A ball-hungry defence and Matt Nichols’ steady play at quarterback has the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on a roll.
Linebacker Maurice Leggett’s 60-yard interception return touchdown gave the Bombers the lead and the defence shut out Montreal in the second half of a 32-18 victory over the Alouettes on Friday night.
The Winnipeg defence picked off four Kevin Glenn passes, recovered a fumble and forced a turnover on downs.
“It’s fun watching those guys fly around,” Nichols said of the defence. “They do the same thing in practice.
“You’re playing against a bunch of very well coached, hard working guys on that defence and they do it every week.”
The Bombers (5-4) won their fourth game in a row since Nichols replaced Drew Willy as the starting quarterback. Justin Medlock went six-for-six on field goals to run his streak to 20 in a row, a career high, while Andrew Harris sealed the win with a late TD after a long, time-eating drive.
Harris had fumbled the ball away twice earlier in the game, but made up for it with a 19-yard scoring run at 12:54 of the fourth quarter.
“It was definitely frustrating,” said Harris. “It was a dog fight out there.
“I was able to redeem myself and make a good play at the end but I couldn’t have done it without the team.”
Stefan Logan and backup quarterback Vernon Adams scored touchdowns and Anthony Fara had a field goal for Montreal (3-6), which fell short in its bid to win two games in a row for the first time this season after a big win last week in Ottawa. Montreal is 1-4 at home this season, while Winnipeg improved to 4-1 on the road. The Bombers have won their last four away games.
“They had a lot of turnovers,” said Montreal coach Jim Popp. “We were lucky to hold them to field goals most of the game until the end.
“We didn’t score a point in the second half. That doesn’t help the defence. And they seemed to win the field position. They had better field position than we did, no matter what the stats are.”
Montreal produced 346 yards of net offence to Winnipeg’s 313 and had a little over a minute more time of possession, but turnovers and penalties were factors. The Bombers drew a lot of flags in the first half, but fixed that in the second, when Montreal repeatedly took drive-killing penalties.
A crowd of 19,026 saw the Bombers take a 19-18 lead into the intermission.
A 51-yard Quincey McDuffie kickoff return set up Medlock’s first boot from 39 yards, and a Justin Cole pick on Montreal’s first possession set up a 47-yard field goal at 5:38. Then Derek Jones blocked a Fara punt and Medlock was good from 13.
“As an offence, we feel we should finish off some of those drives,” said Nichols. “They started us out on the 15-yard line one time and we couldn’t get it in the end zone, so we need to be better.”
Glenn, who completed 29-of-38 passes for 283 yards, finally got it going on his next possession and led an eight-play drive capped by Logan’s nine-yard score on a shovel pass at 12:44.
Gabriel Knapton recovered a Harris fumble and, six plays later, Adams scored from the one to put Montreal ahead 15-9 3:18 into the second quarter.
The Bombers answered with Medlock’s 20-yard boot.
Then Leggett picked off a Glenn pass and returned it 60 yards for the TD at 9:55 of the second quarter. It was the third interception return TD this year for Leggett, who had two picks against Toronto two weeks ago. Montreal answered with a 26-yard Fara kick to end the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Medlock kicked his fifth field goal of the game from 40 yards 5:48 into the fourth.
After Harris scored, a Taylor Loffler interception clinched the win and set up Medlock’s sixth boot of the game. Khalil Bass had a pick on the last play, the Bombers fourth of the game.
It was the first game that a new CFL rule on challenges was in place and Winnipeg’s Mike O’Shea used it first when he successfully got a pass interference call against Montreal, but he tried it again unsuccessfully in the second quarter and lost a time out. The new rule charges a time out for a first challenge that fails.
Montreal also lost a challenge.