MONTREAL -- And in the end, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers showed up in Montreal the only time it really mattered -- game time.
A weekend that got off to a shaky start Saturday morning when four Bombers players missed the team plane in Winnipeg ended spectacularly Sunday afternoon as the Bombers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and then hung on for a hard-fought 25-23 victory over the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes before a crowd of 24,642 at Percival Molson Stadium.
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 -- his longest of the season -- as the Bombers snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 8-3 with a rare win in Montreal.
It was the first time the Bombers have won in Montreal since 2008 and it puts them four points up on the 6-5 Als and six points up on the 5-6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Bombers also improve to a perfect 5-0 against East Division opponents this season.
Winnipeg is also now 4-1 on the road, which could come in handy with three of their next four games on the road, including next week's contest in Toronto against the 2-9 Argonauts.
"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, 2 TDs and 1 interception.
"That's a huge win," said Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice, "in a place that you don't win often."
The Bombers' victory snapped the nasty two-game losing streak that was a pair of ugly losses the previous two weekends to the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders. Bombers defensive end Odell Willis seemed to be especially savouring the victory in the Bombers locker-room after the game, suggesting it is proof there never was anything seriously amiss with the Bombers' self-styled Swaggerville defence.
"Everybody wanted to jump off the bandwagon and say, 'What's wrong with Swaggerville?' " said Willis. "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.
"No more bandwagon-jumpers. We're closing... If you ain't part of Swaggerville now, we ain't accepting no more people."
The Bombers' defensive scheme -- put together by former Alouettes defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke, who now holds the same job in Winnipeg -- held CFL leading rusher Brandon Whitaker to just 27 running yards 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.
"If I played halfway better, we would have won," Calvillo said after the game. "My performance wasn't up to par. I wasn't consistent or accurate. You fight and come close and come up short. That's tough to swallow."
"The biggest thing we did," said LaPolice, "was we forced them to kick threes all game. Even when we turned over the ball in a bad area of the field (a second-quarter fumble by kick returner Tim Brown gave Montreal the ball on the Winnipeg 26 and a fourth-quarter Montreal interception gave them the ball on the Winnipeg 20), we made them kick threes."
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.
The win came in what had been a trying week for the Bombers as they learned that they had lost both their starting middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn (knee) and starting wide receiver Kito Poblah (shoulder) to season-ending injuries.
Marcellus Bowman replaced Lobendahn in the middle and had an exceptional game, registering six tackles, a sack and forcing a fumble. Poblah was replaced by Aaron Hargreaves, who put in a typically workmanlike performance, hauling in three passes for 30 yards.
The Bombers face the Alouettes two more times this season -- Sept. 30 and Oct. 22 -- but both those games will take place at Canad Inns Stadium.