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

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws against the B.C. Lions during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday, October 8, 2016.

John Woods/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols threw two touchdown passes and even caught one himself in a trick play as the Blue Bombers defeated the B.C. Lions 37-35 on Saturday.

The Lions got to Winnipeg's four-yard line with 56 seconds to go, but on third-and-one tailback Chris Rainey was stopped by Winnipeg linebacker Maurice Leggett.

The turnover ended with Bombers receiver Weston Dressler conceding a safety with one second to go after scrambling around in the end zone.

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

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.

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 427 yards with two interceptions.

Winnipeg also got touchdowns from running back Andrew Harris on a catch and Timothy Flanders along the ground.

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

Rainey and Anthony Allen also scored TDs for B.C. 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.

Winnipeg scored TDs on its first three possessions of the game.

A successful pass-interference challenge by Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea in the game's opening drive erased a Nichols' interception. Harris finished the 10-play, 95-yard drive with a seven-yard TD catch at 5:18.

Leone was good on 14-yard field goal on the next play, which began with a 70-yard kickoff return by Rainey.

Winnipeg responded with another scoring drive that included two trick plays and Nichols' TD.

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A fake field goal led to a 20-yard run by Dressler down to B.C.'s 12-yard line and then an eight-yard catch by Ryan Smith. Harris then 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.

Leggett then intercepted Jennings and returned it 45 yards to the Lions' 16-yard line. Flanders used the turnover and ran 16 yards for a TD 35 seconds into the second quarter.

Jennings was picked off by defensive back T.J. Heath, leading to Medlock's 15-yard field goal that made it 24-3 at 6:56.

The Lions woke up and clawed back, starting with Rainey's 56-yard TD run two minutes later.

A Winnipeg horse-collar penalty and a 55-yard catch by Lions slotback Brian Burnham aided Allen's three-yard major at 12:20 and squeezed the score 24-17.

Leone capped off the first-half scoring with a 14-yarder as time expired to make it 24-20 for Winnipeg.

The see-saw second half began with Lulay's TD and a pair of field goals each from Medlock and Leone that gave B.C. a 33-30 edge just two minutes into the fourth quarter.

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