BOMBERS QB NICHOLS LEANED ON NFL COACH BELICHICK’S WORDS TO HELP HIM THROUGH THE SEASON’S DARKEST DAYS
WINNIPEG — There was nothing ailing Matt Nichols that a little wisdom from Bill Belichick couldn’t help fix.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback has turned his game around, along with the fortunes of his team, in the last three weeks.
One statistic says it all:
Over the last three games, Nichols has tossed just one interception, compared to seven picks in the previous three.
On the eve of Saturday’s critical CFL divisional clash with Saskatchewan, Nichols acknowledged he began questioning himself during the slump that nearly deepsixed the Bombers’ season.
“I kind of got lucky and ended up reading this thing about Bill Belichick,” Nichols said, Friday, referring to the great coach of the NFL’s Patriots. “And how he talks about, ‘Don’t let a negative outcome affect what you know was a good decision.’ I’ve played way more good football than a couple of bad games. There’s no reason for me to question my preparation or what I do on a daily basis to get ready for games.
“Went through a little bad stretch, kept doing what I do, and got back to playing football I’m used to playing.”
Nichols likely isn’t forgetting he made some bad decisions along the way. But he’s also chalking some of his troubles up to rotten luck. Has he shaken both?
His last three games have produced four touchdown passes and just the one interception.
With three wins in a row, the 8-7 Bombers take on the 10-5 Riders with a renewed confidence, a feeling their quarterback didn’t have in their two previous meetings, both losses, when he tossed five interceptions to just one touchdown pass.
“When you go through adversity, immediately your mind starts wondering why,” Nichols said. “Obviously I have great support around me, coach O’Shea and my wife and my teammates. They understand exactly what I said: Sometimes even when you’re making the right decisions, things can go bad for you. You can’t allow that to change who you are, what you’ve done to get to this point.
“My teammates deserve my ability to get past adversity and go out and perform for them and help win football games. When you understand that, you can overcome a lot.”
The Bombers aren’t even close to being out of the woods.
A loss Saturday would throw them right back into the forest of the unknown, entangled with Edmonton and B.C., where a playoff spot can be easily lost.
The mess they’ve created, letting too many games slip away in the second half, has left the margin of error razor-thin.
But Nichols says this team is different now, and teammates agree.
“The last three or four weeks now we’ve been a little more focused, it seems like,” receiver Weston Dressler said. “Every little detail counts. We’re starting to understand that and grasp how important it is to get everything you can before game time comes around.”
Nichols says the Bombers have simply come together as a cohesive unit: Offence, defence and special teams taking turns being the difference.
“We’re not making big mistakes,” he said. “We’ve been good in penalties. Just doing all the little things a little better than we were when we were losing football games. It’s really those minor details that make all the difference when you’re at this level.”
Nichols’ own level will have to stay high over these last three games.
Another bad game could cost the Bombers their spot in the post-season, and raise all kinds of messy questions in the off-season.
But the same way the bad games snowballed for a while, Nichols, coming off probably his best game of the season, says the good ones can, too.
“This is the ultimate momentum sport,” he said. “Sometimes when you go out there you feel like you can’t miss. That’s kind of the way it feels right now.”
Nichols can’t afford to miss, that’s for sure.
Bad decisions or not, the outcomes are now all that matter.
He doesn’t need football’s all-time great coach to tell him that.