Maybe there were some doubts or concerns floating out there – and that’s likely a big, fat maybe based on their body of work and the relentlessness of the head coach – but if there were, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers promptly erased them all again.
Yes, despite having already clinched a playoff spot and first place in the West Division and not having a ‘meaningful’ game again until the West Final on December 5th, the Bombers kept their foot jammed down on the gas pedal in a 31-21 win over the Montreal Alouettes in front of 22,933 on a pristine fall night at IG Field. The win, the ninth straight for the Bombers, improves the club to 11-1. The Als, meanwhile, fall to 6-6.
“It was definitely different than the last couple of weeks,” said Bombers QB Zach Collaros, who finished 21 of 33 for 280 yards and two touchdowns. “I think it was great for us to face some adversity there and I thought Montreal played a really, really good game in all three phases.
“I thought we did what we had to do down the stretch. Everybody kinda had that look in their eye in the third and fourth quarter and knew they were going to have to execute at a high level in order to win and guys did that and got a victory.”
Tied at 21-21 after 45 minutes, the Bombers served up some fourth-quarter magic – again – to seal the deal. Winnipeg out-scored the Als 10-0 in the final 15 minutes, courtesy of a Sean McGuire QB-sneak TD and a Sergio Castillo field goal, and the defence did its thing with two interceptions – one by Adam Bighill, the other by DeAundre Alford.
It marked the 10th time in 12 games the Bombers have shut out their rivals in the final 15 minutes and Winnipeg’s cumulative points for/against total in the fourth quarter is now an astonishing 116-6.
“It comes down to guys knowing their assignments and playing fast,” said linebacker Adam Bighill, who had eight tackles and the interception. “We don’t have question marks. Everyone is seeing their targets and hitting their bullseye. You’ve got to play us all four quarters and don’t expect us to give you anything. Everything’s going to be contested.”
In addition to the McGuire score, the Bombers got TDs through the air from Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky and three field goals from Sergio Castillo, who finished the night three of four in field goal attempts, connecting from 22, 34 and 47 yards while missing from 38 yards. The victory was the Bombers 10th this season by double-digits or more, with only their 18-16 win over Calgary being by less than 10 points. But the Als also took the lead 21-14 on their first drive of the second half before the Bombers blanked them 17-0 in the final 28 minutes.
“Adversity’s always good,” said Bombers defensive tackle Jake Thomas, who had four tackles and two sacks. “We’ve got to realize it’s not always going to be sugar cookies and rainbows. We’re not always going to be up 45-0.
“Today we were in a hard-nosed football game… it’s fun to be in those games. It’s fun to be in the fourth quarter and you’re going out there to try and shut them down and it matters. They’re a good team and I’m sure it’s going to be another close one next week.”
THE BIG STAT: 7-0
Worth noting – especially as the next game at IG Field is the West Final on December 5th: the Bombers finished the season a perfect 7-0 at home, the first time since going 8-0 at old Winnipeg Stadium in 1984. There’s more: Winnipeg is now 18-1 in its last 19 at home dating back to the fall of 2018.
The Bombers were without RB Andrew Harris and RT Jermarcus Hardrick, with Hardrick listed as the inactive player… Wolitarsky’s third-quarter TD was his first of the season and first since a win over the Alouettes on Oct. 13, 2019… Collaros went over 20,000 passing yards in his career in the win and pushed his record to 15-1 as a starter here in Winnipeg.
“We definitely like the win, for sure, and because we won I don’t mind it. It’s certainly a little more adversity and a little different feel to it, for sure. And having to go out and gut one out there in the second half is maybe a position we haven’t really been in maybe in a little while. Certainly it’s good to learn from this and a good time to learn from it.” – Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea
1st/1st: Zach Collaros boosted his league-leading passing totals – he now has 3,112 yards through the air – and 20 TDs, both first in the CFL.
7-111: Kenny Lawler led all receivers with seven catches for 111 yards. Included in those totals were three second-down conversions.
106: Alouette RB William Stanback did his thing, rushing 16 times for 106 yards and, in the process, went over the 1K mark.
NEXT: The Bombers face the Alouettes again next Saturday, this time in Montreal, with a noon CT kickoff.
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