Taking full advantage

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:48 AM ET

When Winnipeg head coach Mike Kelly suggested last week that his then 6-9 Blue Bombers matched up with 13-2 Montreal almost across the board, many experts responded with a collective, "Huh?"

While Kelly may have conceded that the Alouettes currently employ the best quarterback in the land (Anthony Calvillo), the real head scratcher came when comparing receivers.

After all, the Als boast future hall-of-famer Ben Cahoon, who leads the league in receptions (84), wide receiver Kerry Watkins, who is second in the CFL in yardage, and slotback Jamel Richardson, who led the CFL with 16 touchdown catches last season.

Only veteran Winnipeg slotback Terrence Edwards can compare to those and he has been hobbled by injuries all season.

But the main reason that the Bombers blasted Montreal 41-24 last Saturday was because quarterback Michael Bishop was able to connect with his receivers and those pass catchers completely out-shone their Montreal counterparts in that contest.

Edwards led both sides with six receptions for 156 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown. Wide receiver Titus Ryan, who got his first start since being acquired from Calgary, caught four passes for 140 yards, including a 53-yard TD. Wide receiver Adarius Bowman had three for 54. Brock Ralph added another four for 61.

Als backup quarterback Adrian McPherson, who replaced the injured Calvillo, finished with just 232 yards passing.

"I always want to play well against some of my former friends and teammates," Edwards said after his best game of the season. "I'm just trying to go out here and get myself back into it after my concussion ... I just want to get back in the groove and go out and help my teammates out."

Ryan had been awaiting his chance to strut his stuff.

"Everyone knows you just have to be patient until you get the chance and once you get the chance, take full advantage of the opportunity," he said. "I told Michael, 'Just throw it and I'll go get it.'

"Even with just practising, we were pushing hard every day and when we got a chance to go out there and make plays, it was a wonderful feeling."

Bowman could have had a fifth catch but was injured on the play where Montreal defensive back Mark Estelle wrestled the ball away from him. He left the game for a spell but later returned.

"He's a tough nut," Kelly said. "He was a little woozy but they did all the testing (for a possible concussion) and said he came back clear."

While there were still some drops and overthrows, Kelly was pleased with the results.

"We showed we can be an explosive football team and we just need to keep working at it and keep improving," he said.

"All year, we've been having some ups and downs, but when you're playing against the league's best, that's when you want to come out there and play your best," said Bishop, who completed 17 of 33 passes for 411 yards.

"He's got a special arm," Kelly said. "He stuck those balls in there and the thing that I liked is that on some of our dynamic plays, the receivers never had to break stride. And when our guys don't have to break stride, there's very few DBs that can run with the people that we have out there."

The Als were missing three starters on defence who could return when the Bombers play the Als in Montreal this Sunday.

"They're still the best team in the league," Edwards said. "They're still the team to beat in the playoffs."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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