WINNIPEG - Quarterback Joey Elliott became the new hero of Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans as he led his team crucial win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but his head coach says he had a lot of help from his teammates.
Elliott had a big second half and threw for 406 yards and a touchdown on Thursday to lead the Bombers to just their second win of the season, 32-25 over Hamilton.
While Winnipeg coach Paul LaPolice had praise for Elliott's performance, he said the win was a team effort.
"We fought hard and made plays, whether it was offence, defence or special teams," LaPolice said Friday.
"I thought our offensive line played one of their better games all year and I thought we were running the ball . . . and certainly Joey made some nice throws and I think it was a combination of all those things."
The Bombers are still in the CFL's basement at 2-5, but at least the they can now see the stairs. LaPolice also needed a win to stop some of the grumbling about a possible coaching change, despite taking the team to the Grey Cup last year.
"Certainly there were mistakes made also," he said. "We have to learn from those things and again play more consistent football to play and win games, because when you get six turnovers it should be even a bigger margin of victory."
Turnovers killed the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris had three personally.
LaPolice and the Bombers know the feeling.
"We talked as a defence this week collectively (about) getting more takeaways," he said. "We win when we win the turnover margin, as an organization. That's how we've done it.
"So we were plus six this game and it makes us go from minus eight to minus two. . . We said in the second half of the season that's one of the things we're going to correct, now we've got to keep doing it."
Stronger play defensively that kept the pressure on Hamilton's offence was certainly a big part of the game.
But the 26-year-old Elliott also showed a lot more confidence than might be expected from someone making just his third CFL start.
"I think he's been coached well on a lot of these things and I think he trusts his coaching, I think he trusts his ability," LaPolice said.
He completed 33 of 43 passes en route to his 406-yard total. By comparison Burris completed 17 of 25 for 368.
Elliott threw two or three that came awfully close to being picked off, but Winnipeg's strong receiving corps showed its stuff.
"One or two throws he should have taken back," LaPolice agreed, adding though that Elliott's style helps him escape being picked, as he did on a throw to Chris Matthews.
"The thing he does is he doesn't wait. If somebody was late with that throw, it's picked for a touchdown, but he saw it quickly and he threw it."
Matthews led Winnipeg's deep pool of receivers as he has most of the season with 118 yards and a touchdown. Cory Watson had 105, Clarence Denmark had 77 and Terrence Edwards had 73.
It was also a good night for running back Chad Simpson, who had 86 yards on the ground plus a touchdown and another 33 receiving.
Elliott took over this week from Alex Brink, who played the first three games after starter Buck Pierce was knocked out of action with a foot injury. Brink managed one win but the coaches decided to give Elliott a shot.
"There's a reason you keep guys around because you like what they do and we always felt that he has an ability to make decisions quickly," LaPolice said.
LaPolice isn't the kind of coach who goes off emotionally on either end of the spectrum, but he was definitely pleased with a game that could have gone south in the final minutes when Hamilton tied the score.
"Hey, we'll take a win. . . They scored at the end of the game and we responded and went the length of the field, and that doesn't happen often," he said.