Bombers blow it

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce (4) throws a pass against the Toronto Argonauts...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce (4) throws a pass against the Toronto Argonauts during the first half of their CFL game in Winnipeg, October 28, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade

Jim Bender, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:12 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Never mind the comeback that fell short, you have to wonder what on earth was the matter with the Blue Bombers?

Needing a win over the worst team in the East to remain in contention to clinch first place and host the East Final, Winnipeg was completely out-played by the Toronto Argonauts in the first half.

The Argos jumped to a 24-6 lead in the opening 30 minutes, then held on to upset Winnipeg 27-22 in a CFL game before a stunned crowd of 29,751 — their record seventh straight sellout — at Canad Inns Stadium on Friday.

It was the last regular-season game being played at the crumbling facility.

Sure, they tried to make another valiant comeback in the second half, but they should never have been in that position in the first place. It seems like the Bombers get set back on their heels every time they get down, particularly the offence. And don't blame it on Buck Pierce getting knocked out of the game with an injury. Backup Alex Brink played better than he did and deserves to start next week, regardless of Pierce's status.

Now, the Bombers need the Montreal Alouettes to lose to Calgary on Sunday, then beat the Stamps in Calgary themselves next week to host the East Final.

"Montreal, I expect to get my thank you card from them early next week because they're probably kicking back having a big chuckle," said veteran Bomber defensive tackle Doug Brown. "How we blew a tremendous opportunity in our own barn to close out the season. Every intangible factor, motivating force, we had on our side for this game. The energy, buzz around town about closing this place out in the regular season and leaving a positive legacy and leaving on a positive note, I just can't believe how we weren't able to ride any of that and Toronto took it away from us."

The Bombers out-scored Toronto 15-3 in the second half, but it was not enough.

"We woke up in the second half but I just can't put my finger on what was the problem out of the gate," Brown said. "You look up and see 24-3 in a game of this magnitude and I just can't believe we haven't been able to learn from our mistakes from the previous games.

"That's the frustrating thing. Sometimes, you'd rather be a C-plus student than get an A one week and an F the next week. It's better to be consistent and at least understand what you're going to get out of the gates and that's real frustrating right now."

Certainly, they deserved an F.

"This is very frustrating," said Bombers tailback Chris Garrett, who rushed for 159 yards on 20 carries. "Toronto's a good team and they came out here and just flat out beat us. I thought we were going to win but unfortunately, it didn't happen."

The game was over when Noel Prefontaine kicked a 19-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play.

"It sucks," said Bomber cornerback Jovon Johnson. "Man, we should have been lighting up the scoreboard. There's a reason why their record is what it is and ours is what ours is. At the end of the day, they outplayed us. They made the plays and we didn't and now we can't look back and say what we should have done, we've got to look forward to playing against Calgary, and hopefully, Calgary will beat Montreal this week."

BOMBERS REPLAY

TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER

Winnipeg tailback Chris Garrett came to play. He rushed for 92 yards on only 10 carries in the first half alone, and finished with 159 yards on 20 carries.

Honourable mention to former Blue Bombers quarterback Steven Jyles led the Argos to a 24-6 halftime lead before leaving the game with an injury.

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Toronto linebacker Nick Clement recorded eight defensive tackles and a quarterback sack.

TOP SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER

Argos kick returner Chad Owens defied Winnipeg's special teams plans to keep him quiet when he erupted for a 68-yard punt return. He returned two punts for 73 yards and two kickoffs for 47 yards in the first half alone. He finished with four punt returns for 92 yards. He returned three kickoffs for 79 yards.

KEY PLAY

A combination of Byron Parker's interception for a touchdown and Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce getting knocked out of the game on the same play because Lin-J Shell fell on top of him. Parker's pick for a TD was his CFL record ninth. Knocking out Pierce put the Bombers on their heels until Alex Brink threw a scare into the Boatmen.

SMACK OF THE MATCH

Linebacker Marcellus Bowman must lead the Bombers in this category. He lit up Toronto quarterback Steven Jyles in the first quarter, knocking him out of the game, at least temporarily.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Bomber fans won't like it, but the Owens 68-yard punt return was simply electrifying and he even almost broke the last tackle by Clint Kent, who chased him down. That set up a Toronto touchdown that put the Argos ahead 24-3.


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