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Blue Bomber Report (12–6–0)

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Strong start, but no finish

Bombers relinquished lead in fourth quarter, couldn't get it back

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS </p><p>Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Ryan Smith (12), Rory Kohlert (87) and Jace Davis (1) celebrate Kohlert's touchdown against the Edmonton Eskimos during the first half of Thursday's game at Investors Group Field.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Ryan Smith (12), Rory Kohlert (87) and Jace Davis (1) celebrate Kohlert's touchdown against the Edmonton Eskimos during the first half of Thursday's game at Investors Group Field.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were leading 3-0 just minutes into the first quarter. It was a lead they would hold for the better part of the next 42 minutes.

Then, 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, with the Bombers up 16-13, the Eskimos did what they’ve done all season. Mike Reilly, the Eskimos’ starting quarterback, delivered a dart down the right side — and into the hearts of the thousands wearing Blue and Gold — with a 73-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker.

The Bombers wouldn’t lead again, falling 20-16 to the reigning Grey Cup champions in front of 24,007 fans at Investors Group Field.

The loss dropped the Bombers to 1-3 on the year, and 0-2 at home this season. Edmonton improves to 2-1 with the win, and for the first time in three games didn’t have to play an overtime.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/7/2016 (495 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were leading 3-0 just minutes into the first quarter. It was a lead they would hold for the better part of the next 42 minutes.

Then, 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, with the Bombers up 16-13, the Eskimos did what they’ve done all season. Mike Reilly, the Eskimos’ starting quarterback, delivered a dart down the right side — and into the hearts of the thousands wearing Blue and Gold — with a 73-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS </p><p>Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly (13) hands off to John White (30) during the second half of Thursday's game in Winnipeg. </p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly (13) hands off to John White (30) during the second half of Thursday's game in Winnipeg.

The Bombers wouldn’t lead again, falling 20-16 to the reigning Grey Cup champions in front of 24,007 fans at Investors Group Field.

The loss dropped the Bombers to 1-3 on the year, and 0-2 at home this season. Edmonton improves to 2-1 with the win, and for the first time in three games didn’t have to play an overtime.

"There’s nothing successful about losing," head coach Mike O’Shea said after the game.

STRONG START

It was about as good a first half as the Bombers have played this year. Rory Kohlert caught his first touchdown pass — a 20-yard catch from Drew Willy early in the second quarter — which matched his total from all of last season. Justin Medlock was perfect in his two kicks, hitting from 38 and 43 yards, respectively, with the second putting the Bombers up 13-3 late in the second.

For a moment it looked like the Blue and Gold were in complete control of the game.

Then Mike Reilly, was, well, Mike Reilly. The Eskimos quarterback and last year’s Grey Cup MVP, took over at his own 35-yard line and completed five of his next six passes, including a 15-yard toss to former Bomber Cory Watson.

That catch near the Bombers sideline needed a successful challenge after not one, but two refs called the play out of bounds. It would get reversed — one of four successful challenges, two by each team — and Watson would score three plays later, converting on a third-and-goal with a two-yard catch.

"We got to be better," said Bombers defensive lineman Euclid Cummings. "If they would have scored one less time, if we would could have held them one last time it would have been a different outcome."

As competitive as the Bombers were in the first half, it was far from perfect. The biggest head-scratcher came on special teams. Kevin Fogg, who was returning kicks for an injured Quincy McDuffie, appeared to score on a 94-yard punt return.

The play would be called back, however, thanks to an illegal-block penalty on Shayon Green, who, with Fogg already marching into the end zone, decided to shove his hand in the face of Edmonton’s Doug Parrish. Luckily for Green, Willy hit Kohlert three plays later for the score.

PIVOT BATTLE

Reilly threw for 375-plus yards in his first two games of 2016, making him just the second quarterback in Eskimos history to do so — the other being Ricky Ray. He topped those numbers Thursday night, completing 32 of his 45 passes for a whopping 465 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Reilly is now 6-0 in his last six starts against Winnipeg.

Willy’s numbers paled in comparison. He finished 25-for-38 for 299 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, the last falling into the hands of Edmonton’s Neil King on the final play of the game.

"I think there was a stretch there where he didn’t set his feet well enough to deliver the ball," said O’Shea, who added he never thought of making a change at quarterback.

For a third straight game, the Bombers were unable to mount a decent run game, with Andrew Harris rushing for just 22 yards on nine carries; bringing his total to just 103 yards during that stretch.

STREAKS LIVE ON

It has been close to two years since the Bombers have won back-to-back games, the last time coming in the 2014 season with wins against the B.C. Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in weeks 5 and 6. That streak will once again live on. So, too, will the Bombers’ streak against Edmonton, with their last win coming against the Eskimos July 26, 2012. O’Shea and Willy also fall to 5-0 lifetime against the Esks.

Because it’s the CFL, a league where even a record that is games below .500 is often good enough to make the playoffs, there is still hope for the Bombers; that hope will still likely be around for quite some time, win or lose in the coming weeks.

"I don’t think it’s hard to convince these guys that they have a room full of talent," said O’Shea.

But control over their own destiny is starting to slip for Winnipeg, and with every loss it will only be that much tougher a challenge to sell a brighter future for this team. Suggesting that 1-3 is OK works in places such as Edmonton and Hamilton, not in Winnipeg, where World Cups and the Winter Olympics seem to occur more often than a CFL playoff game.

UP NEXT

Things don’t get any easier for the Bombers, who face Calgary, a team they fell to 36-22 in Week 2, next week at home before a rematch in Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Read more by Jeff Hamilton  .

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History

Updated on Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 11:49 PM CDT: Formatting

12:07 AM: Updates with writethru

12:26 AM: Adds video

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