Montreal Alouettes kicker Sean Whyte wasn’t hiding his excitement about the result.
After nailing all four of his field-goal attempts and adding three punt singles in Montreal’s 36-26 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Whyte explained how important it was that the Als (3-3) stayed ahead of the Blue Bombers (1-5) in the CFL East.
“Right now, that was the biggest game of our season right there,” said the White Rock, B.C., native, who converted kicks from 17, 32, 19 and 27 yards. “Going into the bye (week) and also beating a divisional opponent ... it puts us up ahead of them now and gives us some breathing room.”
The victory halts Montreal’s two-game losing skid, while Winnipeg remains in the cellar.
Montreal’s Jamel Richardson, who recorded his first two touchdowns of the season on receptions of 11 and 60 yards from Anthony Calvillo, said it was important to get back to winning ways.
“It was a must-win for us,” said Richardson, who had four catches for 91 yards. “We’ve been breaking down film. We’ve been playing well, we just wasn’t coming out with the win.”
Montreal running back Victor Anderson ran in a two-yard TD with under two minutes left in the game. He replaced starter Brandon Whitaker in the fourth quarter after Whitaker left the game with a suspected rib injury. Whitaker didn’t speak to the media after the game.
Winnipeg’s points came off an 11-yard TD catch by receiver Cory Watson, a one-yard plunge by quarterback Alex Brink and a 13-yard Clarence Denmark reception.
Brink was good on two-point converts for his and Denmark’s TDs, completing passes to Chris Matthews and Watson, respectively. Both TDs came in the game’s final three minutes.
“Offensively, we started too slow,” said Brink, who was making his third straight start in place of injured Buck Pierce (ankle).
He was also feeling pressure and was sacked three times.
“We had some breakdowns,” Brink said. “At times, their front seven did some things that we didn’t expect in their blitz scheme. We’ve just got to do a better job adjusting as a offence to what they’re doing.”
Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson was frustrated by his team’s 1-5 start.
“We’re not B.C. from last year so we can’t look at what they did last year to say ‘OK, they started 0-5 and went to the Grey Cup,“’ said Johnson, last year’s CFL defensive player of the year.
“That means absolutely nothing. We’re the Blue Bombers and we need to start playing like we care about football.”
Winnipeg kicker Justin Palardy connected on his lone field-goal attempt from 33 yards.
It was the second of four games between the teams this season. Montreal won the first game 41-30.
After the Alouettes opened the scoring at 2:27 of the first quarter with Whyte’s 60-yard single, Calvillo methodically put together his team’s first TD drive.
The 19-year veteran used running back Brandon Whitaker and receivers S.J. Green and Richardson to move 81 yards on six plays that ended with Richardson’s 11-yard TD catch at 6:37.
Calvillo’s experience showed again late in the first quarter.
After getting sacked by Bombers defensive end Alex Hall for a 14-yard loss, Calvillo was at his own 50-yard line facing second down and 24 yards to go when he tossed a 28-yard pass to Patrick Lavoie.
That was followed by a 23-yard run by Whitaker, but the Als were halted at Winnipeg’s 10-yard line and had to settle for Whyte’s 17-yarder eight seconds into the second quarter for an 11-0 lead.
Winnipeg finally got on the board at 5:12 of the second with Palardy’s 33-yarder.
The first half ended with Montreal up 15-3 after Whyte recorded another single and a 32-yard field goal.
Calvillo completed 11-of-16 passes in the first half for 162 yards and finished 17-of-29 for 368 yards with no interceptions. Whitaker rushed 11 times for 86 yards and had 18 carries for 115 yards and six catches for 64 yards.
Brink was 7-of-16 for 66 yards after the half and ended up completing 25-of-39 for 311 yards and no picks.
The Alouettes struggled in the red zone in the third quarter, but led 21-3 going into the final quarter.
While Winnipeg scored 23 points in the fourth, it began with Watson’s TD at 1:36 and then sputtered until Brink and Denmark’s late majors.
Anderson’s TD run at 13:45 of the fourth was set up by a 71-yard catch by receiver Eric Deslauriers, while Denmark’s TD came as time expired on the game.
“We told ourselves we were growing as a team and we went out there are played like this so I’m very proud of everybody in this room,” said Calvillo, who was also sacked three times.
Notes — The game had a sellout crowd of 29,533 fans at Canad Inn Stadium, a club-record ninth straight regular-season sellout. ... Both teams have a bye next week. ... Bombers safety Brady Browne left midway through the fourth quarter with leg injury. ... The game marked the return of Jeff Reinebold to Winnipeg. The Montreal defensive co-ordinator was hired as Winnipeg’s head coach in 1997 and fired late the following season after compiling a 6-26 record.