Start fast, die the same: nine thoughts on the Elks’ blown lead against the Bombers

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

It started with so much promise but the story ended the same way. The Edmonton Elks blew a 22-point lead to add their 22nd consecutive home loss, losing 38-29 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

Hot Start

Put your hand up if you thought that it would be 15-0 at the end of the first quarter. Now keep it up if you thought that would be in the Elks’ favour. If you still have your hand up, I’d suggest your pants may be on fire.

On the very first offensive play of the game, the green and gold offensive line opened a huge lane for running back Kevin Brown and he scampered for a 65-yard touchdown. On Edmonton’s third series, they drove 77 yards and starting quarterback Tre Ford capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. The defence chipped in five minutes later with a Loucheiz Purifoy pick-six to bring the lead to 22-0.

There was almost disbelief in the stands. It was the hottest start the Elks had had all year. The bye week promotions of Jarious Jackson to offensive coordinator and Tre Ford to QB1 seemed to have worked! And then the old patterns returned…

Collaros Injury the Spark

Edmonton was bringing a lot of pressure early in this game, disrupting Zach Collaros’ rhythm. With 11:30 left in the first half, the pressure was coming again and Collaros tried to do his best Taylor Cornelius impression by flipping the ball forward. That ended as Elks fans have seen before, in the opponent’s hands running in for the touchdown. But as the ball left his hand, defensive lineman Kony Ealy landed on top of Collaros and the pivot stayed down.

He was able to get up and run off the field but was ruled out for the rest of the game due to an upper-body injury. That was the spark that awoke the beast that is the Blue Bombers.

Dru Brown took the reins and did his best Collaros impression, outscoring the Elks 38-7 in the remaining two and a half quarters. It was an amazing outing where he went 17-of-24 for 307 yards and four touchdown passes in relief.

The Bombers’ offensive line nullified the pass rush and opened lanes for Brady Oliveira. The Winnipeg defence generated five two-and-out drives, a fumble, and a late interception. It was clear that Winnipeg played inspired football for their downed leader.

Turning Points

Although the Bombers had already started the comeback, the true turning point happened with 9:45 left in the third quarter.

The Elks held Winnipeg to a punt on their first possession of the second half and Tre Ford unleashed a beautiful 53-yard pass to Dillon Mitchell that got them to the Bombers’ 22-yard line. Edmonton ran up to the line to go no-huddle and start the next play.

The ensuing hand-off to Kevin Brown seemed clean but was fumbled as he was hit by Jackson Jeffcoat, who then recovered the loose ball. The very next drive was a Bomber touchdown by Nic Demski. Instead of Edmonton being up two scores, Winnipeg was now only five points down.

The EE did get another touchdown in the game but that, at minimum, 10-point swing gave Winnipeg the momentum they needed to mount the full comeback.

Tre Ford Earns QB1

Canadian quarterbacks always draw high attention in the CFL. One that gets drafted in the first round even more so. Tre Ford, drafted eighth overall in 2022, got his first start of this season after being QB3 for the first eight games. Other than a few misreads, which is to be expected of a young quarterback, he showed some great things.

He wasn’t afraid to use his legs, running for 50 yards and a touchdown, and was accurate on the passes he did make. Ford went 12-of-16 for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The read to see Kyran Moore in a one-on-one situation and the sharp pass to turn it into a 70-yard touchdown were excellent. I am excited for him to get more time and for the game to slow down for him.

The playcalling started out great with throws going to the down markers on second down and a better balance of run and pass. As the game went on though, there were fewer passes being called and it seemed to fall back into the conservative calling that fans have seen before.

“Things to build off of. I wish we were a little bit more aggressive still earlier in the first half. I know we got up by a lot and we were pretty conservative,” Ford told the media post-game.

“Definitely would have liked to get the ball downfield a little bit more but that’s not my call. I’m going to rock with whatever Coach says to do, as he is trying to give us the best chance to win. I just wish we could have left the foot on the pedal a little bit versus playing a little conservative, trying not to lose instead of trying to score more points.”

When asked after the game, Chris Jones did confirm that Ford had done enough to earn a second start next week.


Lack of discipline reared its ugly head once again for the Elks. Late in the third quarter, after increasing the lead to 28-17, Edmonton gave up 50 yards in penalties on one drive. The Bombers only needed to earn 10 yards to get a touchdown and the Elks gave the rest away. If you include the penalty on the illegal kickoff to start that drive, it ended up being 97 yards of penalties on a single series.

“Two penalties and zero turnovers in the first half and then we turn around and have eight penalties and two turnovers in the second half,” Jones said. “We give them momentum and then they go into their big package and (Oliveira) is hard to do business with. He’s leading the league in rushing for a reason. We couldn’t gain momentum because we were too busy giving the game away in the second half.”

Best Dillon Mitchell Yet

This was, by far, the best game from Dillon Mitchell this year. It started early with an enormous block to open up the run for Kevin Brown on the first touchdown of the game. He finished the game with four catches for 67 yards. He seemed more engaged and energized. More of this D-Mitch, please!

Third and Two

The most debated call from this game will be Jones’ decision to go for it on third-and-two with just over two minutes left in the game. Edmonton was down two scores at the time and could have taken the 39-yard field goal to make it a one-score game. Instead, they lined up in shotgun and tried the handoff to Kevin Brown. Zero yards and a turnover on downs.

I can see the reasoning behind going for it with the way that Winnipeg can dominate a clock with their run game. I am not sure what happened with that play call though. With a six-foot-five quarterback — that’s just over two yards tall, for the record — as your short-yardage guy, I would have thought the sneak would be the preferred option. Still, a tough call to make against a team that can dominate those last three minutes.

Two Down on Defence

Defensive lineman Elliott Brown had to be carted off the field in the second quarter. That meant an expanded role for rookie Noah Curtis. I expect him to be part of the regular rotation in the coming weeks.

Even more troubling was Loucheiz Purifoy going down in the fourth quarter. He has been one of Edmonton’s better DBs throughout this stretch. He was seen on crutches after the game. Woodly Appolon, who just returned from injury himself, was in rotation for Purifoy’s spot. Who fills into what spots in practice and the injury report will be a thing to keep an eye on this week.

Try Again Next Week

Going blow for blow with the Bombers was a welcome surprise for this team, but there are no moral victories in this game.

“The next victory is to get a victory. We put a couple pieces together today, but we need to complete the puzzle,” Ford said. “0-9 is a tough look, regardless of good things happening, so we really need to get that first win.”

“It is the most frustrating thing I have ever had to deal with. We have a good bunch of kids in there. They work hard,” Jones added. “A lot of people around town say, well, you all deserve (a win). No, we don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it until we come and play four quarters of disciplined hardnosed football and play four quarters of tough physical, blocking and tackling and go take a game. That’s when we will deserve it.”

They have another opportunity to find that win against Hamilton on Thursday, August 17.

Andrew Hoskins is a lifelong Edmonton resident and the host of the Turf District Podcast.