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Bombers beat Alouettes to keep slim playoff hopes alive

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The Canadian Press
10/14/2013 5:31:08 PM
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MONTREAL -- The odds still weigh heavily against them, but the Winnipeg Blue Bomber's playoff hopes are not dead yet.

Max Hall picked up his first CFL win as a starting quarterback and Will Ford caught a touchdown pass and ran in another as the Bombers staved off elimination with a 34-27 victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Monday afternoon.

Winnipeg's second win in Montreal in 2013 gave them the three-game season series between the clubs by a 2-1 margin, but they will need to win their final three regular season games and have the Alouettes lose their last three to grab the final East Division playoff spot.

"So you're telling me there's a chance right?" said Hall. "So we've just got to keep playing. All we can control is winning next week (at home Saturday against Toronto) and, if we can do that, we'll still have a chance."

Clarence Denmark and backup quarterback Jason Boltus also had TDs and Sandro DeAngelis kicked two field goals for Winnipeg (3-12), which ended a four-game losing streak.

S.J. Green and Tyrell Sutton scored and Sean Whyte had four boots for Montreal (6-9), which ended a two-game winning run and wasted a chance to clinch a playoff berth.

The Alouettes turned the ball over seven times, including three interceptions thrown by starter Josh Neiswander and one by backup Troy Smith.

"Anything we've improved on, from turnovers to penalties, we did none of today," said Montreal coach and general manager Jim Popp. "There's no excuse. We beat ourselves. You've got to give (Winnipeg) credit. They didn't have to come here and play the way they did, but we gave them a lot, too."

The third-place Alouettes can still finish second in the division and host a playoff game as they head into back-to-back games with their second-place Hamilton, who they face Sunday at home.

Hall, starting a fourth straight game, completed 16 passes for 223 yards. The Bombers ended a seven-game run with fewer than 300 yards on offence by putting up 309.

"I'm not going to lie -- that feels really good," said Hall. "I was proud of our guys, with our backs against the wall, to hang in there and get a win. It says a lot about our team going forward."

It was a messy, flag-filled game played mostly on a wet field before 22,853 at Percival Molson Stadium. And it featured four lead changes.

The game turned midway through the fourth quarter with Montreal ahead 26-24 when Hall made the same handoff to Ford on successive plays. The first gained eight yards and the second got 69 as Ford broke clear but was caught by Chip Cox on the one-yard line. Ford then ran in for the score.

Before that, the Bombers got little on the ground against the CFL's best run defence.

"That's a really good defence," said Hall. "We felt we had a few checks at the line we could hit them with. Obviously, we did a good job executing it and Will found the hole and got loose. That long run he had won the game for us, bottom line."

The Alouettes marched back late in the game, but Whyte's bid to go 5 for 5 in field goals failed when his 33-yard attempt sailed wide. In the first quarter, White fumbled the snap on a punt attempt to give Winnipeg the ball on the 17.

On the next play, Hall hit Ford with a TD pass.

Desia Dunn picked off a Neiswander pass on Montreal's first possession to set up a DeAngelis boot.

Troy Smith replaced Neiswander in the second quarter and led a 60-yard TD drive capped by a 12-yard toss to Green.

But Smith was picked off on his next series, and Neiswander went back in. After Mike Edem recovered a Hall fumble, Neiswander hit Duron Carter with a 40-toss to the Winnipeg one, where Sutton ran it in for a touchdown.

A partially-blocked punt gave Montreal the ball on the Bombers 12 and Whyte was good on the field goal, but Winnipeg marched back for Hall to connect on a 40-yard TD pass to Denmark to tie the score at 17-17 with nine seconds left in the first half.

Between two third-quarter field goals for Montreal, Denmark made a tough 34-yard catch in traffic that led to a one-yard TD plunge by Boltus. Denmark ended the day with five catches for 105 yards.

"Denny's just a fast guy and he's proven he can be a reliable guy," said Hall. "On the touchdown pass, he was really just a backside post clear-out. We've never thrown that ball in practice or anything. But, before that play, something told me we might have a chance."

Neiswander has been sharp in his last three outings, but he completed fewer than half his attempts while putting up 199 yards. Smith went 3 for 6 for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Popp will need to decide whether to stick with Neiswander or go back to rookie Tanner Marsh, who has returned from a sprained thumb and dressed as the third quarterback. Or try giving Smith a start.

The loss left the Alouettes 3-5 at home, so they will have a losing record on home turf for the first time since the team returned to Montreal in 1996.

"The reality is, there are three games left and if we win out, we'll be second in our division and host a playoff game -- it's right there," said Popp.

"We know we can beat anybody in the league, but we can't play down. We're better than our record, but we didn't play that way. Today we played to our record and maybe lower. We've got to do a better job."

Max Hall and Will Ford (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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