WINNIPEG – Looking at the final numbers, you would have thought it was a blowout.
The defending Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos racked up 517 yards of offence to Winnipeg’s 347, yet it was a close game throughout. But in the end the Bombers’ lack of firepower doomed them in a 20-16 loss.
In a sleepy, penalty-filled affair, the Bombers jumped out to the better start. A Kevin Fogg 94-yard punt return TD was wiped off the board thanks to a dumb penalty by Shayon Green, but just three plays later Drew Willy hit Rory Kholert for a 20-yard score.
The Bombers were this close to taking a 13-3 lead into halftime, but on 3rd-and-goal from the two with three seconds left, the Eskimos gambled and it payed off, with Mike Reilly hitting Cory Watson for a critical TD.
As the game carried on, two things were clear: Reilly had way too much time to throw, and eventually the Bombers offence needed to do something special. Unfortunately for Winnipeg and their 24,007 fans in attendance, Reilly kept carving up the D and Willy had no answer.
The Bombers best chance to do some damage came on a sloppy stretch in the second half: the D recovered an Eskimos fumble on the Edmonton 32, but two plays later Willy was picked off. After the D got it back with a pick of their own, again the Bombers couldn’t capitalize, settling for a Justin Medlock field goal.
If the Eskimos were steadily gaining momentum as the game continued, they seized it for good with a 73-yard bomb from Reilly to Derel Walker to give Edmonton a 20-16 lead.
The two sides would trade unconvincing drives from that point on until the final whistle, with a final Bombers drive ending in a Hail Mary interception.
Reilly, who got a Grey Cup MVP in his last game at IGF, was 32/45 for 465 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. The dual threat of Walker and Adarius Bowman tore up the Bombers secondary: Walker caught seven balls for 154 yards and a TD while Bowman caught 10 passes for 185 yards.
“Their receivers are great. We just need to contain them a little bit better,” explains linebacker Ian Wild. “We didn’t get the sacks when we had the opportunities. Reilly is a tough guy, he gets out of a lot of stuff. We’ve got to make some more plays defensively.”
Reilly outperformed Drew Willy, who finished 25/38 for 299 yards, a TD and 2 INT.
“I thought the defence did a really good job. We gotta put up more points. We had really good field position and didn’t score. It starts with me,” explains Willy. “We definitely had a good shot to twin this game but woulda, coulda, shoulda, we gotta get better. I don’t think we took a step back, we just didn’t play the way we needed to play to get the win.”
The Bombers fall to 1-3 on the season and will be desperate to get a win next Thursday at home against Calgary.