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?
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. ET and can be viewed on TSN, RDS and ESPN2, and followed live via CFL.ca Game Tracker. Click here for more broadcast details.
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.
TRENDS AND COMPARISONS
|COMPARISON||GREY CUP RECORD||SINCE||HAMILTON (2019)||WINNIPEG (2019)|
|Better regular season record||11-3||2005||15-3||11-7|
|Higher scoring average||10-9||2000||30.6||28.2|
|Season series (outright winner)||9-4||2000||2||0|
|Team with road playoff win (before GC)||7-5||2000||No||Yes (2)|
|Team with most recent Grey Cup appearance||8-8||2000||2014||2011|
KEYS TO SUCCESS
– Teams with better starting field position went 65-16 and thus won 80 per cent of the time in the 2019 regular season and were 4-0 in the 2019 division playoff games. However, counter to this statistically significant trend, the last five Grey Cup winning teams (2014-2018) all overcame poorer field position to win. Since 1996, teams with the better field position are only 11-12.
– It is ball control that seems to be pre-eminent in achieving Grey Cup success. Teams with more time of possession have won 13 of the last 14 Grey Cup games back to 2005.
– In the 67 Grey Cups since 1952, the teams that scored first in the game have won 40 times – winning 60 per cent of the time. Teams that led after the first quarter have also won 40 times – again 60 per cent of the time (of note: Three of the last four Grey Cups have been won by the club that trailed after 15:00).
– Teams with a better success rate on second down have won eight of the last 10, and 19 of the last 23 Grey Cups.
– No team that has scored on a non-offensive return of any kind (defence or kick) has lost the Grey Cup in the last 22 years (of note: no team that has a defensive return touchdown has lost since Baltimore in 1994).
– No team that has allowed more sacks has won the Grey Cup since 2012 when Toronto gave up one more than Calgary.
– Turnover Battle: Since 2000, only Calgary in 2014 has made more turnovers and still won the Grey Cup. Since 1988, teams that had a better turnover ratio went 23-1, winning 96 per cent of the time. Hamilton in 2014 is the only team to ever have zero turnovers and lose.
– Since 2005 only two teams have scored a TD on their opening drive (Ottawa in 2016 and 2015) and are 1-1. Our data back to 1952 shows that only eight teams in those 67 Grey Cups (134 opening drives) scored on them (6% of the time).
– Winnipeg was No. 1 in rushing in 2019 and Hamilton No. 4. In the last nine Grey Cups, the team that had more rushing yards won eight times. The better rushing team is 22-5 since 1992.
– Since 1992, seven teams have fumbled a kick return and turned the ball over. Of those seven teams, six ended up losing the Grey Cup.
– Making a kick return touchdown seems important. Only one team that returned a kick for a touchdown ended up losing (Edmonton in 1996 with a Henry Williams kickoff return). Teams that score on a kick return touchdown are 9-1 since 1952.
– Teams with more explosive plays on offence have won seven of the last 11 Grey Cups.
OTHER GREY CUP GAME NOTES
– Winnipeg has won the last five games in post-season vs Hamilton; the last Ticats win being the 1989 Eastern Final.
– The Bombers hold a 5-3 edge in Grey Cup head to head meetings dating back to 1953. Winnipeg and Hamilton also played in 1935 and 1943.
– Hamilton explosive plays on offence is a major advantage for them. In the last eight games, the Ticats have edged their opponents 24-9 in passing plays of 30-plus yards and rushing plays of 20-plus yards. The Bombers have also made explosive plays in the post-season, owning a 7-4 edge over their opponents.
– Winnipeg’s 107-yard TD drive last week was the longest in the CFL Playoffs since 2015 (Edmonton 108 yards).
– Winnipeg allowed Saskatchewan 256 net yards in the second half last week but surrendered just three field goals and made a goal line stand to keep the Riders out of the end zone.
– Previous Grey Cup Experience: Of the 48 projected starters, Winnipeg has five and Hamilton has 12 players that have appeared in a Grey Cup.
– Winnipeg has lost five consecutive Grey Cup appearances (the record is seven losses in a row by Regina-Saskatchewan from 1923 to 1951).
– Hamilton has lost its previous two Grey Cup appearances, those coming in 2013 and 2014.
– Of the 44 players that suited up for Hamilton in the 2014 Grey Cup, nine will likely be dressed for the 107th Grey Cup vs. Winnipeg (Banks, Laurent, Crawford, Murray, Tasker, Lawrence, Breaux, Daly and Filer). Two are now with Winnipeg in Collaros and Medlock.
– There are nine Winnipeg players in total with Grey Cup history: A.Bighill, S.Bryant, Z.Collaros, A.Harris, W.Jefferson, K.Jones, J.Medlock, M.Miller, C.Rempel.
– Winnipeg has yet to make a post-season turnover in 27 possessions and on 13 kick returns.
– Hamilton did not allow an Edmonton touchdown drive in their final 11 possessions, and made all three of their sacks in the fourth quarter last week.
– The Bombers have had their opponents start in the Winnipeg end just four times. Saskatchewan did not score on their two chances.
– Willie Jefferson led the CFL with 16 pass knockdowns, a record for defensive linemen. He also led the CFL with six forced fumbles.
– Ja’Gared Davis will be in his fourth consecutive Grey Cup after playing three in a row with Calgary; Derico Murray will be in his fourth since 2013.
– Justin Medlock enters the Grey Cup with a streak of 20 straight FGs made; 12 reg. season and 8-for-8 in the playoffs.
– Both teams enter Sunday’s contest with plenty of momentum. The Bombers won the second half vs. Calgary 27-0 and carried that into a 10-1 lead after 15:00 vs SSK, a run of 37-1. Hamilton scored either a TD or field goal on five of their first eight drives vs. Edmonton.
– Hamilton kick cover teams have given up just one big play return in the last six games, and just four in their last 12 games.
– Flags: Winnipeg drew only five penalties last week and none by their defence. Hamilton had just six penalties vs Edmonton.