It had the makings of exactly the kind of dramatic win this Winnipeg Blue Bombers team needs to turn around what has been an ugly 2012 season.
But it ended instead the same way as it has so many times in this now 2-6 Winnipeg Blue Bombers season, in disappointment and defeat and that worst feeling in all of sport -- if only.
A 41-yard Paul McCallum field goal with no time remaining gave the BC Lions a 20-17 victory over the Bombers before a stunned sellout crowd of 29,533. McCallum lined up to kick the field goal with just one second remaining on the clock, as the Lions very nearly accidentally ran out the clock one play earlier to send the game to overtime.
The late Lions' dramatics spoiled what was looking like a monster party at Canad Inns Stadium last night, as the Bombers were poised to pull a shocking upset over the league-leading Lions that would have improved their own season record to 3-4 and vaulted them over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and into the third and final playoff position in the East Division.
Instead, it was more of the same on a night when even winning the turnover battle at 3-1 wasn't good enough to get the Bombers the win. "It doesn't matter if it was the first quarter or the fourth quarter," said Bombers cornerback Jovon Johnson. "You lose the game because of its entirety. And we lost the game."
A one-yard Alex Brink touchdown plunge in the third quarter -- the first offensive TD the Lions had surrendered in over 16 quarters of football -- followed by fourth quarter field goals of 17 and 31 yards by Justin Palardy had the Bombers leading the Lions 14-10 late in the game.
But then a 43-yard completion from Lions QB Travis Lulay to slotback Shawn Gore followed by an 18 yard scamper by Lions tailback Andrew Harris set up a 2-yard Harris touchdown run, the Winnipegger's second major of the night, with under two minutes remaining.
But down 17-14, the Bombers weren't done yet as starting QB Joey Elliott marched the team 58 yards over 10 plays to set up a game-tying 31-yard field goal with only 27 seconds remaining.
But then, just when it seemed like the game was headed for overtime, the Bombers defence once again found a way to give up a big play late in the fourth quarter -- a 24-yard pass from Lulay to Lions slotback Geroy Simon with 15 seconds left that got the ball to the Winnipeg 35-yard line and set up the game-winner.
"It was there -- we had them. It was plain as day -- we had them. And we just let them slip through the cracks," said Bombers wide receiver Chris Matthews, who was Elliott's favorite target with 6 catches for 101 yards. Elliott finished the night 20-42 for 256 yards and 1 INT.
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said he will look at film of last night before deciding if Elliott will get his third straight start next weekend against Saskatchewan or if the club will hand the ball to Buck Pierce, who is expected to be available after missing five games with a foot injury.
The Lions were up 10-0 coming out of the locker room for the third quarter, a familiar position for a Winnipeg Blue Bombers team that has now been outscored 136-50 in the first half this season and has never had the lead at halftime in eight regular season games and counting.
The score flattered the Lions a bit, however, and had at least as much to do with a string of undisciplined penalties by the Bombers in the second quarter as it did with anything BC was doing on offence.
The Bombers had a pair of first half interceptions taken off the board by penalties, including a Johnny Sears pick -- his second of the half -- at midfield with 1:35 to play in the second quarter that would have given Winnipeg the ball but was nullifed instead by a roughing the passer call on defensive end Kenny Mainor.
Three plays later, Bombers linebacker Brandon Stewart took another roughing call for hitting Lulay as he went out of bounds. That got the ball to the Winnipeg 18-yard line and three plays later, Lulay found Harris for a 5-yard TD reception.
With the loss, the Bombers finish a four-game homestand 2-2. The club heads back out on the road for the first time in over a month next Sunday when they travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the annual Labour Day Weekend classic.