HAMILTON — From dominant to desperate in one game, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers again needed a last-minute miracle Thursday.
And once again they found one, driving 94 yards in the final 100 seconds of the game for a two-yard touchdown catch from Nic Grigsby with no time left on the clock to power a 27-26 CFL win over the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
The game was played in Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University in the west part of the city, since the Tabbies’ new facility, Tim Hortons Field, is not yet complete.
The dramatic finish boosted the Bombers to 5-1 to start the season, only the second time that’s happened since 1987.
They have won three out of three on the road so far, including a nail-biter of a one-point win in Montreal in Week 3.
Hamilton, with three tight defeats of four points or less now this season, dropped to 1-4.
The telling moment
With second and goal from the Hamilton two, down 26-20, the Bombers walked to the line of scrimmage as the fourth-quarter clock ran out.
With the snap and one shot at glory, quarterback Drew Willy turned his attention to the left sideline and lofted a soft ball that running back Grigsby caught. Lirim Hajrullahu’s extra point then ended the game.
"It was man coverage and it was a designed play," said Grigsby, who rushed for a 16-yard major in the third quarter. "Willy was supposed to put the ball right on me but the defender went underneath us so he put it over the top.
"(The defender) tried to undercut the ball and Willy, he played great all game, he saw the back come underneath and he just put it over the top and I’m just like, there’s nobody back here, just please let me be in bounds. And it landed right in my hands.
"It was too good to be true but it was in the air too long. I didn’t know if there was somebody behind me or what but I didn’t want to jump. I just followed it all the way to the last moment and it landed in my hands."
All or nothing
The last play was everything, and Willy said he had two options to the far left sideline.
"I was looking at Denny (Clarence Denmark) in the corner and I knew I had Grigsby in the flat," Willy said. "I saw them both covered and I just wanted to give enough air so one of those guys could go up and make a play. Luckily Grigsby came away with the ball. I’m not going to say it was a skillful play because it wasn’t. It was just one of those ones — we practise it all the time and we just made a play."
Almost got away
The Bombers controlled the first half (245-22 in offensive yards) and surged to a 20-3 lead with Grigsby’s touchdown run on their first possession of the second half.
But the Cats roared to life after doing next to nothing in the first half, scoring 23 straight points on three touchdowns and a safety. One of the majors was a 66-yard punt return by Quincy McDuffie.
The teams then traded possessions until Winnipeg took over at its own 16 with 1:40 to go.
"We’ve been in this situation before so I think they were more prepared to handle it," said head coach Mike O’Shea. "Going a little deeper, they trusted each other, they rely on their teammates and guys made plays down the stretch when they had to to allow us to win.
"It was a great last drive, no time on the clock. It’s a good win for us. We don’t want to keep having to do it that way, that’s for sure. We recognize that we made some mistakes and it cost us and it looked like Hamilton was ready to take it but these guys just believed in each other and no one gave up.
"When you get guys who are going to stick with their teammates and stick together, it’s a great thing."
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in Winnipeg next Thursday.