It was another game against the Montreal Alouettes that went down to the final play and once again, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had the last word.
Justin Medlock’s fourth field of the game in the second overtime lifted the Blue Bombers to a 34-31 victory on Thursday night.
It was the Bombers’ fifth win in a row, a streak that started July 27 with a wild 41-40 home victory over Montreal when they erased a 12-point Alouette lead in the final two minutes.
“A huge win,” said Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols, who threw touchdown passes to Clarence Denmark and Julian Feoli-Gudino in regulation time. “We knew it would take the entire game to come away with it.
“With the confidence this team had, we knew we’d find a way to win. Attitude is a deadly thing in this league and we feel we’re going to win every time we step on the field. Guys stepped up and made plays when we needed them, in all phases.”
Montreal ended the first half at 3-6, the same record as last season despite wholesale player and management changes.
The loss put a damper on celebrations for Montreal slotback Nik Lewis, who caught 10 passes to set a CFL record with 1,031 career receptions, two more than B.C. Lions great Geroy Simon. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie led a post-game ceremony to honour the 14-year veteran’s achievement at centre field.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know that if you keep working it is possible,” said Lewis. “For a kid like me who never thought he’d play professional football, this is a pretty outstanding honour.”
George Johnson and Ernest Jackson caught touchdown passes and Bede booted three field goals for Montreal, which was coming off a 38-6 loss in Toronto last week.
Regulation time ended at 23-23. Both teams got touchdowns and two-point conversions on their first possession from the 35-yard line in OT, but Darian Durant was picked off by Chris Randle on the Alouettes’ second try. That left an easy 38-yard boot for Medlock to get the win.
It was Randle’s second pick of the game.
The Alouettes erased a 10-point Winnipeg lead in the final 5:07 to force OT, with Bede tying the game with a 48-yard field goal with nine seconds left on the clock. The final play saw the teams punt the ball back and forth as the Bombers tried to avoid giving up a single on the kickoff. The ball was kicked five times before it was run out of bounds.
“I don’t play football to break records, I play to win, and we let another one slip through,” said Lewis. “We just keep doing it.”
The Bombers jumped on Montreal mistakes early for a 10-0 first quarter lead only to give it back in the second.
Winnipeg’s opening drive led to a Medlock 47-yard field goal.
A Randle interception gave Winnipeg the ball on the Montreal 54. Six plays later, Nichols found Denmark alone at the back of the end zone at 9:24.
A long Montreal drive produced Bede’s 19-yard boot 3:34 into the second quarter.
Montreal survived a scare when Brandon Rutley recovered a Jackson fumble to retain possession and Durant finished the drive with a 31-yard pass-and-run TD to Johnson with 12 seconds left in the half.
The Alouettes tried a trick play on third and three on the opening possession of the second half but the direct snap to Nicolas Boulay was stopped at the Montreal 51. On the next play, Nichols hit Darvin Adams with a 44-yard pass to set up a four-yard TD toss to Feoli-Gudino at 5:30.
Montreal answered with Bede’s 19-yard field goal at 8:50, but the Bombers marched back to the Montreal six, only to be stopped. Medlock settled for an 11-yard boot two minutes into the fourth quarter, then added another from 47 yards at 9:53.
The Alouettes closed the gap when Jackson won a battle for the ball on the goal line with Brandon Alexander for a 38-yard TD catch with 3:23 left to play.
Durant completed 31 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns, but gave up two costly interceptions and fumbled once. Nichols had 227 yards on 26 completions and three touchdowns but his only pick was on a meaningless play at the end of the first half.
“I think we’re a team that can play with anyone,” said Nichols, now 17-5 since taking over as the starter last season. “We’re excited about where we are now but it is only the midway point.
“There’s a lot of football left to be played. A lot of records can flip-flop. Now we get a bit of rest and there will be a couple of fist fights with Saskatchewan on Labour Day.”