CALGARY — That must have been some halftime speech.
The Blue Bombers had one foot in the coffin and the Calgary gravediggers ready with their shovels at halftime.
Down 23-3 after the first two quarters, Winnipeg woke up and chased the shovellers away.
Led by the rushing of tailback Fred Reid, who finished with 167 yards on 17 carries, the Bombers out-scored Calgary 20-8 in the second half. But alas, it was too little too late as Calgary hung on for a 31-23 victory in a wild CFL game before a sellout crowd of 35,650 at McMahon Stadium last night.
At least the Bombers beat the 14 1/2-point spread.
And they did show signs of much-needed improvement offensively.
Calgary improved to 3-3 to move into a first-place tie in the West while Winnipeg dropped into a last-place tie with Toronto in the East at 2-4.
After Calgary punter Burke Dales hoofed a 71-yard single, Winnipeg placekicker Alexis Serna kicked an 18-yard field goal to make the score 31-23 midway through the fourth quarter.
Fred Reid scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run to open the fourth quarter and move to within 30-20.
The Bombers had suddenly came to life in the third quarter. They opened the second half with an eight-play, 88-yard drive that was capped off by an eight-yard touchdown run by Reid. They followed that up with an 18-yard field goal by Serna to pull Winnipeg to within 23-13.
That run was interrupted when the Stamps took advantage of a fumble by Winnipeg quarterback Michael Bishop at his own 36. Calgary quarterback Henry Burris then completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Titus Ryan to up the lead to 30-13 heading into the fourth quarter.
Calgary had jumped to a 23-3 lead over the offensively-inept Bombers in the first half.
With 2:20 left in the second quarter, Burris engineered a seven play, 88-yard drive, capping it off when a 17-yard toss to tailback Joffrey Reynolds to take the 23-3 lead.
To underscore Winnipeg’s ineptitude, Bomber head coach Mike Kelly failed to call a timeout with the clock ticking down and his team in position to score at least a field goal. Unforgiveable.
Earlier, Calgary placekicker Sandro DeAngelis had hit a 17-yard field goal to give the Stamps a 16-0 lead.
The only positive for the Bombers on the offensive side of the ball was when Serna made a 53-yard field goal.
In the first half, Bishop completed only fives passes for 66 yards — and that included a 36-yarder to Romby Bryant on a scramble near the end of the half.
Burris, on the other hand, completed six of 13 passes for 247 yards — including a 62-yarder — and one touchdown.
Reid rushed for only 17 yards on four carries in the first two quarters.
Calgary led 13-0 after the first quarter. Stamps marched downfield on their first series, setting up a 48-yard field goal by DeAngelis. Winnipeg defensive back Jonathan Hefney fumbled the ensuing kickoff, recovered by Jon Cornish at the Winnipeg 32. A few plays later, DeAngelis hit a 20-yard field goal.
On Calgary’s very next series, Burris connected with a wide-open Brett Ralph — brother to Bomber receiver Brock — for a 62-yard pass. That set up a two-yard TD run by Reynolds. That’s when someone suggested that if this were curling, the gloves would come off.
Winnipeg will play host to the league-leading Montreal Alouettes this Saturday.