Buck Pierce returned to the lineup and didn’t throw much. Chad Simpson got the football and made the best of it. And Ricky Ray put up huge numbers and lost again. Sounds like a normal night in the Canadian Football League.
Friday night at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ray completed 20-of-33 passes for 383 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and yet his Toronto Argos were drilled 44-32 by the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Meanwhile, with Pierce back in the lineup, the Bombers didn’t use the pass to win its fifth game of the season, it used the run. Chad Simpson carried 20 times for 136 yards and a touchdown, Will Ford carried 10 times for 85 yards and a touchdown and backup quarterback Alex Brink carried 10 times for 31 yards and two touchdowns and threw a four-yard pass to defensive lineman Jason Vega for another touchdown. Vegas was lined up as a tight end and made the best of his opportunity as the Bombers scored first and often and raised their record to 5-11 this season.
With the win, the Bombers moved into a third-place tie in the East with Hamilton. Both teams have 10 points, but Winnipeg owns the season series and, therefore, the Bombers are in third place. With the loss, Toronto feel to 7-9 on the season and can’t finish better than second in the East. The 9-6 Montreal Alouettes wrapped up first place in the East no matter what happens the rest of the season.
While Isaac Anderson caught six passes for 82 yards and Vega scored on the only TD pass of the night for Winnipeg, the Bombers rushing game was almost unstoppable. In total, the Bombers rushed for 260 yards while Will ford put an exclamation point on the victory by running in from five yards out with nine seconds remaining to turn a 37-32 lead into a 44-32 blowout.
The Bombers jumped out to a quick first quarter lead as Pierce led the Blue on a 17-play 89-yard drive that was capped by the trick play to Vega. For there until the end, the Bombers running game ground out the yardage as Simpson might have played his best game as a Blue Bomber. He also passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
The Bombers built a 14-0 lead after the first quarter and held onto lead 24-21 at halftime as Ray heated up in the second quarter. Winnipeg outscored Toronto 10-1 in the third quarter and that just about put it away. Both teams scored 10 points in the fourth as Winnipeg won its second road game in three weeks.
Pierce, meanwhile, played in his first game since Sept. 29, when he got drilled under the chin on a late-hit by a blitzing Brandon Isaac of the Argos. He missed two games but came back and played well on Friday night. He also played well without his favorite target, Terrence Edwards who missed the game with a foot injury.
What makes Friday’s win so incredible for the Bombers is this: if Winnipeg can beat Hamilton at Ivor Wynne Stadium next Saturday and then beat Montreal at Canad Inns Stadium on Nov. 3, the Bombers will finish the season at 7-11. If Toronto loses its last two games — in Saskatchewan and at home to Hamilton — the Argos will also finish 7-11, but because Winnipeg now has the upper hand in the season series, the Bombers can claim second place in the East. Even if Toronto gets a win down the stretch, the Bombers can finish third in the East if they win out and Edmonton continues to lose. The Eskimos lost 39-19 in B.C. last night, and if they lose in Montreal next week and then lose at home to Calgary in the final week of the season, they’ll finish 7-11 and miss the crossover.
Despite all of their problems this season, despite a fired coach, a concussed quarterback and a general manager who has been pleading for love from the fans, the Bombers themselves have a chance to win out, make the playoffs and even play host to a post-season game.
It’s shocking and it hasn’t happened yet, but there is still a chance.