Winnipeg receives the opening kickoff to the week 17 game match up. Buck Pierce and Ricky Ray are both playing in this game, Ray leaving the Argos game against the Allouettes with a knee injury, and Pierce leaving the week 14 matchup against the very same Argos after Brandon Isaac knocked him out of the game with a helmet to helmet hit. Isaac was fined for the hit, but the fine was not disclosed.
Coming into this game the Bombers and Argonauts are the lowest scoring teams in the league.
The opening drives for each side looked similar. They both went two and out and each team got to their opponents quarterback early, with the defensive tackle Armand Armstead getting to Buck Pierce, and Linebacker Marcellus Bowman hitting Ray.
Winnipeg’s running game ignites early with Chad Simpson opening up with 3 rushes for a total of 15 yards. All the runs were up the middle, finding gaps through the Argonauts defensive line.
A little later into the same drive, Buck Pierce connects with Doug Pierce, the newest addition to the Bombers receiving core, playing in his first ever CFL game, and his first ever CFL catch is a beauty. He extends his arms as far as he can, beats out the defender, and dives over the middle for a 35 yard catch. Then right after, Simpson runs for another 10 yards, once again up the middle, showing an early weakness in the Argos D. A couple plays later, his number his called again! And again he went through the middle! And again he gained 10 yards! The Argo defence hasn’t figured him out. The Bombers drive started on their own 20 yard line, the drive took over 9 minutes long, and it ends with a touchdown from backup quarterback Alex Brink, who was called in for a short yardage situation and calls a play action, to defensive end Jason Vega for the 6 points, with the extra point making it 7. The drive was dominated by Chad Simpson and Buck Pierce, but neither get credit on the play that really matters, but regardless the score becomes 7-0 Winnipeg. A 15 Play 89 yards, 9 minutes off the clock is the scoring drive.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chad Owens fumbles the ball for the seventh time off of special teams, and Winnipeg recovers, already in scoring position, making the crowd more quiet and nervous than a pregnant nun.
The drive starts with a 7 yard run by yes, Simpson, and yes, up the middle on the Argos 27 yard line. So far the Bombers have had the ball for 10:30 and the Argos 1:18. Chad Simpson then extends the drive with a run. No! NOT up the middle! To the RIGHT! Making it first down Bombers with 1:40 to play in the first quarter. Two plays later, Pierce connects with Isaac Anderson who takes it himself into the end zone. However the new CFL rule states that all scoring plays are automatically reviewed, and the touchdown is overruled because Anderson’s knee was down before the ball crossed the end zone. But Brink hits the scoreboard once again for his team as he plunges it up the middle on the goal line for a touchdown. 14-0 Bombers with fewer than 30 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Ricky Ray comes out onto the field finally after almost 14 minutes, at this point of the game; the Argos have run 2 offensive plays, while Winnipeg have run 22. Ray hits Andre Durie for 22 yards for the last play in the quarter, the ball at the 50 yard line.
Wait a second! There is a fifth quarter in this game at halftime! It just so happens to be Wendy’s Kick for a Million contest! And who else but a Winnipeg native Rich Pope to attempt a 50 yard field goal for a chance at one million dollars. It has been eight years since that memorable million dollar kick by Ontario’s Dave Thompson that no one thought would ever come close-including Wendy’s, going through the uprights from 50 yards.
But back to the CFL. Ray connects once more with Durie for 8 yards to open up the second quarter. And it only seems fit to cap the drive led solely by Ray and Durie, to connect once more, this time in the end zone, cutting the Bombers lead in half, 14-7 Winnipeg.
A 42 yard kickoff return by Demond Washington gets knocked back to a 32 yard return after a 10 yard penalty. Simpson runs up the gut for a 20 yard gain. Will Ford, Simpson’s replacement after he takes a play off after coming up limping, gets the handoff outside and runs for a big 35 yard gain. The ground game is punishing the Argonauts in this first half of football. This drive is capped by a 32 yard field goal by Justin Palardy. 17-7 for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The following Argonauts drive is a scoring one, and really only one play deserves to be mentioned, and that is a 45 yard reception to Chad Owens getting the ball into the red zone, and the ensuing play Slot back Jason Barnes gets the touchdown pass over the head of the defender, near the sideline to make the Winnipeg lead only 3. 17-14 Winnipeg with 8 minutes to play in the half.
After a two and out by the Bombers, the punt return by Owens is fumbled clearly as shown on replay, but the referees rule it his knee was down when the ball came loose. As Tim Burke, the Interim head coach for the Bombers reaches for his challenge flag, the veteran Ray quick snaps before he could throw it, and that quick thinking pays off. The very next play Maurice Mann is marked down after a 37 yard gain through the air, followed by a 10 yard catch from Spencer Watt and then a 10 yard run by Chad Kackert. The drive is then ended by a hookup in the end zone from Ray to Jason Barnes for the second time, giving the Argonauts a 21 to 17 lead. The drive that would have never happened with a challenge by Winnipeg was 6 plays 69 yards and ended in 6, then evidently 7 points, and a lead change.
But the Bombers respond quickly, two plays into their drive; Will Ford receives the pass down the side and runs for a gain of 55 yards. This is backed up with a Matthews catch for 15 yards. The only plays in this game so far, have been big plays. It hasn’t been too often where you see a minimal gain play. The drive is extended courtesy of a 15 yard facemask penalty (among others) with 2 minutes left in the half. Chad Simpson. I have said his name many, many times so far, and I am again. He runs the ball to the left and DIVES over the defender to cross the goal line to get the score. He dove a good 3-5 yards into the end zone. 24-21 Winnipeg in Circus like fashion. 1:52 left in the half.
The first half ends with the Bombers in the lead, and the kick for a million at the half time has all the attention. Rich Pope, 35, is the man chosen out of the 14 million who entered online to kick for a million dollars. His 20 yard field goal, for a $25,000 gift card to the source is good. His 30 yard field goal, for a 2013 decked out Nissan Titan is good! His 40 yard field goal, for $100,000, the kick that no one has ever made before in the competition, even from Dave Thompson, who nailed the 50 yarder, is wide left. His 50 yard field goal, the one for the one million dollars, is wide right. However he gets $1,000 for every yard the ball was in the air, so he collects $42,000 off of the million dollar kick. It still is a nice payday.
The third quarter gets underway with a quick two and out from the Toronto offence and Winnipeg quickly gets their offense back on the field. After a facemask penalty gets during the punt against Toronto gets Winnipeg on the Argo’s 49, Simpson stiffs arms defenders to pick up 15 two plays in. The yards end their as Palardy is out to attempt and make a 45 yard field goal, extending the lead to 27-21 in favor of Winnipeg.
The Argos opt to take the ball on the 35 yard line, and Ray dumps it to Andre Durie, who picks up tons of Y.A.C yards to make something out of nothing, a 35 yard play. Two straight incomplete passes sends Swayze Waters to attempt a 47 yard field goal and is wide left. The Bombers concede a point, and the Winnipeg lead is now 27-22.
A few plays into the Bombers drive, Pierce Connects with Anderson for 15 yards. Two plays later Anderson makes the catch again, for 18 yards, and Brandon Isaac, the man who knocked Pierce out in week 14 rocks Pierce on the play, and Pierce leaves the field. Alex Brink runs for 7 yards and then for 4 to extend the drive. Pierce comes back onto the field, allowing the Bombers faithful to breathe once more. The very first play Pierce comes back, Ejiro Kuale makes a hit of the YEAR candidate on Pierce, who stays on the ground for a while but gets right back up. The draw play on 2nd and 10 works as Simpson runs for 15 yards. Pierce takes the next two plays off and Brink runs both times, making it 1st and goal on the two. Here Brink runs it in from there and plunges into the end zone; the game is now 34-22 Winnipeg. The drive ate up almost 7 minutes of the clock.
Brink has 2 rushing touchdowns and a TD pass to a defensive end so far tonight.
Toronto gets the ball back in Ricky Ray’s hands and he and Owens tag team down the field making passes and catches and the ball gets within field goal range. However Owens commits his 8th fumble of the season and 2nd tonight when he can’t hang on to the ball after he is hit and Winnipeg recovers. Owens’ turnovers are influencing this game.
Winnipeg couldn’t capitalize on their drive, so Ray goes back to work, trying to cut into this Bombers lead. The first play of the drive Ray hits Owens up the middle to pick up 19, perhaps to get Owens head back into the game after some shaky ball handling. The following play Ricky Ray connects with Andre Durie for 18 yards, almost a 40 yard pick up in a mere two plays. Two plays later Durie once again catches the ball over the middle for a first down. Two plays later, Durie catches the ball into the end zone, but he is rocked so hard he has to go back to Kindergarten with Billy Madison. Toronto settles for a 32 yard field goal and the game is now 34-25 Winnipeg
with 10:23 to go.
Winnipeg heads back to work, and Pierce connects with Anderson for 28 yards with a PERFECT pass, Pierce comes up aching, but stays in game. After a 21 yard pick up by Will Ford, he is then stuffed twice in a row, sending out Justin Palardy to knock down a 32 yard field goal, which he does. He is now 11/11 in last 3 games. The twelve point lead is restored, and it is now 37-25 Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
After the teams swap 2 and outs, Toronto gets another touchdown after Ray throws to Barnes for 35 yards, the window was narrow and the veteran showed his stuff on that play, and Jason Barnes did not disappoint. Speaking of Barnes, how about his third touchdown of the game? Of course he does it, over the middle for 14 yards, cutting the lead to 5 points. 37-32 Winnipeg.
Remember at the beginning I mentioned these two teams were the lowest scoring teams in the CFL? No? That’s ok, that was 69 points ago.
Winnipeg is forced to punt as they can’t kill as much time as I imagine they would have liked, Toronto gets the ball with 1:49 to go in the game. Owens gets a decent return after a 52 yard punt, but there is a flag and it is against Toronto, pushing them back 10 yards after a holding. 102 yards to go for six points. Ray connects with Spencer Watt for a gain of 7. The Comeback ends right there, Ray fumbles the football and Winnipeg recovers.
So that is all she wrote, Owens 2 fumbles, would be 3 if that one back in the second would have been challenged, persuaded the game in Winnipeg’s favor. Jason Barnes, Chad Simpson and Will Ford, not to mention Buck Pierce (who actually FINISHED the game,) were all locked in and they dominated the defence. The final score is 44-32 Winnipeg. (Will Ford Ran it in with seconds to go)
“This was like a College game” –Matt Dunigan
Ray: 20/33, 383 Yards, 4 TD
Kackert: 8 Rushes, 50 Yards
Barnes: 4 Receptions, 171 Yards, 3 TD
McCune: 11 Tackles
Pierce: 13/22, 200 Yards
Simpson: 20 Rushes, 136 Yards, TD
Ford: 10 Rushes, 85 Yards, TD
Brink: 10 Rushes, 31 Yards, 2 TD
Washington: 6 Tackles