The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will head into their first bye week on the heels of an event which had become so very foreign to them over these last days, weeks and months – a loss.
The Blue Bombers fell 20-17 to the Montreal Alouettes in overtime in front of 31,053 at IG Field Thursday night, ending their 9-0 start to the 2022 season and with the result also bringing to an abrupt close their 13-game home unbeaten streak.
Kicker Marc Liegghio had two opportunities to keep the Blue Bombers perfect but missed a 32-yard field goal with no time remaining in regulation and then clanged a 37-yarder off the right upright in extra time.
“The one before overtime I just didn’t give myself a chance and it didn’t look good coming off my foot,” said Liegghio. “The one at the end there, in overtime, I thought I hit it well. It felt good off my foot but obviously the outcome isn’t what I wanted it to be.
“… Obviously it doesn’t feel the best to not hit a game winner, but you just move on to the next one. That’s what pro football is – it comes with its ups and downs and that’s how the pros go further. You wash it and move on to the next one. You can’t let it sit with you and you just keep getting better from here.
“It’s a good learning point.”
The Blue Bombers had been attempting to open a season 10-0 for the first time since 1960 but fell short in a game that looked and felt so much like the meeting between these two teams last week in Montreal.
Winnipeg had taken a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run and looked to have stopped the Alouettes on a third-and-one gamble from the Blue Bombers one-yard with 2:36 remaining, but were called for offside when Donald Rutledge, Jr’s facemask was apparently in the neutral zone.
Full credit to the Als, who battled and fought to improve to 3-6, but it was that kind of night for the Blue Bombers who left far too many plays out there in all three phases.
Among the un-Blue Bombers like numbers were surrendering five quarterback sacks while registering just one of their own and having six penalties for 57 yards, to Montreal’s five for 60.
“Hat’s off to them,” said Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros. “It’s not the way you want to go into a bye week, but we need to use it to rest up and finish strong.
“We didn’t talk about it (the chance to open a season 10-0 for the first time since 1960) much. Obviously, it’s not fun losing football games. Osh (head coach Mike O’Shea) said it afterwards, ‘We’re 0-1 this week, not 1-0.’ It is what it is.”
The Alouettes scored first in OT despite not gaining a yard on a 43-yard field goal by David Cote – who earlier missed from 20 yards out – setting up the Blue Bombers with a chance to win with a touchdown or tie it with a three. Oliveira ran for six yards on first down, with a Collaros pass attempt to Dalton Schoen knocked down by Wesley Sutton – a play the Blue Bombers challenged for pass interference but was upheld by the command centre.
“When you get into overtime you’ve got to do a better job of staying on the football field and making first downs,” said Collaros. “We had a shot there to win it at the end to continue our drive and score a touchdown, but we didn’t do it.
“There’s a multitude of things that go on in a football game that can swing a game, gain you more points or lose you more points. I’m sure there are five or six things that we’ll watch on tape and say, ‘Damn, if we just had done that or I had done that we would have scored on that drive.’ It’s never up to the last play.”
Asked what he might say to Liegghio after how the game ended, Collaros added:
“Just keep hitting it,” he said. “It’s the same thing with a quarterback – you throw an interception; you’ve got to get out there and keep throwing. You make some and you miss some.
“We’re a tight-knit team. Woli (Drew Wolitarsky) said it afterward, ‘We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve got a lot of love for each other, so it’s no good pointing the finger.”
“There’s many, many things that we could have done better in that game, things that I could have done better, to not be in that position. Marc I’m sure would come in here and point the finger at himself because that’s the kind of guy he is, but there’s a lot of things that go in in a football game, not just the last play.
“He’s going to keep kicking. We trust him. We believe in him. We love him, so we’ll be all right.”
Winnipeg hadn’t lost a game since last November 20th in Calgary, a contest which came after the club had locked up first place in the West Division and opted to rest or limit the work of some starters.
The last loss that came in a game which impacted the standings was last August 21st in Toronto.
Just for the record, that’s a stretch of 265 days between losses and 356 days between defeats with impact.
“We didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” said O’Shea. “I thought that first quarter was pretty tough, but all three phases managed to make some big enough plays to contribute and then at times we made enough mistakes and didn’t make plays.
“But it’s one loss. That’s all it is.”
THE BIG MOMENT
The Alouettes had tied the score at 17-17 with a QB sneak by Dom Davis with 2:26 left, giving the Blue Bombers plenty of time to seal the deal.
The offence then put together an eight-play 36-yard drive – this coming after a ballsy lateral from Greg McCrae to Janarion Grant on the ensuing kickoff that led to a 33-yard return – that pushed the ball to Montreal’s 24-yard line. That was then followed by Liegghio’s whiff as time expired with Tyson Philpot ensuring there would be extra time by returning the ball out of the end zone to prevent a single.
THE BIG STAT: 5
The Blue Bombers turned the ball over five times in the two-game set with the Alouettes – four last week and a fumble here in Winnipeg.
Offence: Brady Oliveira, RB:, Rushed 15 times for 84 yards and pulled in two more passes for 24 yards.
Defence: Willie Jefferson, DE: The big man registered five tackles, picked up his fourth sack of the season and swatted down another pass.
Special teams: Janarion Grant, KR: Finished with 55 yards on five punt returns and 74 yards on two kickoffs.
The Blue Bombers surrendered eight sacks in the two games against the Alouettes.
The Blue Bombers are now 26-3 in games in which Collaros has started, including the two Grey Cup victories. He finished 21 of 27 for 251 yards with one TD and no interceptions. He was 5-of-9 for 77 yards in the first half and 16-of-18 for 174 yards in the second and overtime.
NEXT: The Blue Bombers will finally get their first bye week of the season now and are the last team in the CFL to get a breather. Winnipeg returns to action at IG Field on Thursday August 25th against the Calgary Stampeders, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
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