WINNIPEG - The Bombers went toe to toe with the league leaders and defending champs for 59 minutes and 33 seconds.
As usual with the Blue and Gold this season, it ended up being not good enough.
The B.C. Lions marched 40 yards on four plays in the last 26 seconds, and Paul McCallum booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Grey Cup champs a 20-17 win.
The Bombers fell to 2-6 and are dead last in the CFL, but they got a warm cheer from the sold-out crowd at Canad Inns Stadium as they left the field.
The last time the Blue and Gold, who have the worst record in the league, won more than two games in a row was when they capped a three-game winning streak last Aug. 26. The league-leading Lions improved to 6-2.
Next up for the Bombers is the 49th Labour Day Classic on Sept. 2 in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The bad news is Winnipeg has lost seven Classics in a row, although the Riders (3-4) have been struggling lately.
The Lions led 10-8 going into the fourth quarter, but Demond Washington, who was playing in the secondary for an injured Johnny Sears, recorded his first career interception at B.C.’s 24-yard line. That led to Justin Palardy’s 17-yard field goal, which gave Winnipeg its first lead of the night with 7:30 to go.
On B.C.’s next drive, Marcellus Bowman picked off Travis Lulay at the Lions 44, but once again the Bombers had to settle for a field goal attempt. Palardy was good from 31 yards, and the Bombers had a four-point edge with 4:21 remaining.
The Lions were going nowhere in the fourth until Lulay found Shawn Gore for a 43-yard completion with 2:38 to go. Winnipeg native Andrew Harris ran the ball down to the two-yard line and then hit pay dirt for the second time in the game one play later to put B.C. up 17-14 with 1:52 to go.
The Bombers took over at their own 28-yard line. Joey Elliott, making his second straight start in place of the injured Buck Pierce, hit Chris Matthews with a 17-yard completion on third-and-10 and then Terrence Edwards made a splendid grab in double coverage at B.C.’s 27 with 47 seconds left. Palardy calmly kicked a 31-yard field goal with 27 seconds left to tie the game at 17.
The Lions started their final drive at the 35 and got it all the way down to Winnipeg’s 33-yard line in just four plays. They almost let the clock run out on their last play from scrimmage, but Gore hit the dirt with one second remaining.
The Lions defence allowed a touchdown for the first time in 15 quarters when Alex Brink scored on a one-yard plunge with four minutes to go in the third quarter. That got the Bombers to within two, at 10-8.
Justin Palardy finally got Winnipeg on the board early in the third quarter when his 38-yard field goal missed to the left, giving the Bombers a point.
The Lions took a 10-0 lead into half-time, and they had the Bombers to thank for helping them out.
Twice Winnipeg had interceptions called back due to penalties, including what would have been Johnny Sears’ second of the night late in the first half at midfield. Instead, Kenny Mainor’s roughing the passer penalty continued the drive.
Then Brandon Stewart gave the Lions even better field position with a terrible roughing the passer penalty for jumping on Travis Lulay’s back as he went out of bounds.
Three plays later, Lulay hit Harris with a five-yard touchdown toss to give the visitors a 10-0 advantage.
The Bombers had chances to get some momentum in the opening quarter, but they kept shooting themselves in the foot as they so often do.
A Jovon Johnson interception was called back because Jonathan Hefney was flagged for illegal contact on a receiver, and B.C. was given new life on the same drive when a failed second-and-five became second-and-short thanks to Bryant Turner’s offside penalty.
The Lions automatically got a first down on the next play because Bombers defensive end Alex Hall, the reigning CFL defensive player of the week, was offside as well.
The Bombers were able to keep the Lions off the board, however, as backup Mike Reilly heaved the ball up to Shawn Gore on second-and-short, only to have Sears intercept it in the end zone.
The Bombers have now scored eight first-quarter points in eight games this season. They have allowed 54.
B.C. kicker Paul McCallum opened the scoring when his 23-yard field goal attempt split the uprights with 2:15 to go in the second quarter.
Winnipeg really got off to a rocky start when it tried to introduce its offence during pre-game introductions. The problem was the offensive players were already on the field. After an awkward pause, the defence ran out on the field as a group.
Elliott completed 20 of 42 attempts for 256 yards and one interception, and it should make next week on Maroons Road an interesting one with Pierce ready for a return to health.
B.C. had 331 total yards compared to Winnipeg’s 327.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay completed 16 of 26 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown, usually with Winnipeg defenders in his face. More importantly, he led the Lions to the winning field goal after taking the ball at his own 35 with just 27 seconds left.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Lions middle linebacker Adam Bighill recorded eight defensive tackles and was a key to holding Chad Simpson to only 39 yards.
TOP SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER
Once again, Bomber punter Mike Renaud was simply outstanding, winning the field position war, especially when the Winnipeg offence was stymied in the first half. Well-placed punts in second half, too. He finished with a 47.3-yard average.
B.C. placekicker Paul McCallum booted a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the game to give the Lions the victory. It was set up by a great catch by Geroy Simon for 24 yards with time running out.
SMACK OF THE MATCH
Give it to backup Winnipeg running back Will Ford who stopped B.C. punt returner Tim Brown cold on one return in the first half. Honourable mention to linebacker Henoc Muamba, who stuck Lions quarterback Travis Lulay in the first quarter.
It didn't go for a big gain, but Bomber receiver Cory Watson caught a short pass, then looked like Nik Lewis as he leapt over Lions defensive back Dante Marsh for a first down in the third quarter.
— Jim Bender