Keeping the Ottawa Redblacks' first good, and thorough, victory in perspective could be tougher than it was to contain Jonathan Williams.
The first-year Redblacks have found ways to lose that even the bigget devotee to three-down football might not have known existed. The effort from the expansion team has never been lacking, though. With Williams, who was working odd jobs as a landscaper not too long ago, finding wide swaths of green amd mowing through Blue Bombers tacklers on his way to 229 rushing-receiving yards, Ottawa doubled its season output of home touchdowns in one night, romping 42-20 over the reeling Blue Bombers (6-8) in front of 24,242 at TD Place. Now the Redblacks (2-11), relishing the role of spoiler, can actually talk about stringing together consecutive wins. Remember: they face Andrew Harris-less B.C., with its pass-protection problems, next week in Vancouver.
"We're not going to love ourselves over this win," said middle linebacker Travis Brown, whose 36-yard interception-return touchdown in the first minute started off a long night for Bombers QB Drew Willy, who was sacked six times — twice by defensive end Justin Capiciotti — and intercepted thrice. "We've got to build off it and hopefully get on a little roll late in the season. Build off it.
"We were starving for this win," Brown added. "We don't practise like a 1-11 team. We practise like we're in the running for the playoffs. That's what I love about this team. We're not just going to take it easy. We're going to try to claw our way out of that hole."
The Redblacks have let playoff teams — Edmonton, Saskatchewan and B.C. — off the hook in prior weeks. But two broken plays that Williams turned into beauties summed up a hitherto undisplayed ability to rool with it, which is crucial to surviving in the expect-the-unexpected CFL.
In the second quarter, Winnipeg came with a run blitz when Burris flagged down a quick snap and got the handoff to Williams. The former Calgary Stampeder beat an unblocked tackler and motored down the uncovered left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown and 14-10 lead.
"They brought the house and they [the Redblacks offensive line] were changing the call late and the snap was just kind of sitting there and I reached out and gave it to Jonathan real quick," said Burris, who was 21-of-35 for 284 yards with one interception. "They had a guy who came free up the middle, but Jonathan made a great move and once he got outside it was off to the races.
"A play like that shows you that we're learning from our mistakes," said Burris, who did not have a touchdown pass, although backup Danny O'Brien had a five-yard scoring flip to Khalil Paden late in the first half while the starter was briefly out of the game with an injury. "Before the game, we talked about how we understand that their team is going to make plays and they're going to put points on the board, which they did. But we can't take our foot off the gas pedal, play lethargic, play not to lose. It was good to see us respond.
"We needed Jonathan to get that big run to give him confidence, get the O-line going and to show the guys that when we do the right things, the good things will happen. It was almost that domino effect."
Ottawa was back up by four and driving again in the final minute of the half when Williams turned a Burris dump-off under pressure into a 35-yard pass play down to the five-yard line. That led to a Burris one-yard sneak for a TD and 28-17 edge at halftime.
"I definitely got in the zone more," said Williams, who was signed Sept. 16 after Chevon Walker was lost for the season with a broken left arm. "I got my feet wet last week and I came out this week adjusted to the offence and clued in to what we had to get done. We keep playing, keep that pep in our step, keep that eye of the tiger, we'll go out and get that next win.
"On that first touchdown, I just bounced it to the outside and put those boosters on."
Meantime, the defence limited Winnipeg to 273 net yards. The Bombers' only offensive touchdown came after it was set up with a short field thanks to a 62-yard kickoff return by Demond Washington. The Bombers twice had to settle for short field goals, including an eight-yarder after Capiciotti stopped Grigsby at the one-yard line in the second quarter. That outcome was a table-turner, given Ottawa's season-long struggles with finishing drives.
"Our whole defence played like that the whole game," Capiciotti said. "We had a lot of big plays. Guys were just coming up huge at different times, big interceptions, big stops and that's the way our whole defence played today. We put it all togeterh and worked out for us."
Redblacks coach Rick Campbell tried to downplay the win, but the restrained jubilation said otherwise. His team had lost its previous three home games by a total margin of 12 points to fall out the race for second place in the East Division.
"The thing about our guys is they've always played hard, that's never been an issue," Campbell said. "I'm happy for them that their work got rewarded. It's hard to go long stretches without winning. I know when we come back to work for the next week [on Tuesday], they're going to put this behind them and move on to the B.C. Lions [on Oct. 11].
Even two turnovers in its own territory did not blow up on the Redblacks. It kept Winnipeg out of the end zone both times, with Canadian defensive linemen Andrew Marshall and Zack Evans coming up with sacks to deny a scoring opportunity after a lost fumble at the Redblacks' own 21-yard line.
That hasn't been happening enough this season, but better late than never. And quite possibly, again real soon.
"We still had our young mistakes tonight, but we overcame them and didn't dwell on them and put them in the past and went out and executed," Burris said. "It was good to see us respond in moments on adversity."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.