Bombers win nail-biter over Argos 23-22

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TORONTO – They call the CFL the "Crazy Football League" for a reason, and Monday night's affair between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts was no exception.

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TORONTO – They call the CFL the “Crazy Football League” for a reason, and Monday night’s affair between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts was no exception.

In a game that had more than its share of wild plays, it was a missed convert by kicker Boris Bede in the dying seconds that secured a 23-22 victory for the Bombers at BMO Field.

“What the CFL is known for is the game is never over,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill. “We’re fortunate for the miss at the end, but it was a dogfight out there.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Drew Wolitarsky celebrates his touchdown with teammate Greg Ellingson, right, during the first half of CFL football action against the Toronto Argonauts, in Toronto, Monday.

Trailing 23-16 with 1:32 remaining in the game, the Argonauts put together a nine-play, 53-yard drive capped off with a 2-yard touchdown pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Markeith Ambles to pull Toronto to within a point to tie. But Bede’s kick would sail wide by a few yards and an unsuccessful onside-kick attempt would seal the game.

The victory improved the Bombers record to a perfect 4-0, putting them in sole possession of first place in the West Division. It also broke the Toronto curse, with Winnipeg winning at BMO Field for the first time since 2018.

The Argonauts dropped to 1-2 but remain tied with the Montreal Alouettes for top spot in the lowly East. Toronto had won nine of its last 10 games at home.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros passes against the Toronto Argonauts during the first half of CFL football action in Toronto, Monday.

The Bombers defence, a unit that entered the game allowing just one touchdown in 39 possessions over 12 quarters, opened the scoring on the Argonauts first drive. Winston Rose picked off a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass targeting Brandon Banks, returning it 46 yards to the end zone to put the visitors up 7-0 fewer than four minutes into the game.

“Honestly, it was one of those things where I felt like I had the monkey on my back and I had to shake it to get it off me,” said Rose, who has struggled with injuries and inconsistency this season. “I felt like a game like tonight was definitely needed.”

It was the Bombers fourth interception of the season and second defensive touchdown in as many games, after Willie Jefferson recorded a pick-6 in a win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 3. Winnipeg’s D forced four turnovers Monday, including a pair of interceptions, a forced fumble and a turnover on downs.

Not done there, Nick Taylor intercepted Bethel-Thompson on Toronto’s next series. The Bombers would take over at the Argonauts’ 54-yard line and, six plays later, Zach Collaros found Drew Wolitarsky for a 15-yard score and a 14-point lead.

“I thought our defence, obviously, took the ball away pretty good. We also had some other opportunities we would have liked in the takeaway category,” said Bombers coach Mike O’Shea. “But we did enough and that’s what matters.”

The Bombers offence struggled at times to sustain drives, registering just 266 net yards and only 60 on the ground. Zach Collaros finished 25-for-31 passing for 215 yards, along with one touchdown and one interception.

“When your defence creates that many turnovers and they score a touchdown, the game shouldn’t be as close as it was,” Collaros said. “We have to get better.”

Each club would score a field goal before halftime – a 15-yarder from Marc Liegghio for Winnipeg, a 52-yard kick from Toronto’s Boris Bede – and the defence continued to roll, forcing a turnover on downs. Andrew Harris, who was playing his first game against his former team since a public breakup over the winter, was stuffed on third-and-1 from Winnipeg’s 25-yard line.

Harris led all rushers, racking up 111 yards on 22 carries. He also had a catch for 13 yards.

“We know Andrew is a competitor. Me and him had some good chats and some good collisions tonight,” Bighill said. “Neither of us would want it any other way, a physical, smashmouth game where we’re both putting it all on the line and letting it hang.”

Bethel-Thompson, who completed 27 of 37 passes for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns to go with a pair of picks, fired a toss to the end zone, where it looked to be intercepted by Demerio Houston. But before Houston could gain possession prior to hitting the ground, Banks ripped the ball from his hands and scooped it up millimetres from the turf to register the score and cut the Bombers lead to 17-10.

The play was reviewed by the CFL’s command centre – as is the case on all scoring plays – and the play was upheld. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea grabbed at the challenge flag in his back pocket but opted not to dispute the play.

“If anything, I was going to challenge down by contact,” O’Shea said. “But they said they looked at that and they said that the ball was still loose. So, he’s not down by contact because he didn’t have possession.”

The Argonauts would threaten again two series later, driving the ball down to the Bombers’ 10, only to turn it over at the one-yard line. The play was registered as a fumble by Banks, who had the ball dislodged by Rose before falling into the hands of Winnipeg safety Malcolm Thompson.

Thompson then lateralled the ball to Taylor, who returned it to midfield. The Bombers got close to the end zone on the ensuing drive but had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Liegghio, pushing their lead to 20-10.

Toronto answered back with a 42-yard field goal from Bede. Jake Thomas registered a sack on second down to force the kick.

Toronto answered back with a 42- and 39-yard field goals from Bede, cutting the Bombers edge to 20-16. Liegghio put Winnipeg back up by a touchdown with a 32-yard field, a drive that drained more than three minutes off the clock.

The Bombers won’t have much time to celebrate this one. They travel to B.C. to take on the 3-0 Lions Saturday night at BC Place.

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

History

Updated on Monday, July 4, 2022 11:02 PM CDT: Adds quotes to final version.

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