Pierce leads Bombers to win
TORONTO—Chad Simpson helped make Buck Pierce’s return to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ offence a triumphant one.
Simpson rushed for 136 yards and a TD as Winnipeg ran for 260 yards and four touchdowns to overpower the Toronto Argonauts 44-32 on Friday night and keep their slim CFL playoff hopes alive before a Rogers Centre gathering of 23,419.
Alex Brink (with two) and Will Ford also ran for TDs to complement Pierce in his first game back since suffering a mild concussion in a 29-10 home loss to Toronto back on Sept. 29.
Pierce finished 13-of-22 passing for 200 yards as Winnipeg (5-11) amassed more rushing yards than passing (204).
Traditionally, teams use the run to set up the pass but Pierce, who hit seven different receivers, said the Bombers drew a lot of confidence from their ground attack.
“When your run game is going, it opens things up,” he noted.
“It gives you confidence you can call runs in tough situations and not always have to throw.
“It put us in some good situations . . . . and ate up some clock,” Pierce added. “That makes the O-line happy and makes the quarterback happy.”
Simpson had a simple reason for Winnipeg’s rushing dominance.
“We come in thinking we can run the ball against anyone,” he remarked.
“It was just straight running the football . . . all I had to do was, really, run hard.
“Anytime someone gets 1,000 yards, it’s not just him,” Simpson stressed. “Yeah, I did some good things but the O-line did some good things, the receivers caught the ball and made them play honest.
“When you make people play honest, you have a good game,” he reasoned.
Winnipeg earned its third win in five games to move into a tie with Hamilton (5-10) for third in the East Division after the Tiger-Cats fell 34-32 to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night.
Amazingly, the Bombers, who face the Ticats this week, still can finish second in the conference and host a playoff game.
Winnipeg must win its two remaining games while Toronto (7-9) loses its final two and Hamilton goes 2-1 to create a three-way tie that the Bombers would win by having a better record among the tied clubs.
But Simpson said all Winnipeg did was concentrate on this contest.
“I’m not worrying about the next meal, I’m worrying about this meal,” he stressed.
“We’re going to eat this meal and then we worry about the next meal later.
“But this tastes great.”
Pierce took some solid shots Friday night but always got up—on one occasion even waving off the Bombers’ sidelines to keep back-up Alex Brink on the bench.
Pierce, who has a long history of injuries over his eight-year career that has prompted suggestions he should retire, said there was never a question whether he’d remain in the game.
“I want to be out there with my guys because I have pride and I think that’s what this game is about,” he remarked.
Toronto’s fifth loss in six games, meanwhile, tarnished a solid return by Ricky Ray.
The veteran quarterback, who missed three-straight games with a knee injury, finished 20-of-33 passing for 383 yards and four TDs—his 14-yard strike to Jason Barnes pulling the Argos to within 37-32 at 11:48 of the fourth.
Toronto had one last gasp, taking the ball at its 12-yard line with 1:19 to go.
But defensive tackle Andre Carroll cemented the win for Winnipeg, recovering Ray’s fumble at the Argos’ 22-yard line with 1:03 to play, setting up Ford’s five-yard TD run at 14:51.
Toronto’s loss clinched the East Division title for the Montreal Alouettes.
“It’s disappointing,” said Argos’ head coach Scott Milanovich. “We’ve had our chances to take care of business and we haven’t. Our destiny has been in our hands.”