Grey Cup champion head coach Mike O’Shea said the Winnipeg Blue Bombers played their best game of the year in the biggest game of the year.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach Orlando Steinhauer said the same in a different way. He summed up the game by saying the Blue Bombers executed better than the Tiger-Cats.
The Bombers won the Nov. 25 Grey Cup game 33-12 with a suffocating defence and an adequate offence.
Winnipeg middle linebacker Adam Bighill said they went into the game determined to stop the Tiger-Cats from making the explosive plays that have carried Hamilton all season. He said if the Tiger-Cats could run for 100 yards it was not a problem but the Bombers were not going to give them 300 yards through the air.
A week ago the Bombers stopped the Saskatchewan Roughriders from reaching the end zone on three separate series inside the five-yard line. They continued their short yardage mastery against Hamilton twice stopping them on third and the one-yard or less.
Bighill said they have big guys up front, around 290 to 300 pounds, who play physical. He added that coach Richie Hall put in a new short yardage defence. He said it was a one stack formation with him lining up over the quarterback and the linemen going vertical.
Steinhauer said all the season the Tiger Cats were solid on third and one but not Sunday night. He said he thought they would get a yard.
After a season where his impact varied significantly from game to game, Willie Jefferson had a dominating performance in the Grey Cup.
Early in the game he got a roughing the passer penalty. He described the call with an expletive. On the next play, he said he was determined to get a good rush. He blew around right end and swept in on Dane Evans. He said he took a swing at the ball and knocked it free for a fumble that set up the first Bomber touchdown.
Later in the game he enabled defensive tackle Drake Nevis to get a sack by jumping up in front of Evans who pulled the ball down rather than try to throw over Jefferson. He said it was instinct but when he saw Evans look his way he went up.
Earlier in the week Jefferson told me that he can reach up to 11 feet in the air if he jumps. He jumped on that play and Evans had no chance to throw the ball. (Jefferson further told me that when he stretches out his arms side to side he covers 73 inches.)
Late in the game he swept around the other end and strip sacked Evans again.
Jefferson said it was the last game of the season. There was no point in leaving anything in the tank.
The Bombers forced so many turnovers that Bighill lost track. He was surprised when I told him there were seven Hamilton turnovers.
For all of the impressive defensive play there was a moment at the start of the fourth quarter when it could all have unraveled for the Bombers. Steinhauer could only lament the drop by receiver, Mike Jones, of a perfect 50-yard pass from Evans that would have put Hamilton inside the five. He called it unfortunate.
In the tumultuous Winnipeg locker room after the game I did see someone I know from our area of Saskatchewan. Melissa Malden is the wife of the Bombers president, Wade Miller. She grew up in Melfort. She is a little older than my sons. I know her parents well. She said she had enjoyed football for a long time starting with watching games with her grandparents. Excited about the win she was also relieved. While she was not there for all 28 years of Bomber frustration since their last Grey Cup victory she had been in Winnipeg for enough of them. I am also proud to say she is a lawyer practicing in the areas of corporate and estate law.