Johnny Sears (right) and the Bombers brought down Duron Carter and the Als Monday.The Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't had a lot to give thanks for this year, but they definitely did Monday, picking up just their third win of the season with a 34-27 road victory over the Montreal Alouettes. Perhaps the Alouettes were charitably minded towards their basement-dwelling rivals, presenting the Bombers with plenty of gifts in the form of turnovers, but this was also an impressive showing on several levels from Winnipeg. Despite being just 3-12 on the year, the Bombers are still theoretically in the hunt for a postseason berth, and while they're unlikely to make the playoffs this year, continued play like this could give them something to build on for next season and might even preserve a few jobs.
Winnipeg's biggest offensive star on the day was running back Will Ford, who has emerged as one of the team's best players down the stretch. The South Carolina State product, who's in his second CFL season, collected 93 rushing yards on 13 carries Monday (7.2 yards per carry) and was the Bombers' most effective offensive player. Quarterback Max Hall also had one of his best CFL games, though, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He only completed 16 of 27 passes (59.3 per cent), so he still has work to do, but the decrease in turnovers was impressive. Slotback Clarence Denmark also stood out, hauling in five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. It was a better offensive performance than we've usually seen from Winnipeg this season, and that could potentially signal that the Bombers will be better down the stretch.
The defence was also much-improved. While Winnipeg gave up 27 points on the day, there were good performances in a lot of areas. The Bombers held Montreal running back Jerome Messam to 32 rushing yards on 11 carries (2.9 yards per carry), and while fellow RB Tyrone Sutton averaged seven yards per carry, he only got five touches on the day. Meanwhile, the pass defence did a great job, holding Alouettes' quarterback Josh Neiswander to 199 passing yards and picking him off three times; backup Troy Smith wasn't much better, leading one touchdown drive but throwing for just 35 yards with another pick. Both Montreal quarterbacks only completed 50 per cent of their passes on the day. That's a great showing from the Winnipeg defence, and a key reason why they won.
How much will this one actually mean? Well, the Bombers are still highly unlikely to make the postseason. To earn a playoff berth, they'd have to win their three remaining games and have the Alouettes lose their last three, and the teams don't play again. That's highly improbable. Moreover, Winnipeg's showing here was more good than great, and there's little to suggest the Bombers will suddenly become dominant overnight. Still, this provided the first real hope in Winnipeg since the team's last win, which came over a month ago in the Banjo Bowl. On its own, it's just one result, but if it can catalyze a solid string of performances down the stretch, that might be enough to spare some jobs, even potentially that of head coach Tim Burke. Saying Burke's safe at this point is going way too far, but this result certainly will help him. We'll see if the team can build off this or if it will be just a one-off.