Blue, Gold and Grey: Bombers beat Ticats in overtime thriller to take second straight Cup

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HAMILTON — After more than two years, a cancelled season that brought mass uncertainty for the futures of everyone in the CFL, and a shortened 2021 campaign played under stressful COVID-19 protocols, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are right back where they were at the end of the 2019 season.

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The Bombers won their second straight Grey Cup Sunday night at Tim Hortons Field, beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-25 in overtime in the CFL’s championship game.

They overcame a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take the lead, gave up a game-tying field goal with four second left and then got a touchdown from veteran receiver Darvin Adams — and a two-point convert from Rasheed Bailey — to take the lead.

Then linebacker Kyrie Wilson got an interception on a ball that was also touched by defenders Deatrick Nichols and Winston Rose before landing in his arms to end the game.

“As thrilling as it can possibly be … electrifying,” Bombers middle linebacker Adam Bighill said moments after rolling around on the turf with his kids amid the presentation of the Cup.

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“It’s so hard to get to this moment and only one team gets to go home happy every single year. To be in this moment just means everything, sharing it with people I love, sharing with the brothers I love in this locker room. I couldn’t be more proud of every single one of them.”

It’s the first time since 1961-62 that the Bombers have won back-to-back Grey Cups and the first time it has happened in the CFL since the Montreal Alouettes did it in 2009-2010.

And it happened in a game where the Bombers looked like they were going to lose for most of the night. Somehow, this group of men found a way to dig deep and get another championship.

“The confidence was as high as it’s ever been going into the fourth,” Bighill said. “We knew we had the wind in the fourth quarter behind us for the kicking game and we believe in our offence. It’s the most adversity we faced all year long. We believe in our guys. Our locker room is so tight, we know exactly what we can go get done and sure enough you saw it.”

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The Bombers capped a remarkable season in which they went 11-3 in the regular season (and 11-1 in meaningful games), had four team members win major CFL awards, and dominated from start to finish.

Unlike in 2019, when they ended a 29-year Grey Cup drought, the Bombers were the team most people expected to win the championship this year.

They brought back 70% of the 2019 team, including 21 of 24 starters, and CFL coach of the year Mike O’Shea moulded them into a tight-knit, businesslike group that never got ahead of itself and always focused on the task at hand.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) throws a pass during the 108th Grey Cup football game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2021.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) throws a pass during the 108th Grey Cup football game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2021. Photo by John E. Sokolowski /USA TODAY Sports

Backed by the league’s stingiest defence, the Bombers simply had more talent and determination than any other team and it resulted in another glorious celebration on the podium, where players passed around the Grey Cup for the second straight season.

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The Blue Bombers won the coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half, in order to get the 32-44 km/h southwest wind for the fourth quarter.

Both teams struggled to move the ball early on and each team committed a turnover — Bombers kick returner Janarion Grant lost a fumble in Hamilton territory and dime back Alden Darby picked off a Dane Evans pass that was tipped by Willie Jefferson on the next play.

Winnipeg got on the scoreboard shortly after that as Sergio Castillo kicked a 38-yard field goal with the wind. Punter Marc Liegghio booted a 70-yard field goal with the wind to make it 4-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo (14) reacts after kicking a field goal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the 108th Grey Cup football game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2021.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo (14) reacts after kicking a field goal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the 108th Grey Cup football game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2021. Photo by Dan Hamilton /USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg started the second quarter with the ball on the Hamilton 19-yard line, but went in reverse, as Collaros was sacked for a nine-yard loss.

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Castillo managed to hit a 34-yard field goal, into the wind, that made the score 7-0 for the Bombers.

The tight defensive struggle continued in the second quarter as both offences had trouble getting anything going.

The Tiger-Cats got their first points on a long drive that featured a quarterback change.

Starter Dane Evans was injured after being sacked and left the game but Jeremiah Masoli came in and led the Ticats all the way down to the Winnipeg five-yard line before Hamilton had to settle for a 13-yard field goal from Michael Domagala.

The drive was aided by two Bombers penalties — one for roughing the passer on Jefferson and one for offside on Jackson Jeffcoat.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Darvin Adams (1) is tackled by Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simone Lawrence (21) during the 108th Grey Cup football game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2021.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Darvin Adams (1) is tackled by Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simone Lawrence (21) during the 108th Grey Cup football game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2021. Photo by Dan Hamilton /USA TODAY Sports

The Ticats, now working with the wind and with less than a minute on the clock., found some momentum after that and on their next possession they struck quickly to take the lead.

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Masoli used some deception to find a wide-open Don Jackson for a 36-yard gain down to the Bombers’ 12 yard-line. On the next play he found Steven Dunbar for a touchdown and Hamilton held a 10-7 lead at the half.

To that point, the Bombers had just 81 yards of total offence and four first downs.

Quarterback Zach Collaros was limited to just six completions and 62 yards in the first half, while star running back Andrew Harris, the Grey Cup MVP in 2019, picked up just 32 yards on nine carries.

The credit had to go to the Tiger-Cats defence, which was without one of its top players, defensive tackle Ted Laurent, who had an emergency appendectomy earlier in the week.

The Bombers chose to have the wind for the fourth quarter and had a good drive into the wind on their first possession of the third.

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The Bombers drove 64-yards down the field and got down to the Hamilton five, but the drive stalled and they had to settle for a 15-yard field goal by Castillo to tie the game at 10-10. It was still a win as the drive took almost five minutes off the clock and kept the ball out of Masoli’s hands, with the wind.

The Bombers defence made a huge play on Hamilton’s next series, getting a turnover on downs at the Ticats’ 44-yard line when cornerback Winston Rose made a solo tackle on Masoli to prevent him from getting a first-down on third and one.

But the Ticats’ defence answered right back as Kameron Kelly stepped up and picked off a Collaros pass, returning it 47 yards to the Winnipeg 27.

From there Masoli moved the ball down to the 11-yard line and then hit receiver Brandon Banks for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Ticats ahead 17-10.

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Collaros threw another interception to Kelly on the next possession and though it didn’t cost the Bombers directly, they wound up having terrible field possession, gave up a safety and then gave up another field goal after they kicked off.

That made it 22-10 for Hamilton but the Bombers had the wind for the fourth quarter and used it to put together another promising drive into the red zone.

However, another drive stalled and they wound up with a 20-yard field goal by Castillo to make it 22-13.

But the Bombers put together a great drive on their next possession and it was capped by a 29-yafd touchdown pass to Winnipegger Nic Demski.

Castillo kicked a single on the ensuing kickoff and that made the score 22-21 with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter.

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The Bombers got the ball back again with under three minutes left and drove far enough down the field for a 44-yard field goal by Castillo, his fifth of the game.

That made it 24-22 and Castillo kicked another single on the ensuing kickoff to make it 25-22 with less than two minutes left.

That point proved important as the Tiger-Cats drove the length of the field in the final minute and got a 13-yard field goal Domagala to tie it at 25-25 and send it to overtime.

In overtime, the Bombers took the lead on a touchdown catch by Darvin Adams and sealed it when Kyrie Wilson picked off a pass by Masoli.

The interception came after the ball was tipped by two Bombers defenders.

It was an incredible finish to an incredible game at the end of an incredible season for the Bombers.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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