Winnipeg Blue Bombers kept their undefeated season going with a 23-22 win as a Toronto Argonauts comeback sailed left off the foot of Boris Bede at BMO Field on Monday night.
Winnipeg (4-0) built a first quarter 14-0 lead on the strength of their defence forcing a pair of interceptions and a punt.
Toronto came roaring back late and had a chance of overtime in front of them before kicker Boris Bede fluffed the convert with 25 seconds left.
“We know that in the second half they’re going to come with their best punches, so we were never too big headed in thinking the game was over,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Winston Rose. “The takeaways were very important for the defence, especially in the beginning.”
Rose returned the third pass of the game by the Argonauts for a score and forced a fumble later in the game when Toronto was in scoring position. Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros threw for 215 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while improving to 9-5 against his former team.
Toronto (1-2) coming off a 44-3 loss to the BC Lions saw its streak of not losing back-to-back games since October of 2019 come to an end. McLeod Bethel-Thompson fought off the two early picks to throw for 314 yards and two scores in the failed comeback.
Double Blue running back Andrew Harris, a Winnipeg native who spent the last six years with the Bombers, rushed for 111 yards on 22 attempts. The 35-year-old won the Grey Cup MVP in 2019 and a second championship in 2021, before signing as a free agent in Toronto in February.
Rose opened the scoring 3:23 into the game with his first forced turnover of the evening, returning Bethel-Thompson’s pass intended for Brandon Banks 46 yards to the end zone. Winnipeg added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, Collaros found receiver Drew Wolitarsky open, in the middle of the defence at the three-yard line, and he walked it in for the score. The Bombers added the convert to put them up 14-0.
After a fumbled snap and a punt by the Argonauts to end the first quarter, the Bombers took advantage and added to their lead with a quick 15-yard field goal by Marc Liegghio.
Following the three-minute warning, the Argos were able to get on the board capping off a six-play, 31-yard drive with a field goal by Bede, to make it 17-3 for the Bombers to end the half.
Toronto came out of the break flying as Bethel-Thompson connected with Kurleigh Gittens Jr. for a 24-yard completion to get into Winnipeg territory.
Then, Banks snatched a 45-yard throw out of the hands of defensive back Demerio Houston and rolled into the end zone to score. Video review confirmed just the second touchdown of the year against the Bombers and a kick from Bede made it 17-10.
With Toronto pushing to tie up the game with a first and 10 on the Winnipeg 10, a pass popped out Banks’ hands, off Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill, and into the hands of safety Malcolm Thompson. He ran six yards before dumping the ball off to defensive back Nick Taylor who in turn scampered 42 yards before being pushed out by Bethel-Thompson. The play was ruled a fumble forced by Rose.
The Bombers drove 44 yards in eight plays down to the Toronto 12 yard-line before the third quarter ended and added a 20-yard field goal to extend the lead to 20-10 to start the fourth.
Toronto responded on their first possession of the final frame moving the ball 30 yards on 8 plays to set Bede up for a 42-yarder to put the Argonauts down by 7 with 11:06 remaining.
Five minutes later, after a quick two and out by the Bombers, the Argonauts marched 37 yards down to the Winnipeg 32. A pair of penalties on the drive, roughing the passer, and offside helped move Toronto up 20 yards and hit a 39-yard field goal to put them down 20-16.
After the three-minute warning, Collaros connected with Greg Ellingson for a 30-yard gain to push the ball into Argonauts territory. Toronto got to the Bombers quarterback for a sack and a six-yard loss on second down with 2:11 left in the game.
The Bombers settled for a field goal with 2:02 left as Liegghio knocked in a 32-yarder to give Winnipeg the 23-16 lead.
On the next possession Toronto moved the ball inside the Bombers 10-yard line on a six-yard scamper by Harris. After Bethel-Thompson was sacked on first down with 43 seconds to go and a pass on second with 40 seconds left fell incomplete, Toronto’s second half resurgence looked doomed.
A pass interference call against Winnipeg’s Donald Rutledge Jr. gave Toronto the ball on the two-yard line and another chance. Bethel-Thompson found Markeith Ambles alone on the screen pass for the score to put the Argonauts down by one with 25 seconds left.
Then the comeback sailed wide left as Bede’s kick went 45 yards and landed in the stands.
“I told him in front of the team when I talked to everybody, it’s not Boris’ fault,” Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said on a post-game Zoom press conference. “He missed that kick, ya it’s the wrong time and if he makes we’re going to overtime after.
“But there’s a lot of plays in the first half that it wouldn’t have even come down to that.”
Dinwiddie stressed that every player had a hand in the loss and the team needs to continue to work on things they did poorly moving forward.