The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are heading into the bye week with a little redemption.
Matt Nichols threw three touchdown passes and Maurice Leggett had a pick-six and a punt return major as Winnipeg defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 48-28 in front of 33,134 football fans Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field.
It was a huge bounce back game for the Blue Bombers who saw their five-game winning streak come to an end when they lost the Labour Day Classic 38-24 to the Riders last Sunday in Regina.
Clarence Denmark got the ball rolling as he caught a pair of first half touchdown passes from Nichols.
"I felt like from the beginning we had the edge," said Denmark who now has six touchdown catches on the season. "We made up our minds early that we were going to come out and play. We wanted to respond for our team, our fans, this whole city – just to show what type of team we are and I think we did that."
Ryan Lankford caught the other Nichols touchdown pass and Dan Lefevour scored on a quarterback sneak with five seconds left in the first half.
As for Leggett - the Bombers linebacker returned Josh Bartel's 45-yard punt 97 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and then in the third quarter picked off a Kevin Glenn pass and went 54 yards for a major.
"He's a game-changer," said Nichols when asked about Leggett's contribution. "He's a playmaker and he's a team leader. His presence makes us a better team and he showed that again today. He did it all year last year and I felt like he's been playing some good football when he's been healthy. It's amazing what he can do and he definitely gets the guys fired up."
The Winnipeg defense got burned a couple of times during the Labour Day Classic and again in the Banjo Bowl.
Twice the Riders offense came on the field and needed just one play to find the Winnipeg end zone.
Glenn hooked up with Duron Carter on an 88-yard catch and run which tied the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter and also found Naaman Roosevelt with a 75-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.
"You have a great receiving corps just like them, it's always going to be tough," said Leggett. "This is the CFL and they made plays. They're great receivers and then you have a great quarterback out there, it's very tough. We just had to strap up our chin strap and go to work."
Glenn left the game with 4:07 left in the third quarter with what is believed to be an injury to his throwing hand.
Winnipeg native Kienan LaFrance and backup quarterback Brandon Bridge had rushing touchdowns for the Riders.
The Blue Bombers head into the bye week with an 8-3 record.
"They've been grinding for 11 straight weeks here," said Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea. "They deserve a break. They've done really well. They've just worked so bloody hard to get to this point. They need to go and get their mind off football, visit with their families, have some fun and get refreshed so when they come back, we can grind for another bunch of games."
The Blue Bombers next game is Friday, September 22nd at home against the Grey Cup champion Ottawa Redblacks.
photos courtesy Merle Peters