the worst team in the league and fallen to 5-8?

The Alouettes fell behind early, with Andrew Harris scoring the game’s first touchdown and Justin Medlock converting a pair of first-half field goals to give Montreal a 13-3 lead. The Als’ offence sputtered through the first half, with three of Manziel’s first five passing attempts falling through the hands of receivers, including two drops by Adarius Bowman.

Probably not. O’Shea’s still got two years after this one left on an ill-advised contract and Bombers CEO Wade Miller isn’t the kind of guy who likes to admit mistakes, especially a costly one like this one would be.

“I felt really comfortable all night,” said Manziel. Pre-snap reads. Just seeing the field. I dont think we had very many incompletions. I felt like we moved the ball well. We stalled here and there on a couple of things, but other than that Im proud of the way we fought, and from a personal standpoint, I felt more comfortable out there.

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In the bigger picture, though, their quarterback answered some questions, and in a positive way on Friday night. He’ll have a chance to use the final five games of the season to show he can be the long-term answer for the Alouettes behind centre, one they’ve been searching for since 2013 when Hall of Fame pivot Anthony Calvillo retired.

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“I felt really comfortable for a lot of the night, seeing the field, seeing coverages,” said Manziel, who finished the outing 18-of-25 for 212 yards and an interception. “Even though its a loss, from a personal standpoint of learning this game and being out on the field, there were some better things.

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Rookie running back William Stanback was heavily involved in the game plan and had 106 yards from scrimmage, running a handful of draws and also catching four passes. Eugene Lewis had a team-high 63 yards on four catches to lead the receivers.

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The loss was the Alouettes’ second in a row, delivering another blow to the team’s playoff hopes at 3-10. The Als look to keep things alive next weekend when they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

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The one that will stick with Manziel was the clincher. With the offence moving and his team down 10, Manziel was picked off by Bombers rookie Marcus Sayles, ending the Alouettes’ comeback bid.

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In the second half, though, the offence sustained more drives. The Alouettes finished with 312 yards in all, even edging the Bombers in first downs with 24 against Winnipeg’s 21.

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Bighill left the game for the Bombers and didn’t return, as did running back Andrew Harris, handcuffing Winnipeg on both sides of the football throughout much of the second half.

One guy was trying to relaunch his football career. The other guy was — maybe just maybe — trying to save his coaching career.

The Als fell 31-14 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night at Investors Group Field, but Manziel showed improvement, by all accounts, in his third career CFL start.

We will never know for sure what would have happened to Mike O’Shea Friday night if the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had done the unthinkable and lost to Johnny Manziel and the Montreal Alouettes because the Bombers won, 31-14.

Matt Nichols enjoyed a bounce back game for the Bombers, throwing for 256 yards on 18 of 25 with a touchdown, helping his team end a four-game losing streak.

Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea might have needed the win even more than Blue Bombers fans did.”> MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Would Bombers head coach O’Shea have been fired if this deep and talented Bombers squad had lost their fifth in a row to the worst team in the league and fallen to 5-8?

Manziel added 36 rushing yards on six attempts, and even had a 22-yard reception on a trick play in the third quarter.

Probably not. O’Shea’s still got two years after this one left on an ill-advised contract and Bombers CEO Wade Miller isn’t the kind of guy who likes to admit mistakes, especially a costly one like this one would be.

But make no mistake, a loss Friday night would have set in motion a chain of events that in all likelihood would have ended in early November with the Bombers making CFL history as what I’d argue would be the most talented team ever to not make the playoffs.

WINNIPEG — Johnny Manziel knows there may be some uncomfortable moments in this week’s film study.

Not even Miller could deny the harsh reality of that — nor, in all probability, could O’Shea survive it.

Miller only had to look out at the smallest crowd of the season that turned up at Investors Group Field Friday night — announced at 24,349, maybe two-thirds of that actually showed up — to realize that we may be very quickly reaching a point where the only thing more expensive than firing O’Shea would be to continue to keep him around.

But as it is, a very frustrated fan base is placated — at least temporarily — and O’Shea and the Bombers live to fight another week, having posted a desperately needed win and keeping themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot that should have been a given for a Winnipeg team many thought barely a month ago was a legitimate Grey Cup contender.

It’s not a script anyone would have imagined for a team that on paper — and even on the field, at least for the first half of the season — was deeper and more talented than any team in the league, with the exception of the juggernaut Calgary Stampeders.

But where there’s life, there’s hope and the win over the Alouettes gives the Bombers a bit of both heading into a brutal final stretch of games that will include two games in Edmonton, one in Ottawa and home dates against Calgary and the Saskatchewan Roughriders that will determine, once and for all, who these 2018 Bombers really are.

All Friday night’s win proved is that the Bombers can defeat the worst team in the CFL, which the Alouettes undeniably are at 3-10.

While this was a must-win for Winnipeg, you don’t plan a parade to Portage and Main when the best thing you’ve done in the last six weeks is defeat a team led by a QB who was making just his third pro start since December 2015 and who is better known for his ridiculous antics off the field than he is for the flashes of brilliance he showed on it a long, long, long time ago.

Manziel’s previous two CFL outings were an unmitigated debacle. In Week 8, he posted a 0.0 quarterback rating and threw four interceptions in his CFL debut, a loss against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A so-so outing the following week that came in another loss to the Ottawa Redblacks.

Concussion symptoms and superior play (the bar is low in Montreal) by the Als’ other QB, Antonio Pipkin, had kept Manziel out of the lineup ever since, leading him to whine publicly about it last week.

Now, most teams would outfit a guy who complained publicly like Manziel did with a clipboard permanently, but Montreal is nothing if not the most dysfunctional franchise in the CFL and so they instead rewarded Manziel for his outburst and handed him the start Friday night at Investors Group Field.

What did Manziel do with his big chance to get his football career back off life support? He was better than he has been, but still not nearly good enough.

There were flashes of the trademark improvisation that earned Manziel the nickname ‘Johnny Football’ — and a Heisman Trophy — while he was playing college ball in Texas, but mostly that was a function of the horrendous protection afforded him by a terrible Als offensive line than any ingenuity or ability on his part.

Aside from that, Manziel looked like exactly what he is: a man who hasn’t played pro football in the better part of three years. He hung on to the ball way too long, way too often, taking four sacks in the first half alone. When he did throw, it was mostly ducks of the kind that get shot out of the sky in these parts at this time of year.

He got better as the game wore on but by night’s end, Manziel had thrown for a pedestrian 212 yards (and a backbreaking interception late in the fourth quarter) and the whole idea the player formerly known as Johnny Football is going to be the salvation of the Als, much less the CFL, looked as laughable as ever.

And O’Shea? He needed a win, maybe even more than his desperate football team. They both got one on a night failure wasn’t an option.

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipegs North End and delivered the Free Press — 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets — long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.