Turnovers are supposed to be deadly in football, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers committed five of them and it turned out just fine.
A smothering defence that sacked Anthony Calvillo seven times came to the rescue as the Blue Bombers downed the Montreal Alouettes 19-11 on Thursday night.
A pair of touchdowns by backup quarterback Justin Goltz and two Mike Renaud singles was all Winnipeg needed to earn a split of a back-to-back series to start the CFL season. Winnipeg lost 38-33 loss to Montreal at home last week.
“The team that turns the ball over usually loses,” said starting QB Buck Pierce, who threw an interception and saw his team fumble four times. “Our defence was able to get some back in the second half, but we have to take better care of the football.
“I’ll take that onus on me. The interception early, you can’t do much about that, but the fumbles, we can’t have those.”
The night ended with concern for Bombers defensive tackle Bryant Turner, who was injured in the final minute. He walked off the field on his own power, but was given oxygen by doctors while on a stretcher on the sidelines after the game. There was no immediate word on his condition.
“I’m scared for him right now,” said defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan. “I don’t know what it is, but I know he’s a tough kid and he’ll be fine.
“He had some problems breathing, but he’s going to be fine.”
Turner was a key figure in holding Montreal’s normally potent offence to only nine first downs and 136 yards in net offence for the game. Calvillo completed 16 for 135 yards.
A handful of times, turnovers gave Montreal the ball in good field position, but they got only four points from them.
Calvillo called that “disgusting,” and rookie head coach Dan Hawkins agreed.
“It was frustrating because our defence gave us turnovers,” said Hawkins. “We had some short fields and we were unable to capitalize.
“Last week we struggled and we were up by a few points and this week we struggled and we were down, so we’ve got to keep getting better. It starts with me.”
It appears the Alouettes offence is still adjusting to a new coaching staff as it failed to move the ball until a late drive produced their only touchdown from S.J. Green. Sean Whyte added a field goal and a single.
The Bombers defence made it especially tough on Calvillo on a muggy night at Percival Molson Stadium.
“I’m going to buy them all dinner tonight,” said Pierce. “It’s a team effort.
“When they needed to be picked up, we picked them up. When we struggled in the second half, we leaned on them. And they got key stops for us countless times. I’m glad we gave them a bit of a cushion going into the last few minutes.”
A pass from Pierce that was tipped by Jerald Brown for a Scooter Brown interception on the Winnipeg 21 turned into a 16-yard Whyte field goal 6:38 into the game.
Winnipeg responded with a 10-play, 105-yard drive capped by a four-yard TD run around the left side by Goltz 2:18 into the second quarter. Goltz had gone in on a short yardage situation and stayed in for the next play.
Montreal native Cory Watson made three key catches on the drive. He had six catches for 114 yards to lead the receivers.
The Bombers added a single to take an 8-3 lead at the intermission.
On Winnipeg’s opening drive of the second half, Kyries Hebert stripped the ball from Pierce and John Bowman recovered on the Montreal 51 to end a promising drive.
The crowd of 22,134 got to its feet in vain 11:28 into the second half as Hebert ran back a Pierce fumble for a TD, but he was ruled down by touch on the play after a video review and Montreal settled for a punt single.
Winnipeg answered with its second single of the game early in the fourth quarter, and then things got at least a little interesting.
Desia Dunn picked off Calvillo and Pierce hit Rory Kohlert with a 47-yard toss to set up Goltz’ one-yard TD off tackle at 8:57.
A four-play, 68-yard drive capped by Green’s 17-yard TD catch brought the Alouettes to within five points with 2:10 left to play.
But Montreal’s next drive ended with Turner’s third sack, which caused Calvillo to fumble the ball to Zach Anderson at the Montreal 23. Palardy booted a 27-yard field goal.
The Alouettes play another opponent in back-to-back weeks when they face the visiting Stampeders on July 12 and the visit Calgary the following week.
The Bombers play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Guelph, Ont., on July 13.
Running back Brandon Whitaker made a quiet return to the Alouettes with five carries for 37 yards. The 2011 CFL rushing leader hadn’t played since tearing a knee ligament in September.