The backup plan was more than sufficient for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday.
Backup quarterback Dru Brown threw four touchdowns and 307 yards in a relief appearance as the Blue Bombers erased a 22-0 deficit to defeat the hapless Edmonton Elks 38-29.
Winnipeg improved to 7-2 and took over sole possession of first place in the West Division, but lost quarterback Zach Collaros to an injury in the process.
“It was the hand we were dealt and all you can do is chip away, like we did,” said Brown. “Luckily these guys have been in worse situations before and have come back and I could kind of lean on them. Guys were making plays all over the place tonight.”
Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea was impressed with Brown’s ability to step in for Collaros, who was described as being out with an upper-body injury.
“He has been with us long enough to know what he needs to do and executed the offence very well,” said O’Shea. “That would be Dru’s expectation for himself and nothing less and it is our expectation of him too.”
Edmonton’s extended its home losing streak to 22 games, the longest in North American professional sports history. Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Browns, who lost 20 straight in 1953 before becoming the Baltimore Orioles the following season, previously held the record.
The Elks have not won at home since Oct. 12, 2019.
Edmonton (0-9) has also lost 13 games straight overall, tying a franchise record set in 1963-64.
“We have two penalties and zero turnovers in the first half, and then we turn around and have eight penalties and two turnovers in the second half and give them momentum,” said Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones. “We couldn’t regain momentum because we were too busy trying to give the game away in the second half.”
The Elks lost despite a new-look offence that started the game well. Kevin Brown found a seam and blazed 65 yards for a touchdown on their first play of the game. Edmonton added a single point as the ensuing kickoff went through the end zone.
Elks Canadian quarterback Tre Ford, a University of Waterloo grad making his first start of the season, kept that momentum going with a long drive late in the opening quarter, evading a tackle and carrying it eight yards himself for the touchdown with two minutes left in the first quarter to put Edmonton up 15-0.
Loucheiz Purifoy picked off a Collaros pass a little over three minutes into the second quarter and ran it into the end zone for a 23-yard pick six. Collaros was rattled on the play after being hit up high and Brown came in to take his place as the Bombers’ QB.
Brown got Winnipeg on the board with four minutes to play in the first half, completing a long drive by finding Dalton Schoen for a 23-yard passing TD.
Sergio Castillo nailed a 52-yard field goal in the final minute to close the score to 22-10 at the half.
After the Elks fumbled the ball away on the Winnipeg 22-yard line, the Bombers continued their comeback with another competent drive engineered by Brown, capped off by an 18-yard TD toss to Nic Demski.
Edmonton responded quickly with a couple minutes remaining in the third quarter as Ford made a short pass to Kyran Moore who sprinted 70 yards for the touchdown to make it 29-17.
The Elks got themselves in a fair bit of penalty trouble on Winnipeg’s ensuing possession, leading to a one-yard touchdown plunge by Blue Bombers third-string QB Dakota Prukop.
Winnipeg took its first lead of the game early in the fourth. Ford was picked off by Evan Holm, which set up a beautiful 32-yard one-arm catch in the end zone by Kenny Lawler on a pass from Brown to put the visitors up by two points.
The Bombers added to their lead as Brown calmly tossed it over the blitz to Brady Oliveira for a 17-yard TD with four minutes to play.
“Edmonton came out and punched us in the mouth for the first quarter and a bit, that was not an easy win. There is a large core of guys in our dressing room that have been down before and have fought back,” O’Shea said. “There are a lot of reasons to be positive.”
NOTES — The last game for both teams was against the B.C. Lions, with markedly different results. Before their bye week, the Elks were stunningly shutout for a second time by B.C. this season when they lost 27-0 to the Lions. Meanwhile the Blue Bombers defeated B.C. 50-14 last week … After their loss to the Lions, the Elks elevated Jarious Jackson from QB coach to offensive coordinator, replacing Stephen McAdoo, who has been reassigned to help with the defence.
UP NEXT — Both teams are on the road next week as the Elks head to Hamilton next Thursday and the Blue Bombers are in Calgary to face the Stampeders next Friday.