There is a still a significant heartbeat and a healthy pulse, and so with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally in the win column, we can confirm the following: No need to alert the next of kin because early reports of their passing were clearly both premature and erroneous.

Painting the perfect portrait of a smash-mouth old school football game, the Blue Bombers stopped their four-game losing skid to start the 2024 Canadian Football League season with a gritty, grimy, greasy, gristly 25-16 win over the Ottawa RedBlacks in front of 28,719 on another picturesque night at Princess Auto Stadium in south Winnipeg.

And it was kind of physical football game that just felt like watching one car accident after another in a giant pile-up.

“Gritty, hard-fought… we played well in all three phases,” began quarterback Chris Streveler, who helped get the Blue Bombers into the win column and improve to 1-4. “We ran the ball well. Our defence played amazing. They made big plays, big takeaways, sacks in critical moments.

“That was our brand of football. That was all three phases, the way that we played and I’m just really proud of our guys with the way we fought tonight.”

A football player with medium skin tone wears a blue and gold uniform. He makes a spiking motion of the ball Brady Oliveria (20) celebrates as Chris Streveler (17) looks on. (Winnipeg Football Club)

Even without Zach Collaros, Kenny Lawler, Dalton Schoen, Cam Lawson, Miles Fox and Celestin Haba – all injured – so much of the Blue Bombers handiwork Friday night looked familiar. Winnipeg rushed for 212 yards on 37 carries, with Brady Oliveira cranking out 129 yards on 23 carries and Streveler adding 79 on 13 carries, with Johnny Augustine also rushing once for four yards.

The Blue Bombers controlled the line of scrimmage and finished with 35 minutes and 26 minutes of possession, sacked Ottawa quarterbacks Dru Brown and Dustin Crum three times and won the turnover battle 3-zip.

“We’ll enjoy this one tonight,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “I don’t know if the guys can hang onto the emotion of it, but it’s nice that they get rewarded for their work and staying the course and not flinching despite whatever pressures there may be. They didn’t flinch. They haven’t flinched yet. It’s good. It’s nice that they were rewarded.”

More on the Blue Bombers first win of the season from our view in the press box…

BULLY BALL’ RETURNS:

For all the aerial numbers the Blue Bombers put up last season in leading the CFL in passing TDs and scoring – the same goes for 2021 and 2022 – the trademark of this club dating back to 2016 has been pounding the football whenever and wherever it wanted.

That had been a struggle through the 0-4 start, with the offence ranking fifth in rushing at 78.5 yards per game. So, hell yeah, a 212-yard ground game will absolutely help those numbers rocket skyward.

“It feels good,” said Oliveira. “We battled out there. Man, that feels good. To truly go out there and fight every single play and all three phases doing their job battling And, when you go out there and battle like that, it feels good.

“It’s fun. I was telling myself this week, ‘Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to win.’ We just need to execute the play that was called and go out there and fight and have laser focus every single play. We tried to do that to the best of our ability. We got the ‘W’, so it feels really good.

“… That’s the way we should play the game – physical on every single snap. Make them feel your physical presence and good things will happen as the game goes on,” said Oliveira of combining with Streveler to be a force along the ground. “I love Strev. He brings such a good energy and is so physical.”

A football player with medium skin tone wears a blue and gold uniform. He pumps his arms and screams in celebrationBrady Oliveria (20) lets out a roar after a strong run early in the first quarter. (Winnipeg Football Club)

THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART:

Streveler’s last start in pro football came on October 19, 2019, in a 37-33 loss to the Calgary Stampeders with Collaros making his first start for the club after being acquired in a trade a week later en route to the Grey Cup.

“I talked about it leading into this game, just how much appreciation I have for these moments,” he said. “Not having started a game in five years and not having played a ton of football and being out of football for a year last year… I don’t take these opportunities for granted. I don’t take these moments for granted. It makes it that much sweeter to go out and fight with these guys the way that we did.

“It just makes me emotional because I know how rare these opportunities are.”

SERGIO-OOOOOO:

Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo was a perfect six-for-six on the night, connecting from 28, 53, 13, 53, 49 and 18 yards. He has not missed a kick since Week 1 and the controversy surrounding the microchips in footballs that he and his kicking brethren forced the CFL to change.

“That’s all I want to do… kickoffs outside of the numbers and deep, extra points, field goals and to finally get this win as a team, that’s all we wanted,” he said. “I’m in a good moment right now. I’m in a good rhythm with our operation. We’re smooth right now.

“Even when I mishit it – and there were a couple I mishit with my toe – but because I got a great snap and a great hold, it saved me and gave me enough distances on those long ones for it to go straight and to go through. I’m just glad we got the first win.”

A football player with dark skin tone in a blue and gold uniform runs into a player with dark skin tone in a black, white, and red uniform. They both outstretch their arms into the otherBombers' defensive end Ali Fayad (52) attempts to get around RedBlacks' offensive lineman Dino Boyd (64). (Winnipeg Football Club)

KEY MOMENT

The Blue Bombers were up one score – 22-16 – when they got the ball back with 2:25 left following a Lewis Ward field goal for Ottawa. Winnipeg then put together a nine-play drive that took over two minutes off the clock and set up Castillo’s final three with just seven seconds left.

Critical in that drive was a five yard rush by Streveler on second and eight that was turned into a first down after a face-mask penalty by Ottawa’s Davion Taylor.

KEY STAT: 1

It’s a start. All that matters right now for the Blue Bombers is securing their first win of 2024 after starting 0-4 and losing the last three games by a combined total of nine points.

NEXT: Blue Bombers are back home again next week with the Calgary Stampeders scheduled to visit Princess Auto Stadium on Friday, July 12th with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.


This story originally appeared at bluebombers.com and is republished here with permission.