Matt Nichols had almost forgotten what it felt like to win. It was good.
The Winnipeg quarterback threw one touchdown pass and no interceptions as the Blue Bombers halted a four-game losing streak with a 31-14 victory over the Montreal Alouettes Friday.
“Any time you go through a stretch like that without getting a win, you almost forget what that feeling feels like, celebrating with your teammates in the locker room after a good win and a much-needed win,” said Nichols, who was playing his 100th CFL career game.
“Obviously, it was an incredible feeling. I’m proud of how the whole team responded this week and we came out and it felt like we were flying around in all phases.”
Nichols, who was pulled at halftime in Winnipeg’s previous game after throwing three picks, completed 18-of-25 pass attempts for 256 yards and threw a touchdown toss to running back Andrew Harris.
Montreal quarterback Johnny Manziel, making his third CFL start, was sacked five times. The former Heisman Trophy winner went 18 for 25 for 212 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Bombers defensive lineman Craig Roh pulled Manziel down three times and also had seven defensive tackles.
“Sacking quarterbacks is already fun, but when they have a million Instagram followers it’s even more fun,” Roh said, referring to Manziel’s social media popularity.
The victory in front of 24,349 fans at Investors Group Field upped Winnipeg’s record to 6-7, while the Alouettes moved into double digits for losses at 3-10.
Manziel was intercepted by defensive back Marcus Sayles with less than three minutes left in the game. Winnipeg used the turnover to score on a one-yard quarterback sneak by backup Chris Streveler with 31 seconds remaining.
After going around the locker-room shaking his teammates’ hands, a disappointed Manziel told reporters he thought he knew the coverage the Bombers would present, but it didn’t work out and the interception hurt.
“It’s hard,” Manziel said. “It’s hard, you know, how hard these guys are working just to come up short like that in the end. Like I said, I’m sick to my stomach.”
Sayles, a rookie out of the University of West Georgia, was thrilled with his contribution.
‘It was just crazy. We knew we had to seal the deal,” Sayles said. “I feel like our momentum was going a little bit down towards the end of the third so we made a team decision to come back together. We made a play and everybody did their job.”
Harris caught his 10-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter, but left the game late in the second quarter with an injury and didn’t return. There was no update. He finished with seven carries for 44 yards, giving him 1,028 yards for the season. It’s his fourth season surpassing the 1,000-yard milestone.
His replacement, Kienan LaFrance, ran in a seven-yard TD. Justin Medlock booted three field goals, one from 50 yards and a pair from 43 yards. He also made his three converts.
Winnipeg also lost linebacker Adam Bighill and receiver Nic Demski to injuries in the third quarter.
Montreal backup quarterback Antonio Pipkin ran in a two-yard TD. Kicker Boris Bede connected on field goals from 47 and 31 yards out and was good on his convert.
Manziel was sacked four times in the first half as the Bombers mounted a 20-6 lead just before the break.
Winnipeg appeared to score a touchdown with a minute and a half left in the first half, but it was wiped out by a penalty.
Manziel was sacked in the end zone, fumbled the ball and it was pounced on by Roh, but defensive back Brandon Alexander was called for illegal contact on a receiver.
The Als squeezed the score to 21-14 just over three minutes into the fourth quarter.
‘These guys want to win,” Manziel said. “There’s no denying the will and the want to in this locker-room and with this team.
“It’s the little things that we’re not doing to keep us together as far as penalties, flipping the field when we need to, doing little bitty things that we can execute better on.”
Montreal had nine penalties for 75 yards, while the Bombers were only flagged once for 10 yards.