Defence stumps Bombers

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- The Edmonton Eskimos have made CFL playoff history.

Defying the wagering odds, the underdog Green and Gold defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 29-21 yesterday in the East Division semifinal - becoming the first visiting team to win a cross-over playoff game.

The Eskimos are now bound for Montreal for the East Division final next Saturday with the winner heading to the Grey Cup in the same city.

Criticized at several points through the season, the Eskimos defence sparked the win - causing four turnovers, including a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive end Fred Perry in the first half.

Lenny Williams also forced a fumble on a 21-yard run by Joe Smith in the second half, stalling Winnipeg's comeback attempt.

"It's playoff time and defence wins championships," said Edmonton defensive tackle Dario Romero.

"We knew they wanted to come out and run the ball and we shut that down. And we started getting after the quarterback."

Added defensive end Brandon Guillory: "All our extra hard work paid off. We have been doing some secret stuff. The defensive line meeting up, not (with) coaches."

Playing in a 30 km/h wind and a minus-six temperature, the Eskimos controlled the clock in the first half - 19 minutes of possession - and claimed a 21-15 halftime lead thanks to a short touchdown run by AJ Harris, Perry's major and Noel Prefontaine's kicking foot.

Harris's one-yard major came on a third-and-one gamble in the second quarter. "The guys up front have been begging to run the ball and we dared them: 'Show to us that you can take care of it,' " said offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman.

As for Winnipeg's run game, the Bombers only had 28 rushing yards at halftime compared to Edmonton's 41.

Edmonton gained a 29-15 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter when Harris rumbled three-yards for a touchdown thanks to a key block by left tackle Garrick Jones.

The Bombers cut into that lead - scoring points on two Alexis Serna field goals with the wind - and had a chance to march the field with 2:07 left and trailing by eight. But the defence forced a turnover on downs.

Winnipeg had one last shot with 27 seconds remaining and the ball on its 17-yard line but it fizzled. While the Bombers coughed up the ball four times, the Esks didn't commit a turnover - a stunning stat considering there were 52 in the regular season.

In fact, the East semifinal marked the first game all year when Edmonton didn't turn the ball over.

The Esks have only turned the ball over once in the last two games.

FINISH LINES ...

Winnipeg had a 78-yard touchdown to Romby Bryant in the first half, marking the 14th play of more than 40 yards against the Edmonton defence this year ... Winnipeg's other first-half major came on a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter by Jason Armstead, who was helped by a Greg Bearman block on Scott Coe ... This was the fifth cross-over playoff game in CFL history.


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