EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers put in a solid road effort on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium, where they handed the hometown Edmonton Eskimos their sixth-straight loss via a 28-19 decision.
The Bombers (10-3) simply made enough key plays to earn the win against Edmonton (7-6); some, like Darvin Adams’s one-handed touchdown grab in the fourth quarter, were spectacular while many others were more workmanlike.
Quarterback Matt Nichols was a steady 24-for-32 under center for Winnipeg, throwing for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while the Winnipeg defense was stifling at various points on the night. Bombers defensive back Chris Randle secured the win for the visitors with a late pick-six.
Edmonton receiver Brandon Zylstra had a stellar 152-yard night in the losing cause for the tumbling Eskimos.
Both offenses struggled in the first quarter, as the Esks and Bombers combined for just 86 net yards.
Winnipeg had a pair of opportunities to open the scoring, but kicker Justin Medlock uncharacteristically missed from 54 (wide left) and 40 yards (wide right). Both were returned out of the end zone by the Eskimos to keep the game scoreless.
The Edmonton defense came up with a number of popping tackles in the second quarter; Aaron Grymes forced a fumble with a rocking hit on Winnipeg’s Julian Feoli-Gudino, then Euclid Cummings blasted Nichols for a sack.
After review, however, Cummings was flagged for a 15-yard head-contact penalty which moved the Bombers into field goal range. Once there, Medlock sent a 32-yard field-goal attempt wide left and through the back of the end zone for a single.
Newly-signed Esks kicker Swayze Waters then clanked a 51-yard field-goal attempt off the upright, continuing a rough night for both teams’ kickers.
Winnipeg finally found the end zone with just 13 seconds left in the first half, when Nichols found Clarence Denmark for a six-yard touchdown connection. Medlock drilled the convert to send the Bombers to the locker room with an 8-0 lead.
Edmonton came out of the gate flying in the second half, as Reilly led the Esks on an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive capped by a snazzy five-yard touchdown catch by Calvin McCarty. Reilly’s ensuing two-point convert attempt then fell incomplete.
Nichols and the Bombers offense responded a few possessions later with a two-yard Andrew Harris touchdown run; Medlock’s convert gave the visitors a 15-6 lead.
Waters cut the Esks’ deficit to a single score late in the third quarter with a 31-yard field goal — his first as an Eskimo.
The Bombers then opened up an 11-point lead on a ridiculous one-handed touchdown catch from Darvin Adams; Medlock’s convert hit the upright and stayed out, leaving Winnipeg’s lead at 21-9.
Waters again cut into the visitors’ lead with a 42-yard field goal, and with 11 minutes and change remaining, Edmonton trailed 21-12.
Following a Winnipeg two-and-out, Reilly then threaded the needle to Derel Walker for a picture-perfect, 21-yard touchdown connection. The subsequent Waters convert slimmed the Bombers lead to just two points.
A Chris Randle pick-six with just under three minutes remaining sealed the win for Winnipeg — Medlock’s convert rounded out the scoring at 28-19.
Winnipeg linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox paced all Bombers defenders with nine tackles in the win, while linebacker Adam Konar produced a game-high ten tackles in the loss for the Eskimos.
The loss now runs Edmonton’s losing streak to six games; head coach Jason Maas’s team is now unthinkably close to .500 given their 7-0 start to the season. On the flip side: Mike O’Shea’s Bombers have not trailed at any point in their last six wins.
Edmonton will look to halt its slide next week in Montreal, where they will visit the struggling Alouettes (3-11) on Monday afternoon (Oct. 9, 2:00 p.m. ET); Winnipeg will host the red-hot Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-10) on Friday Night Football (Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET).