Bombers clinch first place and home playoff game on Dec. 5 with blowout win over Lions

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You thought the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended a long drought in 2019 when they won the Grey Cup for the first time since 1990?

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On Saturday night they ended an even longer one by clinching first place in the CFL West Division with a 45-0 blowout win over the B.C. Lions at IG Field.

The Bombers will host the West Final for the first time in 49 years on Dec. 5. The last time Winnipeg won the West Division regular-season title was way back in 1972.

The Bombers were in the East Division for 21 of those years, were in the North Division (during the U.S. expansion era) for one year and the season was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, that leaves 26 seasons in which the Bombers had the opportunity to win the West and did not.

So yeah, this is a big deal.

The Bombers once again left no doubt that they are the best team in the CFL, to this point, on Saturday night.

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They jumped out to a 15-0 lead in the first quarter — thanks to touchdown passes from Zach Collaros to Kenny Lawler (14 yards) and Rasheed Bailey (17 yards) — and cruised to their eighth straight victory.

The Bombers were firing on all cylinders in all phases on this night.

They put up 434 yards of total offence, including 272 through the air. Quarterback Zach Collaros continued to look like the league’s most outstanding player after completing 16 of 20 pass attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He was replaced by backup Sean McGuire, with the Bombers up 37-0 in the fourth quarter.

Receiver Darvin Adams caught four passes for 93 yards and running back Brady Oliveira, filling in for injured star Andrew Harris, rushed 17 times for 65 yards and his first career CFL touchdown, which came on a two-yard run in the third quarter to put the Bombers ahead 23-0.

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Lawler caught a second touchdown in the fourth quarter after third-string running back Johnny Augustine rushed three times for 69 yards on yet another long drive. Augustine finished with 73 yards and the Bombers had 162 rushing yards in total.

Meanwhile, the Bombers defence was incredible again, holding the Lions to just 222 yards of total offence.

Lions quarterback Michael Reilly completed just 15 of 31 pass attempts for 131 yards, was sacked three times, and threw a third-quarter interception to Bombers’ defensive end Willie Jefferson, who returned it 39 yards for a touchdown.

Winnipeg’s defence pitched a shutout for the first time this season and is now allowing an average of 11.45 points against per game through 11 games. Winnipeg has still allowed only six points against in the fourth quarter all season long.

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On special teams, the Bombers got 212 return yards, including a 63-yard punt return touchdown, from Janarion Grant, while punter Marc Liegghio did a good job with directional kicking and Ali Mourtada, likely playing his last game as the Bombers have signed CFL veteran Sergio Castillo to replace him, was good on all six of his convert attempts.

Winnipeg is 10-1 overall and has a bye next week, before playing its final three regular-season games between now and the end of November. It will likely take another four weeks to determine which team will be the opponent. The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders are battling it out for second place in the West.

It’s the first time the Bombers have won 10 times in their first 11 games since 1960. Winnipeg got to 10 wins for the fifth straight season, all under head coach Mike O’Shea, the first time that has happened since a span from 1957 to 1962.

The Bombers will return to action on Nov. 6 at home against the Montreal Alouettes, who are tied for first place in the East Division at 6-4.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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