Bombers Come Back to Win Thriller at IGF
WINNIPEG, MB. – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were run right out the loading dock of Investors Group Field on Thursday night. Literally.
And yet they found a way to score 13 points in the final 48 seconds to come back from a 40-28 deficit and beat the Montreal Alouettes 41-40 in one of the most outstanding finishes in the brief history of Winnipeg’s IGF.
This was another CFL classic, offering up a finish that could only happen in Canadian football.
After Stefan Logan carried 31 yards for a Montreal touchdown to give the Als a 12-point lead with 1:40 to play, Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols went to work.
He drove the team 69 yards on eight plays, capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Lankford near the back of the end zone and with a Justin Medlock convert, it was 40-35 Montreal with 48 seconds left.
But Medlock proceeded to deliver a perfect on-side kick that was caught on the fly by Brandon Alexander and suddenly the Bombers had a life – first and 10 at their own 51.
Nichols went to work again and drove his team 59 yards on six plays – helped in a big way by a roughing the passer call on a blitzing Chris Ackie that was the turning point of the drive. It ended when RB Andrew Harris, one of the best players on the field all night, carried the final yard on the last play of the game to give Winnipeg a 41-40 victory.
It was an incredible comeback considering Montreal had played an almost perfect football game up until the final minute and forty seconds.
The Als went into the game with the best rushing offence in the CFL while Winnipeg had the worst rushing defense and Montreal took advantage of the situation. They rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries as Brandon Rutley carried 11 times for 76 yards, Stefan Logan carried twice for 48 yards and Jean-Christophe Beaulieu carried twice for 42 yards. The Als final touchdown, a 31-yard jaunt by Logan, gave Montreal a 40-28 lead and almost emptied IGF.
But there was no quit in a Bomber team that trailed 24-14 at the half and battled back to tie the game at 27-27 after three quarters against a Montreal outfit that had averaged barely 20 points a game in its first five games this season.
A big reason for the Winnipeg victory was the fact Harris was brilliant. The former Grant Park/Oak Park back carried 12 times for 41 yards and two rushing touchdowns – the first and last Bombers’ touchdowns of the game – and caught nine passes for 93 yards. He was often stopped dead in his tracks and yet battled for first-down yardage.
However, while Harris was great, Matt Nichols was absolutely outstanding, especially down the stretch. Nichols, who was sacked three times and roughed up three other times, completed 34-of-43 pass attempts for 358 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions as he never gave up and ran two brilliant drives down the stretch.
He also rushed twice for 22 yards. The longest and most important was a 15-yard masterpiece that took the Bombers to the Montreal one-yard line with four seconds left on the clock.
Nichols hit seven different receivers – Harris for 93 (87 of those yards after the catch), Darvin Adams six times for 91, Tyron Thorpe seven times for 64 yards and Lankford seven times for 53 yards.
Bombers backup quarterback Dan LeFevour carried three times for 17 yards and a touchdown while Nichols also hit Clarence Denmark on a 23-yard TD pass.
Montreal veteran Darian Durant was solid at QB for the Als. Durant completed 27 of 35 pass attempts for 348 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also carried twice for 15 yards. Logan, Beaulieu, BJ Cunningham — who caught six passes for 109 yards – and Ernest Jackson also scored touchdowns for Montreal.
However, this game was a classic CFL thriller. It was apparently over with 1:40 to play and yet in the CFL –when the clock stops after every offensive play in the final three minutes of each half – it’s never over. Winnipeg looked dead in the final minute and a half and yet, with a TD, an on-side kick and another TD on the last play of the game it’s as if there is never a second for a defense to relax. The fact Montreal’s defense went into prevent in the dying seconds – a defensive set that usually prevents you from winning – spoke volumes about the way in which Nichols engineered the Bombers comeback.
It was a tremendous football game. One for the ages.
The Bombers play again on Friday night, August 4 in Ottawa. If that game is half as good as Thursday night’s game at IGF, it will be sensational.
– Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photos by Jeff Miller