A fake punt that didn't work and a number of missed assignments in the secondary proved costly for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Sunday at Investors Group Field.
The Edmonton Eskimos defeated Winnipeg 39-32 in the CFL's West Division semifinal ending the Blue Bombers 2017 season.
It was a one-point game early in the third quarter when Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea called for a fake punt on third and three.
Timothy Flanders was stopped short of the first down marker, Edmonton took over first-and-10 at the Bombers 40-yard line and four plays later Eskimos tailback CJ Gable scored on a 15-yard run.
It was just the beginning.
Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly threw two touchdown passes and Gable added another 15-yard td run as the Eskimos extended their lead to 39-16 early in the fourth quarter.
"We got the look we wanted but we had a change and there was a little confusion," said O'Shea on the fake punt. "I should have called a timeout probably. It looked like there was a bit of confusion out there so I should have stopped the play right there."
"I feel like I let the guys down, absolutely. Part of the plan going in is to keep the ball out of Reilly's hands especially in the second half. They've been a second half team. When we talked about how you win, part of it is making sure we control the ball more. That was part of the plan."
Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols, who suffered a lower body injury in the Blue Bombers loss to the B.C. Lions in week 19 and then sat out the regular season finale against the Stampeders in Calgary, threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to L’Damion Washington early in the second quarter.
That gave Winnipeg a 10-7 lead.
"I felt good," said Nichols. "I was extremely limited. I couldn't do more than just jog. Everything felt okay in the pocket but it limited us a little bit in the fact that I wouldn't of been able to get out there on the move or do any of our play action roll out and stuff. That was tough but overall we ran our whole offense and the things I did do out there, I felt good doing it.”
Nichols threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Weston Dressler with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter that cut the Eskimos advantage to 39-24.
Nichols and Dressler hooked up again for a 15-yard major as time expired.
"Offensively we did well in getting first downs and we controlled the clock well in the first half," said Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris who carried the ball 11 times for 77 yards. "We were accumulating yards and first downs when we needed to. At the end of the day, with these playoff games, it’s neck-and-neck and every little detail matters."
Reilly, who completed 23-of-33 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns, also scrambled for 32 yards when forced out of the pocket.
In the second half he found a wide open Brandon Zylstra for a 33-yard touchdown and an equally wide open Adarius Bowman with a 42-yard touchdown pass.
Meanwhile Gable had 107 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
"They have a solid offense," said Winnipeg safety Taylor Loffler. "They have a good running back, and good receivers and a great quarterback. They basically have three threats. You know Mike Reilly can run and he’s great at throwing. It's tough to shutdown everything at once and they kind of exploited us on that."
The Eskimos will face the Stampeders in Calgary on Sunday in the West final while the Toronto Argonauts host Saskatchewan in the East Division final.
The Riders ended Ottawa's reign as Grey Cup champions as they beat the Redblacks 31-20 in the East semifinal.
photos courtesy Merle Peters