Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Just hold your hearses!

Blue not dead quite yet... although admittedly still comatose

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MONTREAL -- Running back Chad Simpson had a message on Monday for the doctors who have been hovering over what appeared to be the lifeless corpse of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"Don't pull the plug on us yet!," Simpson exclaimed amid one of the rarest sights in football this year -- a jubilant Bombers locker-room. "We're vegetables, but we're not dead yet...

"We're about to wake up out of that coma."

 

Thanksgiving doubled for Halloween this year as the Bombers made like zombies Monday afternoon at Stade Percival Molson, rising from the dead -- and the smoldering ashes of a 3-10 season -- on a crisp fall afternoon to hand the Montreal Alouettes a shocking 27-22 defeat on their own hallowed turf.

The stunning victory came in a game in which bookmakers had anointed them 13.5 point underdogs; in a season in which Winnipeg had been winless on the road at 0-6; and in a stadium where the Alouettes had been 6-1 this season.

What's more, it was all piloted by a quarterback in Joey Elliott, who had just four touchdown passes coming into the game in his CFL career -- and none in the last six weeks -- but who found the end zone three times on this magical afternoon to almost double his career production in one game.

While no one will be confusing this just yet with the Resurrection -- a 4-10 regular-season record isn't exactly heaven -- it did open the door to the possibility that there might be some life left yet in a Winnipeg team that still has four regular-season games remaining to show themselves worthy of the loyalty a long-suffering fan base has shown them in this trying season.

"We're 4-10 now, but we're not going to give up. And that's the beauty of it -- I love these guys for that," said Bombers wide receiver Chris Matthews, who hauled in six passes for 143 yards and a TD.

"A lot of teams would've packed up and went home by now, counting down the days. And we never did that. I never, not once, heard one of our teammates talking about, 'It's time to go...'"

Notoriously slow starters all season, the Bombers that emerged from the locker room on this afternoon were almost unrecognizable. A brilliant 12-play opening drive by Elliott stalled on the Montreal 17-yard line, but the 24-yard Justin Palardy field goal that followed still represented three of just 24 points Winnipeg had scored in the first quarter all season long.

And they weren't done yet. A couple of Montreal fumbles later -- one of them awarded to the Bombers on their own two-yard line after a challenge by Bombers head coach Tim Burke -- and the Bombers were in the end zone on the first of Elliott's three TD passes, this one a 50-yarder to slotback Terrence Edwards.

A 10-3 lead after the first quarter represented just the third time all season that Winnipeg had led after the opening frame and they kept right on rolling in the second quarter, with passes from Elliott to Matthews covering 42 and 36 yards on successive plays to put the Bombers in the end zone again and give Winnipeg a 17-13 lead at the half.

The teams traded field goals in the third quarter and the Bombers were clinging to a 20-16 lead when Elliott found receiver Rory Kohlert near the back of the end zone six minutes into the fourth quarter for a 15-yard TD strike that was Kohlert's first career TD reception.

"It means a lot -- first professional touchdown," said Kohlert. "It's maybe not the way I drew it up, but that's football -- it's never the way you draw it up."

Kohlert went into the game in the first half after wide receiver Kito Poblah was knocked out with what the team described as an upper-body injury. Also leaving the game in the first half was defensive end Alex Hall, who a team official said at half-time had sustained a knee injury.

Burke said after the game he didn't know how serious the injuries to Hall and Poblah are. But he did say that other injuries sustained by slotback Cory Watson and defensive tackle Bryant Turner during the game appeared initially to be minor.

The Bombers defence gave up a lot of yards to QB Anthony Calvillo and the Als -- 432 in all. But they also picked off Calvillo twice -- Johnny Sears had one and Brandon Stewart had the other -- and forced three fumbles to win the turnover battle, 5-2.

"Montreal is one of the best teams in the league and to beat them at home, that tells you that you can beat anybody," said Burke.

"I think it shows we're a lot better team than a lot of people give us credit for and that if we just have the right attitude and work ethic and focus, we can do a lot of good things."

The victory marked the first time the Bombers have beaten a team with a record above .500 this season. Two of the team's three previous wins came over Hamilton (5-9) and the other was over Edmonton (6-8).

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2012 C1

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