Blue Bombers 41 Alouettes 24
WINNIPEG — This time, quarterback Michael Bishop wanted to be sure his Blue Bombers didn’t squander its chances.
Bishop did his part, throwing for a season-high 411 yards and two touchdowns as Winnipeg (7-9) kept its playoff hopes alive with a 41-24 win over the Montreal Alouettes (13-3) Saturday.
“We had some great opportunities today, we took advantage of it,” said Bishop, who completed 17 of 33 pass attempts with only one interception that wasn’t his fault.
“The only thing I would say about that is, in the past we should have done that and today, against the best team in the league, we did a great job of taking advantage of it.
“It says a lot about our character and our belief in one another trying to get a win.”
The victory came in front of a season-low crowd of 21,378 at Canad Inns Stadium and tied Winnipeg with Hamilton (7-9) for second place in the East Division.
Montreal started second-year QB Adrian McPherson instead of league-leading pivot Anthony Calvillo (sore calf).
In his first CFL start, McPherson ran in a nine-yard TD and completed 20 of 35 pass attempts for 232 yards and one TD. He carried the ball 11 times for 95 yards.
“(McPherson) had to deal with some pressure at times and made some good throws for us and made things happen with his feet,” Montreal head coach Marc Trestman said.
“So it’s a great job for him to go out there and do the things that he did today. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t come away with a victory.”
The shine of the win isn’t diminished because Calvillo wasn’t playing, Bombers head coach Mike Kelly said.
“I knew that question was going to get asked, and Anthony doesn’t play defence,” Kelly said.
“Our offence beat their defence and that’s what it comes down to . . . (Calvillo) is one guy. We beat them as a team.”
The two clubs play again next Sunday in Montreal, and Calvillo will likely play.
“(Calvillo) is arguably the best player in the CFL right now so we take this with a grain of salt, but they’ve got 11 other starters and 12 on defence that they were playing with,” Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said. “We understand they’re a more dynamic and explosive offence when he’s out there, but it’s a stepping stone for us.”
Winnipeg’s defence won the battle at the line of scrimmage. While the teams went into the game tied for the league lead in fewest QB sacks allowed (25). McPherson was sacked four times — twice by Odell Willis and twice by Phillip Hunt.
Winnipeg’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack.
“It was probably one of our best games of the year as far as pass protection went,” Bombers centre Obby Khan said.
“We gave (Bishop) a lot of time back there.”
Bishop completed several long passes, while his only interception came after Adarius Bowman had the ball ripped out of his hands by Als cornerback Mark Estelle.
Trestman thought his defence played hard, especially because it went into the game without some regular linebackers and lost defensive tackle Eric Wilson early (knee injury, two to three weeks).
He doesn’t think players’ psyches will be affected by the loss.
“This is one game in 18 right now and everybody knows the scenario we played under,” Trestman said. “It wasn’t the most opportune scenario, but as I talked to the team about it, this team’s got a strong backbone, we’ve got depth. We’ve got to address the issues that took place, but I don’t want to over-value what’s happened.”
Montreal kicker Damon Duval was three-for-three on his field goals from 28, 41 and 30 yards. Westwood conceded a safety for another two Alouette points.
The Alouettes also got a TD from receiver Andrew Hawkins.