MONTREAL - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Montreal Alouettes 25-23 here before a crowd of 24,642 at Percival Molson Stadium Sunday afternoon to maintain sole possession of first place in the East Division.
Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce threw touchdown passes to receivers Greg Carr and Terrence Edwards and running back Fred Reid broke off a 47-yard touchdown run as the Bombers snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 8-3 with a rare win in Montreal over the two-time defending Grey Cup champions.
It was the first time the Bombers have won in Montreal since October 2008, and it puts them four points up on the second-place Als and six points up on the third-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Bombers also improve to a perfect 5-0 against East Division opponents this season.
"A lot of people were counting us out," Pierce said after the game. "But we’re a good football team. This was a tough, tough win, in a lot of ways. It shows a lot of character, a lot of strength, a lot of growth. I’m proud of all these guys."
Pierce finished the game 20-29 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Bombers defensive end Odell Willis seemed to be especially savouring the victory in the Bombers locker room after the game, pointing out it came after two weeks of criticism following back-to-back losses to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"Everybody wanted to jump off the bandwagon and say, ‘What’s wrong with Swaggerville,’ " Bombers defensive end Odell Willis said. "We're just playing football. It’s an 18-game schedule. There ain’t no hard feelings. Those other guys get paid just like we do. There’s going to be some slip-ups."
The Bombers defence held CFL leading rusher Brandon Whitaker to just 27 yards rushing in the first half and 51 yards overall and forced three turnovers. Als QB Anthony Calvillo went 22-39 for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Montreal got within two points with under three minutes to play in the game on an 11-yard touchdown strike from Calvillo to receiver Jamel Richardson. The Als attempted what would have been a game-tying two-point conversion and Calvillo had receiver Eric Deslauriers open in the corner of the end zone, but he badly overthrew him.
"It’s a huge win at a place where you don’t win often," said Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. "We certainly made some mistakes, but we were able to overcome those mistakes and get the win."
A 39-yard touchdown pass from Pierce to Edwards on the second-last play of the third quarter gave the Bombers a 25-14 lead heading into the final quarter. The pass capped an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.
The Alouettes had stormed back from a 14-0 first quarter deficit, kicking a pair of field goals, a single and scoring a touchdown in the second quarter to head to the locker room at half-time trailing the Bombers 17-14.
A 26-yard field goal by Als kicker Sean Whyte had just narrowed the gap to 14-6 midway through the second quarter when Bombers kick returner Tim Brown fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Als' Brandon London recovered the ball at the Winnipeg 26. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Bombers rush end Odell Willis two plays later moved the ball to the Bombers' 13-yard line. One play later, Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo found wide receiver Brian Bratton open for the touchdown.
Whyte evened the score 14-14 with a 53-yard single with under two minutes to play in the half, but Bombers place kicker Justin Palardy regained the lead for Winnipeg with a 46-yard field goal with just two seconds to play. It was Palardy’s sixth field goal in a row and the 13th of his last 14 attempts.
The Bombers had owned the first quarter. A 107-yard Winnipeg touchdown drive - highlighted by a 92-yard catch and run by Winnipeg receiver Cory Watson - and a 47-yard touchdown run by Reid had the Bombers ahead 14-0 after the opening frame.
Pinned on their own 3-yard line as the Bombers offence took the field for the first time, Pierce took just two plays to find Watson open about 15 yards down field and then Watson did the rest, breaking one tackle immediately and then a second one about 50 yards down field for what was the longest single play from scrimmage for Winnipeg this season.
Watson was finally hauled down on the Montreal 9-yard line. Two plays later, Pierce hit Carr just inside the Montreal goal line to complete the four-play, 107-yard touchdown drive.
And then with just two minutes to play in the first quarter, Reid took advantage of a gaping hole created by Bombers centre Obby Khan to scamper untouched - literally - for a 47-yard touchdown run. The run - Reid’s longest of the season - capped a four-play, 93-yard Bombers touchdown drive that also included a 37-yard catch and run by Edwards.