Western Final | Tale of the Tape

It was a Canadian Football League marquee matchup in early July when these two first met and it most certainly is again now with a berth in the 109th Grey Cup at stake.

The two-time defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers and nouveau-contender B.C. Lions meet in this Sunday’s Western Final at IG Field and the contest has enough delicious storylines to fill a smorgasbord.

All of those will be explored in this space in due time, but before the Blue Bombers hit the practice field Wednesday in preparation for the weekend showdown, a simple, but tasty primer is in order.

Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Buck Pierce and defensive coordinator Richie Hall provided the foundation for this Tuesday in a zoom call with the media – the first press availability of the week locally – in the perfect appetizer for what is on the horizon in terms of offence vs. defence matchups.

Pierce on his Blue Bombers offence:

“It’s been a progression. There’s been growth over the regular season, and you’ve seen us focus on things we need to get better at. You’ve seen individuals step up and continue to grow as an offence. Every offence wants to be balanced and we’re always looking at where we can improve. That growth over the regular season has been really good to see from our guys.”

Buck Pierce on the Lions defence:

“We’ve seen them a few times in the last month. They play extremely hard. They’ve got some good guys up front, off the edge, who like to rush the passer. They’re very talented in the back end; they run extremely well and chase the football. It’s an opportunistic defence that likes to fly around.

“A big thing for us – and it’s something we talk about every week – is matching their physicality and making sure we’re playing a physical football game. They’re sound in what they do. They understand their scheme and what they’re asked to do and that allows them to play fast. They understand what their identity is and who they are, and their defence is going to give them a chance to be in the ball game every week, so you’ve got to be smart, take care of the football and be physical.”

3 Blue Bombers offensive trends:

1 – Winnipeg averaged 21.75 points per game in its first four games – two wins over Ottawa followed by victories over Hamilton and Toronto. In the 14 games since then the club averaged 32.2 points per game.

2 – Over the last six games the Blue Bombers have scored 26 TDs. By comparison, their opponents have scored 10 TDs.

3 – Brady Oliveira averaged 3.2 yards per carry through the first third of the season but boosted that average to 5.75 yards in the final 12 games to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.

Key comparisons: Rankings

Points: Wpg: 29.9 (2nd; Calgary first at 31.2); B.C. 29.2 (3rd)
Touchdowns: Wpg: 58 (1st); B.C.: 56 (2nd)
Net offence per game: Wpg: 366.3 (3rd); B.C.: 384.6 (1st)
Passing yards per game: Wpg: 267.6 (5th); B.C.: 300.3 (1st)
Rushing yards per game: Wpg: 113.5 (2nd; Calgary first at 135.3); B.C.: 99.7 (4th)
Sacks allowed: Wpg: 29 (2nd; Calgary first at 17); B.C.: 39 (5th)
Turnovers: Wpg: 23 (fewest in he CFL); B.C.: 34 (3rd)
Turnover differential: Wpg: +14 (2nd; Calgary first at +21); B.C.: +8 (3rd)

BLUE BOMBERS DEFENCE Vs. LIONS OFFENCE

Hall on his Blue Bombers defence:

“They’re relentless. And in regard to what the situation is, they just keep pounding. They get knocked down and they get back up. I’m not saying we didn’t do that in the past, but we’re a different style of defence this year. They have a belief in each other. They’re relentless, they’re very confident and they’re very supportive of each other and encouraging each other in that when they go out there, they’re not by themselves. They don’t play as if they’re by themselves and that makes it a very good unit.”

Hall on the Lions offence:

“What did we learn (from the first meeting of the year)? We can’t give up the big plays, the explosion plays. We’ve got to play hard against a smart quarterback who gets rid of the ball quick.

“… They’ve got a very good football team – offence, defence and special teams. That’s why we have to be on our ‘A’ game. But we also have a very good football team. They’re the only opponents we’ve seen in the last number of weeks, so we know a lot about each other. They can run the football; they’ve got good receivers. But we can also stop the run and we can also defend the pass. It’s a good chess match going back and forth.”

3 Blue Bombers defensive trends:

1 – In four of Winnipeg’s first five games the defence surrendered more than 300 yards passing. In the 13 games since, the opposition eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark just twice.

2 – The Blue Bombers have out-scored their opponents 177-73 in fourth quarters and OT this year. Winnipeg’s defence has surrendered just four fourth quarter offensive touchdowns all season.

3 – In the two Winnipeg victories over the Lions this year the team was a combined +5 in the turnover differential. And in the one loss the Blue Bombers were -3.

KEY DEFENCE COMPARISONS: Rankings

Points allowed: Wpg: 20.6 (1st); B.C.: 22.5 (3rd)
Touchdowns allowed: Wpg: 27 (1st); B.C.: 36 (3rd)
Opponent net offence per game: Wpg: 327.3 (1st); B.C.: 329.9 (3rd)
Opponent passing yards per game: Wpg: 253.6 (T-1st); B.C.: 253.6 (T-1st)
Opponent rushing yards per game: Wpg: 89.3 (3rd; Hamilton first at 82.9); B.C.: 94.1 (4th)
Sacks: Wpg: 36 (8th; Calgary first at 56); B.C.: 45 (3rd)

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