The Winnipeg Blue Bombers shrugged off early adversity yet again Saturday and parlayed another big third quarter to the best record in the CFL.
They scored touchdowns on their first two possession of the second half en route to a 30-17 victory over the B.C. Lions that propelled them into first place in the East Division.
“It's just the makeup of our guys right now,” quarterback Buck Pierce said after completing an efficient 18-of-24 pass attempts for 237 yards. “We preach that we have to start fast and it hurts us when we always start off behind.
“It's something about how we push through adversity. We understand the task at hand. We get out there and get the job done.”
Winnipeg improved to 6-1 for the first time since 1984 and moved two points ahead of the Montreal Alouettes in the battle for first in the East.
The Bombers, who took control with 51 and 54-yard drives to start the second half, have a 63-point third quarter edge over their opponents in the first seven games of the season.
“We feed off each other,” said Clarence Denmark whose 85 yards on punt returns helped provide short fields for Pierce.
“Once the energy starts flowing, we just play ball. We didn't change anything (at halftime). We just went out and played.”
Backup quarterback Alex Brink, with two, and running back Fred Reid, who also caught a 44-yard Pierce aerial to set up a TD, had short touchdown runs for the Bombers.
Justin Palardy was perfect on three field goal attempts, the longest from 43 yards.
Tim Brown gave B.C. a 7-0 lead on a six-yard run before 24,131 fans who began heading for the exits early in the fourth quarter.
Akeem Foster hauled in a 54-yard Jarious Jackson pass with 1:32 remaining and Paul McCallum kicked a 20-yard field goal.
While the Bombers began their season 3-0 on the road for the first time since 1982, the Lions dropped to 1-6 and are tied for last in the West with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bomber defence, which has taken on the name Swaggerville, was missing Doug Brown and Dorian Smith up front but didn't miss a beat against the Lions.
They forced seven turnovers, including three on downs late in the game.
“We want to make the best of our situation,” said defensive tackle Jason Vega, who returned to the lineup and got his first sack of the season after missing the last four games.
“We can meet the (import) ratio and still be able to rush the passer. Our coaches have put us in a position to be successful and that's what we did.”
Winnipeg coach Paul LaPolice, who hugged his players as they entered the locker-room, said his team responded well after two consecutive home wins in front of sellout crowds.
“We really did a great job in the third quarter and then put them in a situation where they had to throw the ball a lot and that's hard,” LaPolice said.
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay, good on 12-of-23 pass attempts for 103 yards, gave way to Jackson in the third quarter after seven possessions where his club managed only 18 yards and no first downs.
But it was fumbles and penalties that allowed the Bombers to stay close in a second quarter where they took a 13-10 half-time lead.
Brown fumbled a punt that led to a field goal, Andrew Harris ran 69 yards to the end zone to have the play nullified by a holding penalty, the Lions had too many men on a second-and-inches play and a no-yards penalty led to a Palardy field goal.
“We just came out making mistakes,” said Lulay. “That was kind of the biggest thing of the night.
“When you're playing against a good football team, you've gotta play 60 minutes of good football and we didn't do that at all.”
Receiver Geroy Simon, who had 54 yards on four catches, said the Lions just kept giving Winnipeg opportunities.
“Too many mistakes, too much thinking instead of playing,” Simon said.
Coach Wally Buono said Lulay will start Friday in Edmonton after a game where he wasn't at his best.
“He wasn't getting that much help — from everybody, the receivers, the running back, the offensive line,” Buono said.
“So it was time to give him a breather and put somebody else in. We were disappointed with the whole offence — period.”
Veteran receiver Arland Bruce made his B.C. debut after being obtained in a trade with Hamilton two weeks ago. He caught the first of four passes as a Lion on B.C.’s third play from scrimmage.
“It was probably about a C, because we lost,” Bruce said of his first game in Lions livery.
“I did what I could do, but a C, which is an average game. But it's my first game in this offence and it's going to get better.”
Notes: Both clubs had 259 yards of net offence ... Jackson completed only six-of-19 passes ... B.C. tailback Andrew Harris grew up in Winnipeg, a block from Charles Roberts, the Bombers' all-time rushing leader ... The game matched the CFL's leading Canadian receivers, Shawn Gore of the Lions (two catches, 17 yards) and Cory Watson of the Bombers (three catches, 52 yards).