Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers still have chance

At being worst team in recent memory

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The thing about being in a playoff race is it helps if your team occasionally wins a game, instead of just counting on the other teams to lose.

The woeful 2-10 Winnipeg Blue Bombers went to bed Saturday night just four points behind the third-place Montreal Alouettes, who lost their third in a row Saturday, 28-26 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, to fall to 4-8.

But it's the West Division's Edmonton Eskimos who the Bombers will now also have to catch if they're going to make a late-season playoff run. With back-to-back victories over Winnipeg -- 25-7 last week in Edmonton and 35-27 in Friday night's debacle in Winnipeg -- the Eskimos are 3-9 and two points ahead of the Bombers.

It was the 7-11 Eskimos, remember, who crossed over last season and took the third playoff spot in the East when both the Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats finished 6-12. And it could happen all over again this year if the Bombers or Als don't figure out a way to win again soon.

Now, some of this playoff talk -- heck, probably all this playoff talk -- is besides the point when you consider the new lows the Bombers reached this season with Friday's epic collapse.

Up 20-0 in the second quarter and, for once, actually enjoying some viable offence, the Bombers found a whole new way to lose -- and this one truly was a team effort.

Consider: After generating 181 yards of net offence in the first half, the Bombers were able to muster just 81 yards in the second half and did absolutely nothing to help out a defence under siege.

And speaking of defence, how about Winnipeg defensive backs Alex Suber, Marty Markett and, worst of all, Demond Washington, all dropping what should have been sure interceptions in the fourth quarter that would have put Edmonton on ice, earned Winnipeg the victory and have people talking today about the tidy little two-game winning streak the Bombers had put together at Investors Group Field, instead of looking for knives to cut out their eyeballs?

And speaking of failing to put the game away, how about Bombers placekicker Sandro DeAngelis missing what would have been the game-winning field goal from just 35 yards with 2:33 remaining?

Yes, in a season in which this motley Bombers crew has seldom put together a complete team effort, they finally at least found something they could all do together -- rip defeat from the jaws of victory.

So now what? Well, things certainly don't get any easier from here. Edmonton had just one win all season -- and were riding an eight-game losing streak -- until they faced the Bombers the last two games and so you could argue the lightest competition Winnipeg will face this season is already behind them.

The Bombers play again at home Friday against a B.C. Lions squad that was 7-4 coming into this weekend. Now, the Lions are certainly vulnerable at the moment -- they'll be without starting QB Travis Lulay and they've won on the road just once in five games this season.

But if the Bombers couldn't beat Edmonton Friday after they'd been spotted a 20-point lead, it'd be hard to argue that B.C. will be a pushover.

And after B.C., things get really tough. The Bombers will be in Calgary to face a Stampeders team that just last night had their 10-game win streak at home broken by Toronto.

In a season in which this team hasn't been able to win much, one mark that they might still yet win is that of the worst Bombers team in recent memory.

Until now, that mark has been held by the 1998 Bombers, who recorded the worst record for a Bombers team in an 18-game regular season schedule at 3-15.

If you can figure out where these 2-10 Bombers get a third win in the final six games of their 2013 schedule, you should give head coach Tim Burke a call and fill him in. Which is not to say, mind you, that it cannot happen -- heck, this bunch of sad sacks beat Saskatchewan just a couple of weeks ago, so anything is possible.

But it seems safe to say that whatever happens from here, this Bombers team will never have an easier chance to win their third game in 2013 than the night they were up 20 points on the Eskimos and blew it.

It only gets harder -- much, much harder -- from here.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2013 B6

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