Esks close in on playoffs

There was only one touchdown in the entire game, but it came when it mattered most for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Jovon Johnson

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Jovon Johnson

Edmonton 16 Winnipeg 13

EDMONTON — There was only one touchdown in the entire game, but it came when it mattered most for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Daniel Porter ran in an 11-yard touchdown in overtime as Edmonton moved one big step closer to securing a playoff position, defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 16-13 on Saturday night.

Tied 10-10 at the end of regulation, the Bombers went first in extra time and were held to a 37-yard field goal by Justin Palardy.

Porter pinballed for a 24-yard gain to start off the Eskimos drive, taking them to the 11. He then took it in from there on the next play for the game’s only touchdown to give Edmonton the badly-needed win.

Edmonton (7-10) can advance to post-season play as soon as Sunday if the B.C. Lions lose to Saskatchewan.

“I just know it was a great defensive win,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall.

“We found a way. To finish on two plays in overtime, those guys up front did a great job.”

It was the first time the Eskimos have won three games in a row since the final three games of 2005.

Eskimos quarterback Jared Zabransky, making his second career CFL start, was relieved to come away with the win after being picked off four times in the contest.

“For me it’s a huge sense of relief,” he said.

“I’ve only been in one other game in my football career where I threw four interceptions and it was a blowout. It was great to have a defence play as we played to keep us in the football game and win it for us and our offensive line and the entire team not give up on each other.

“After the second or third pick they could have said ‘This is B.S., we’re done with you.’ But they stayed with me and we were able to battle.”

The Blue Bombers, already out of the playoff picture at 4-13, went 0-9 on the road this season.

“We moved the ball but you have to come away with more points than we did,” said Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice.

Winnipeg defensive back Jonathan Hefney, who had two interceptions in the game, said fortune just didn’t favour his squad on the night.

“It was a weird game. We went out and played as well as we could. The final score didn’t show it, but we wanted to compete the whole 60 minutes and that’s what we did.”

Winnipeg started off the scoring with a 38-yard field goal by Palardy after a competent first drive by fourth-string quarterback Joey Elliott, making his first career CFL start.

Edmonton got lucky on a pair of first-quarter turnovers in their own zone, first turning the ball over on downs and then seeing Zabransky picked off by Hefney on their on 44. But the Eskimos only gave up one point on a punt single and trailed 4-0 after the first quarter.

Less than a minute into the second, the Eskimos turned over the ball for the third series in a row when Zabransky was intercepted on a long bomb attempt by Ian Logan at midfield. The Bombers marched all the way down to the Edmonton one-yard line but were stuffed on a third-down quarterback keeper attempt by Elliott.

“You need to score in that situation,” LaPolice said. “We thought we were in but obviously they kept us out.”

Winnipeg then turned the ball over on another third-down gamble at midfield with just under three minutes left in the second frame leading to an Esks’ punt single.

The Esks were able to hang on to the ball long enough to add a 18-yard Derek Schiavone field goal to make for a 4-4 tie to conclude an unusual and often ugly first half.

Edmonton started to close in on breaking the deadlock five minutes into the third but turned the ball over once again. Zabransky was picked off on the Winnipeg six-yard line thanks to a tremendous juggling catch by Jovon Johnson. On the Bombers’ next play Fred Reid took the ball 55 yards, setting up a 46-yard Palardy field goal.

The Eskimos finally had something go right with six minutes left in the third on a fake punt when Calvin McCarty took a direct snap 37 yards to the Winnipeg 25. It led to a 13-yard Schiavone field goal to tie the game 7-7 heading into the fourth.

Zabransky was picked off for a fourth time to start the fourth as Hefney snagged his second at the Winnipeg 44.

Edmonton looked to have a 43-yard TD run by Porter with five minutes remaining, but the play was called back on a holding call. The Eskimos ended up accepting a 37-yard Schiavone field goal, and took a 10-7 lead.

The Bombers clawed their way back downfield but were forced into a kicking situation by a quarterback sack from Mark Restelli. However, the Eskimos took a roughing the kicker penalty on the ensuing field goal attempt, giving the Bombers another crack at winning the game outright. The Edmonton defence held as Palardy came back out to kick a 26-yarder with no time remaining to send the game to overtime.

The Blue Bombers close out the regular season at home against Calgary on Friday while Edmonton travels to Saskatchewan to play the Roughriders next Saturday.

Notes: Elliott, who got his first CFL start in the contest, is the eighth different quarterback to start for the Bombers since 2008 and the fourth this season with Buck Pierce, Steven Jyles and Alex Brink all going down with injuries. Winnipeg added newcomers Justin Goltz and Zac Champion to the active roster to back Elliott up. . . The Eskimos also had a new quarterback in the lineup. With Ricky Ray out with an injury, Kerry Joseph, a former CFL outstanding player, was added as insurance to back up Zabransky. . . Since the last meeting between the two teams in Week 4, both lineups have undergone overhauls as Edmonton had 13 different starters in their lineup for that game than this one and Winnipeg had 10. . . Edmonton came into the match 7-1-1 in their last nine games against the Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium. . . Winnipeg has now lost nine games by seven points or less and a league-record eight by four points or less this season.

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