Plenty of times tonight Jason Maas and the Edmonton Eskimos opted to take the field goal instead of risking it o third and short.
Their drives often stalled out in the red zone through suffocating defence or by self-inflicted penalties before they got there. It’s not the most exciting brand of football, but the last two minutes sure had plenty.
Lucky Whitehead made his mark in his second ever CFL game as he found the end zone twice, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers grabbed a 28-21 win.
On the Bombers first throw of the game, Monshadrik Hunter led with his head and connected with Whitehead. Hunter was assessed a spearing penalty on the play. The league has been plagued with plays like this since the start of the season, and the trend continued.
Hunter’s penalty was one of five in the first quarter and 13 in the game for 139 yards. The flags extended the drive and it cost them. Pass interference led to a fresh set of downs and a big Nic Demski run. The hometown boy took off for 35 yards before following up with a seven-yard jaunt to secure the game’s first touchdown.
A nine-play drive stalled out and resulted in a field goal for the Esks in return. Harris found Kenny Stafford twice for big gains which helped move the ball down the field from their own 25.
Stafford made an impact for the second time in three games, finishing with 108 yards on eight receptions. He picked up 98 yards and two touchdowns in their season opener against Montreal.
Ricky Collins had one less yard than Stafford on the same amount of receptions.
Whitehead looked more than fine a few drives after the Hunter hit. On the first play after Edmonton’s score, Nichols found No. 7 for 75 yards on a catch and run touchdown as he got behind Godfrey Onyeka and was home free.
It was also a marquee matchup with the running backs, Andrew Harris and C.J Gable. Gable found 82 yards on the ground with 17 touches, while Harris struggled. He fumbled twice on 10 carries totalling 34 yards.
A second quarter 26-yard Justin Medlock punt set the Eskimos offence up on Winnipeg’s 50-yard line.
But once again the Blue and Gold defence stood tall. After giving up 21 yards on a pass to Stafford, they sent pressure on the following two plays, which were a no yards completion and an incompletion. Sean Whyte kicked his second field goal as a result and Edmonton was stuck eight.
The first Harris fumble set Edmonton’s offence up in the red zone. But once again it was bend don’t break for the Bombers defence. They gave up 14 yards but stopped a second down run and the Eskimos settled for another three points.
Winnipeg’s national running back Brady Oliveira was carted off near the end of the half as he injured his right leg on a kick return after landing awkwardly.
A late interception off a tipped pass led to a quick drive and Whyte’s fourth field goal of the half, this one the longest from 45 yards out and Edmonton trailed 14-12 after two quarters.
Despite trailing, Harris had just six incompletions on 26 passes and 210 yards, compared to Nichols’ 5-for-10 with a touchdown, an interception and 110 yards.
When it was all said and done, Harris edged Nichols in yards (345) and completions (35-for-54 ) but couldn’t make the red zone trips count. The Bombers pivot ended up with 200 yards on 13-for-21 passing and a trio of touchdown tosses.
Brandon Alexander was all over the field for the Bombers in the first half finishing with eight tackles, and added two more in the second half.
The third started with Nichols moving the ball down the field quickly; before a 38-yard pass interference was called following a review set them up inside the five. He then found his running back in the air to restore their nine-point lead.
Defence stifled the offence on both sides again until a behind the line of scrimmage toss to the man of the game Whitehead saw him juke his way through the defence for 41 yards and his second touchdown of the game. That followed a strong 30-yard punt return by Charles Nelson.
That was all the offence the quarter saw as the game moved into the fourth.
The final frame saw Whyte hit is fifth, sixth, and seventh consecutive field goals as Maas opted to take guaranteed points rather than go for six in the final few minutes.
His trust in the final two minutes rested with the defence after the last field goal, and it proved to be fruitful. A quick two-and-out and Harris and the offence had the ball with 1:15 to play.
The Bombers got the stop, but then Andrew Harris fumbled the pigskin for the second time looking to run out the clock. Harris went back to work with 54 seconds left, the drive extended by an illegal contact on a receiver penalty 20 game seconds later.
But nothing came from it, and Winnipeg narrowly escaped with a win.
The Bombers are in Ottawa for Week 4 while Edmonton has a week off.