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Winnipeg silences the critics in Week 1

It is time for the majority of CFL fans and media figures to grab their plates and get in line. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are serving up some crow.

As the 2010 CFL season approached, it was hard to find a non-Winnipeg fan that predicted the Bombers to finish any better than third in the East Division. Well, after Winnipeg’s 49-29 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this past weekend, fans and media figures alike are perhaps beginning to look at the Blue and Gold in a different light.

Heading into their opening week matchup with the Tiger-Cats, there wasn’t much faith being placed in Winnipeg, even though they were at home. When a low majority of people pick a team to win at home in the opening week of play, that spells a lack of trust.

This writer certainly didn't pick Winnipeg to win.

But Pierce did not fall to injury. He instead decided to put the Bombers on his back. The B.C. Lions decided to let Pierce go in the off-season, opting for Casey Printers to be there starter. In Week 1, Pierce performed better than Printers.

Based on his Week 1 performance, Pierce is beginning to show that it has been his injuries, not his skills that have prevented him from being a star pivot.

The healthy Pierce went 17/25 for 291 yards and two touchdowns. That’s impressive. What’s even more impressive is the fact that Pierce ran for 89 yards and a touchdown. When one thinks of a mobile quarterback, Pierce doesn’t usually pop to mind, especially with his injuries. His ability to run the ball in Week 1 showed Pierce is indeed healthy and willing to sacrifice for his team.

Of course, Winnipeg’s pivot had some help. This help came in the form of wide receiver Terrence Edwards. Edwards recorded 191 yards and two touchdowns. Tough it’s early, Pierce and Edwards could be the next star quarterback-wide receiver combo in the league. Edwards has got to be happy to have a solid pivot getting him the ball.

The most impressive thing about Winnipeg’s offensive performance was the fact that they didn’t need to rely on running back Fred Reid. Reid was only handed the ball 13 times, accumulating 98 yards. Those were good numbers, but last season the Bombers had to rely on Reid much more because of their poor passing game.

Considering the fact that Hamilton scored two special teams touchdowns, the Bombers were solid on defence. Joe Lobendahn, who is attempting to replace the all-star Barrin Simpson at middle linebacker, led the way with eight tackles and two sacks. Phillip Hunt stepped up as well with two sacks on the defensive line.

The Bombers did a good job shutting down Hamilton’s star players. Kevin Glenn had a 50% completion percentage and under 200 passing yards, De’Andra Cobb was a non-factor with 22 rushing yards and Arland Bruce III was limited to three catches for 44 yards.

The win was the first for new head coach Paul LaPolice, who came over from Saskatchewan in the offseason along with fellow coaches Jamie Barresi and Kavis Reed. LaPolice was clearly less animated on the sidelines than Mike Kelly was, which is a good thing.

Now, this writer still believes that the Tiger-Cats will finish second in the East. After all, Hamilton lost to the woeful Toronto Argonauts in Week 1 last season yet still finished second. They were rusty, but Hamilton showed some signs. The game did show that Winnipeg won’t be fighting for third with the Argonauts, but challenging for second and maybe first.

The Bombers won’t make things easy on Hamilton and the Montreal Alouettes this season.

Jonathan Hamelin is an aspiring journalist, who has a freelance contract with the Regina Leader-Post and is a veteran online CFL columnist. He can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

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