CALGARY — There’s always a certain urgency around Grey Cup week, but this year even more so.
The CFL’s longest active Grey Cup droughts go head to head on Sunday, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers clash in the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.
There are so many intriguing storylines as the teams touch down in Calgary. Led by the resurgent Zach Collaros, the Bombers are the first third-place team since 2005 to win consecutive road playoff games to advance to the Grey Cup.
The Ticats, meanwhile, won a franchise best 15 games, including a perfect 9-0 at Tim Hortons Field, led by the arm of rising star sophomore Dane Evans.
In any case, Sunday offers the potential of a Grey Cup classic, a battle of the league’s highest-scoring teams. The Ticats and Bombers ranked first and second in three key areas: points for, offensive points and touchdowns. They also ranked in the top three in explosive plays, run defence and return touchdowns.
Can the Ticats cap off their best season in franchise history with a championship? Or will the Bombers defy the odds and put an end to their 28-year drought?
HEAD TO HEAD
– These teams were a combined plus-15 in regular season turnover ratio. In the playoffs, Winnipeg is plus-seven and has not committed a turnover. Hamilton was plus-two in a division final win over Edmonton, making two giveaways. Of Winnipeg’s 55 playoff points, 16 were scored directly after takeaways (29%). Hamilton scored 10 of 36 points off of turnovers.
– Hamilton won both games, the first with Masoli and Nichols at QB, the second with Chris Streveler and Dane Evans as new starting quarterbacks. Winnipeg dominated game stats but not the scoreboard, with more offence, second down conversions, passing and time of possession.
– Hamilton won with major edges in sacks (6-3), turnovers (9-2), and especially average field position (the Ticats started at their own 42 vs. Winnipeg at its own 31). Hamilton also led for almost 100 of the 120 minutes (99:58), with Winnipeg leading just 3:58 in total.
– Hamilton reached Winnipeg’s red zone nine times, while Winnipeg got closer than the Hamilton 20 just twice.
– Andrew Harris led all rushers with 90 yards on 18 carries. Brandon Banks led Hamilton receivers with 14 catches for 161 yards. Kenny Lawler led all receivers with 186 yards on 13 catches. Finally, linebacker Simoni Lawrence had his record 17-tackle effort in the second of two games.
REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS = GREY CUP?
– Hamilton brings a team record 15 wins and a perfect 9-0 home season into this Grey Cup. How did the previous teams do? There were 10 prior 15- or 16-win teams to enter the playoffs: Seven of those 10 made it to the Grey Cup as Hamilton has done in 2019.
– Five of the last six 15-win teams made it to and won the Grey Cup: Baltimore (1995), Toronto (1996 & 1997), Montreal (2009), and Calgary (2014). Only Calgary in 1995 has won 15 games since 1995 and not won the Grey Cup.
– There were seven teams before Hamilton to have 9-0 home marks – and just three ended up winning (Toronto 1991, Toronto 1997, and Montreal 2009).
– Winnipeg comes in as a third place Grey Cup participant. They are the first team to come from third place (winning consecutive road games) to reach the Grey Cup since Edmonton in 2005.
– Third place teams in the Grey Cup have gone 5-4 since 1953: EDM 2005 (W), BC 2000 (W), 1997 SSK (L), BC 1994 (W), SSK 1989 (W), BC 1988 (L), SSK 1972 (L), MTL 1970 (W), WPG 1953 (L).
NOT YOUR AVERAGE ‘BACKUPS’
– For the first time since 1980, both Grey Cup participants are missing their original starting quarterback after Matt Nichols and Jeremiah Masoli suffered season-ending injuries. The 1980 Grey Cup had Edmonton start the year with Tom Wilkinson as the starter but ended with Warren Moon as No. 1. Hamilton started off with Bruce Lemmerman but he gave way to Dave Marler late in the year.
– Chris Streveler took 23 snaps in the Western Semi-Final but just seven snaps last week with one pass attempt. Dane Evans took 51 offensive snaps of Hamilton’s 53 total last week in his first ever post-season start.
– In the division finals, 20-plus yard depth passing was key: Collaros was 4-of-8 for 165 yards and a TD; Evans was 6-of-11 for 204 yards, one TD and one INT.
– Evans’ fourth quarter Passing last week: 6-for 7 (86%) for 88 yards.
– Division finals red zone passing: Collaros 1-for-1 for five yards (no TDs); Evans 1-for-4 for two yards (no TDs).
– Zach Collaros became the first quarterback in CFL history to start a division having been on each team’s roster in that season. Collaros pushed his playoff record to 3-1 as a starter and brings an 0-1 Grey Cup record (2014 Hamilton, 25-of-33, 342 yards).
– Collaros in the second half last week: 8-of-12 for 119 yards (Nic Demski was targeted on five of those second half throws). Collaros has completed three passes of 34-plus yards to Darvin Adams in the playoffs (34, 71 and 63).
– Of Evans’ 36 passes last week, 29 were to wide receivers with two 100-yard games (Addison 130, Banks 100).
GREY CUP DROUGHTS – POST WWII
– It’s been well documented that the Bombers and Ticats enter Sunday with the longest active spans without winning the Grey Cup. Winnipeg has gone 28 seasons since last winning in 1990, while the Ticats haven’t won since 1999, a span of 19 years.
– The two clubs combine for the second longest Grey Cup drought since the Second World War, from 1945 onward. That 47-year total is narrowly exceeded only by the 1983 Grey Cup, when BC (18 years) and Toronto (30 years) combined for a 48-year drought.
Longest post WWII Grey Cup droughts:
Toronto 1953-1982 (30 years)
Winnipeg 1991-2018 (28 years)
Ottawa 1977-1996, 2002-05, 2014-15 (26 years)
Calgary 1949-1970 (22 years)
Saskatchewan 1967-1988 (22 years)
Saskatchewan 1945-1965 (21 years)
Calgary 1972-1991 (20 years)
BC Lions 1965-1984 (20 years)
Montreal 1950-1969 (20 years)
Hamilton T/C 2000-2018 (19 years)
Note: Overall the Roughriders did not win from their inception until 1966.
AFI, Yare Media and the CFL
American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2019 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.
Promo codes have been distributed by 11 different country federations to their members. If the code given does not work in your country, contact your federation.