EDMONTON -- Mike Reilly threw three touchdown passes, while the Eskimo defence had its best performance of the season as the Edmonton Eskimos cruised to a 25-7 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday evening at Commonwealth Stadium.
Fred Stamps continued his impressive campaign with two more touchdown receptions, while Adarius Bowman had his first touchdown grab in nearly two years, earning the Eskimos their first win of the season at home and ending an eight-game losing streak.
Reilly finished the evening with 196 yards and three touchdowns on 16-25 passing, to go with 113 rushing yards on nine carries in one of the most dominant starts of his career.
Justin Goltz and Max Hall each played a half under centre for the Bombers, but failed to score a touchdown as the Blue and Gold couldn't carry over the momentum from last week's impressive win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bombers didn’t start off on the right foot offensively when Goltz lost the handle of the football after a first-down run, turning the ball over to the Eskimos near midfield.
With favourable starting field position on their second drive of the game, running back Hugh Charles quickly stated his presence in the lineup after missing time with an injury, catching a swing pass from Reilly for a first down and then some.
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The young Reilly caught fire after that, striking on completions to Marcus Henry and Bowman to set the Edmonton offence up inside the 10. From there Reilly finished what he started, finding Fred Stamps in coverage near the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score.
That quick scoring drive gave the Eskimos an early 7-0 lead, as they capitalized on the early turnover to seize momentum at home.
A quick two-and-out, including a sack by Almondo Sewell on the Bombers’ next possession, set the Eskimos up with great field position for the second straight drive as Reilly went under centre near midfield.
Charles did his thing again, moving the chains on the ground with a quick burst outside, before Reilly used his legs to convert a second-down conversion. On another second-down play, the 28-year-old found Stamps over the middle to again move the chains.
A roughing the passer penalty moved the Eskimos even closer, but this time the Bomber ‘D’ wasn’t about to break as Reilly couldn’t overcome an intense pass rush to convert for seven. Hugh O’Neill cashed in on a 25-yard field goal however, as the Esks opened a 10-0 lead.
Bad turned to worse for the Bombers on their next offensive possession. After a first down toss was called back on a hold, Goltz looked for Aaron Kelly on the deep ball but was intercepted by non-import defensive back Chris Rwabukamba.
And not unlike before, Reilly didn’t take long to take advantage of a Winnipeg mistake. First he found Bowman for a 32-yard catch-and-run along the sideline, before again moving the chains on second down with his legs.
On the next play, Reilly found Bowman wide open in the flat, and the six-foot-three dynamo scampered along the sideline and into the end zone to give the Eskimos a commanding 17-0 first-quarter lead.
The touchdown grab capped a six-play, 59-yard drive that spanned just 2:05, and marked Bowman’s first score since 2011 after missing all of last year and part of 2013 due to a serious knee injury.
The two highly-touted defences in this game showed their dominance through most of the second quarter, until the Bombers finally dented the score board with just less than two minutes remaining on a 17-yard boot from Sandro DeAngelis.
But that only awakened the Eskimo offence from its second-quarter slumber, as Reilly found a seam on a second-down draw play for an electrifying 45-yard run into Bomber territory. Just one play later, the dual-threat pivot found Stamps in single coverage, hitting his number one target on a dime for a 25-yard touchdown.
Stamps’ second touchdown catch of the game finished an efficient five-play, 75-yard drive in just 1:01, giving the Eskimos a 24-3 lead heading into the second half.
That would be the end of the line for Goltz, as Max Hall started the second half after Goltz was held to just five completions for 54 yards in first-half action.
Hall didn’t fare any better to start the second half however. After the teams exchanged punts, the rookie pivot moved the Blue and Gold into close scoring range, but was picked off in the end zone by Chris Thompson to end the threat.
The Bomber offence mustered just a single point off a DeAngelis missed field goal in the third, as the defences shut it down heading into the final frame.
It was more of the same from the Esks' defence in the fourth, as the Bombers managed just a field goal, as the Green and Gold held on for their first win since July 7 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Hall finished the second half with 160 yards and one interception on 15-22 passing for the Bombers, as next week's starting quarterback remains in the air for next week.
Saturday's contest was the first of the season between these foes, and next weekend they'll meet again for a rematch in Winnipeg on Friday Night Football.