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Nichols leads Blue Bombers past Lions 37-35 as Winnipeg fends off late charge

Winnipeg Blue Bombers players raise Weston Dressler (7) after he ran around the end zone burning off precious time in the dying seconds of the second half of CFL action against the B.C. Lions in Winnipeg Saturday, October 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
October 08, 2016 - 6:17 PM

WINNIPEG - Matt Nichols had a vision he would catch a touchdown pass on Saturday instead of just throwing them.

The Blue Bomber quarterback's wish came true when he caught a four-yard pass for a score in Winnipeg's wild 37-35 victory over the B.C. Lions.

"It's kind of weird. I kind of saw myself doing that today," Nichols said with a chuckle.

"And then before the game, (offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice) kind of told me, 'Hey, get me down to the five on the right hash (mark) and we'll call it.' "

The play they practise at least once a week became reality late in the first quarter with Winnipeg ahead 7-3.

Justin Medlock lined up for a field goal, but it was a fake that led to a 20-yard run by receiver Weston Dressler down to B.C.'s 12-yard line.

After a catch by Ryan Smith put the ball on the four, running back Andrew Harris took a direct snap and tossed the ball to receiver Rory Kohlert, who threw it four yards to Nichols for the major at 12:13.

"It was a big play for us," said Nichols.

The Lions got to Winnipeg's four-yard line with 58 seconds to go in the game, but on third-and-one tailback Chris Rainey was stopped by Winnipeg linebacker Maurice Leggett.

The turnover ended with Dressler conceding a safety with one second to go after scrambling around in the end zone to run down time.

The victory halted Winnipeg's two-game losing skid and upped its record to 9-6 in front of 24,284 fans at Investors Group Field.

The Bombers can clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2011 if Toronto and Montreal both lose their games on Monday.

Leggett had injured himself early in the third quarter and the team announced on Twitter he wasn't returning to the game.

"I was ruled out, and me being stubborn, I just did some agility testing on the sideline," said Leggett, who also had an interception in the game.

"I felt ready to go. (Coach) said, 'I could put you back in if we need you.' The rest is history."

B.C. is 9-5 and the teams who are tied for second in the CFL West Division face each other again next Friday in Vancouver.

Winnipeg had a 24-3 lead early in the second quarter, but the Lions closed the gap to 24-20 by halftime.

"Our guys persevered, but again, a loss is a loss," Lions head coach Wally Buono said.

B.C. took its first lead at 12:43 of the third when backup quarterback Travis Lulay came in for a one-yard TD run that made it 30-27.

Winnipeg regained the lead at 7:10 of the fourth with Clarence Denmark's 22-yard catch in the end zone to make it 37-33.

Nichols completed 22-of-32 pass attempts for 233 yards and no interceptions. Lions QB Jonathon Jennings was 28-of-38 for 422 yards with two interceptions.

"It's tough. It's really tough," Jennings said. "We've got to play better football than that from the start."

Winnipeg also got touchdowns from Harris on a seven-yard catch and Timothy Flanders rushed 16 yards into the end zone after Leggett's pick.

Harris was back from missing three games with an injury, and it was the first time Winnipeg's big free-agent signing was playing his former Lions team.

He had 12 carries for 66 yards and enjoyed battling against B.C. linebackers Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill.

"There was one play where they both got me, but at the end of the day I think I edged them out with the play-making," Harris said. "We'll see how next week goes."

Medlock was good on field goals from 15, 32 and 48 yards and made his three converts.

The Lions got rushing TDs from Rainey on a 56-yard gallop, Anthony Allen from three yards out and Lulay's one-yarder.

Richie Leone made a pair of field goals from 14 yards and added ones from 33 and 46. He missed a 43-yard attempt and was good on three conversions.

Lions slotback Bryan Burnham led all receivers with 10 catches for 208 yards, while teammate Emmanuel Arceneaux had 14 receptions for 150 yards.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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