It certainly lived up to the billing as a heavyweight battle. And in the end, the three-time defending Western champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers reminded many of their makeup as they battled back to stun the hometown BC Lions 34-26 in overtime before a raucous crowd of 23,512 at Save-On-Foods Field at BC Place.
The win moves Winnipeg firmly into the driver’s seat for first place in the West and home-field advantage for the Fivision Final on November 11th. With one more victory or a loss by the Lions, Winnipeg would lock up first place. Tonight, the visitors got it done despite trailing by ten points with less than three minutes to go. Now for some game takes following a hard-fought battle.
Wild Fourth-Quarter Proves Vital
It would be best to sum up this game by jumping straight to the fourth quarter. The Lions began the final frame up 23-16 but were on their heels as Zach Collaros and the Bomber offence were consistently moving up the field. The home defence then got not one but two strip sacks deep in their own territory to prevent Winnipeg from creeping closer.
The first was a Mathieu Betts takedown followed by a sack that was credited to Woody Baron with David Menard also in on the pressure. That second turnover led to a fourth Sean Whyte field goal of the night and a ten-point advantage. That’s when things got even more wild. After Collaros hit Drew Wolitarsky to close the gap to three, Vernon Adams Jr. was stopped short on a second-down scramble. The Bombers then stuffed them on the third and short run by Dom Davis to help set them up around midfield before forcing the extra session on a Sergio Castillo field goal.
All of that would have been forgotten had Dominique Rhymes simply gone down after a long reception with eight seconds left on the clock. He tried to go all the way to the house when a field goal would do the job. The dynamic Lion playmaker owned his mistake afterward.
“I felt like he (the defender) fell down and I had a chance to score but I’ve got to be better for the team,” said Rhymes in the locker room afterward.
“I’ve got to be a better player and more aware.”
Not one play determined this result. But it’s hard to not think about what might have been had they found a way to snatch a winning field goal from the jaws of overtime. The extra session saw Brady Oliveira run in a major before the Lions failed to generate one first down.
At the end of the day, it will go down as an opportunity lost after the Lions led 17-3 in the second quarter. Adams Jr. finished his night 19 of 33 for 352 yards and a long touchdown to Jevon Cottoy that gave them the 14-point advantage. The failure to generate long drives in the second half is what will serve as their undoing in this contest.
“I don’t know what happened, “explained Adams Jr. of the second half stalling.
“You can’t do that to a good team like that. The defence comes up with back-to-back strip sacks and we’ve got to help them out as an offence. Receivers, o-line, all of us. We’ve got to help each other out. Yeah, this is a tough way to lose.”
As for the Rhymes miscue, the quarterback and leader had this to say:
“He wasn’t too happy with himself. We just have to love on each other, be there for each other, pick ourselves up and learn from this experience. We didn’t lose the game because of that play. It was a lot more.”
As far as playoff positioning goes it will indeed take a miracle to finish above second. All they can do from this point in is approach their final two games- at Hamilton next week and home to Calgary on October 20th- with a playoff-like intensity.
“We have a very good group, it’s a special team. I don’t feel any different about them. If Dom Rhymes had scored on that last play, I’d feel the same about our guys,” said head coach Rick Campbell.
“I’m glad it hurts them really badly because I know that they care. That’s a hurting group in there. It’s because they’re good guys and they care. We’ll just make sure we channel it in the right direction of getting back up and keep going. Like I said, we can be right there with anyone in this league.”
107- a game-high in receiving yards for Rhymes despite the late miscue.
3– turnovers forced by the Lion defence: those two sacks plus a first-half interception by Adrian Greene.
389– passing yards for Collaros as the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player earned full marks for this comeback.
6– sacks by the aggressive Blue Bomber defensive front.
127- rushing yards for the Bombers including 73 from the always-dangerous Oliveira.
The Lions hit the road for the final time this regular season for a battle with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Friday, October 13. Kickoff at Tim Hortons Field is 4:00 p.m. The 7-8-0 Tiger-Cats welcome back Bo Levi Mitchell when they wrap up week 18 in Saskatchewan on Saturday.