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Late-season improvement not guaranteed to carry over

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When it comes to offensive competency, and establishing an identity, if it happens once, it is a fluke. If it happens again, it is a coincidence, and if it happens three times in a row, it is the beginning of a trend.

There is no debating that the Achilles heel of the 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers was the futility put forward by its offence over the first 14 games. They went through quarterbacks, a coordinator, a general manager, a CEO, and were on pace to set a team record for underachievement, until they went to Montreal.

They put up 34 points, and had over 300 yards of offence, on that day a little over a week ago.

That was the fluke.

The coincidence came on Saturday. Despite a losing effort, the offence put up its biggest numbers of the season with well over 400 total yards and another 20 points. Had it not been for a collusion of unfortunate events in the red-zone -- on multiple occasions -- not only would the Bombers have won this game, but scored closer to 30 points yet again.

So by my own logic and admission, when the team travels to Toronto this Thursday to play the Argonauts yet again, if they are productive offensively, for the third game in a row, is it the start of a trend, and a corner turned?

Max Hall is coming off of his best game as a pro and is getting better with each outing. If the Bombers have enough duct tape to patch him together, is there enough time left in the season for him to be considered the quarterback of 2014?

In addition, if the offence continues to improve by putting up consistent points and yardage, and potentially wins three of the last four games, how much stock do you put into these small victories and how much should they influence what happens for next season?

Would or should a possible five-win season in 18 tries save Tim Burke's job or grant Marcel Bellefeuille another year with this offence? If the offensive line continues to threaten the 100-yard rushing mark without giving up any sacks, like they have the last two games, does that stave off its overhaul? And how many points for effort do you get when you show up and play hard when the playoff carrot has long left the building?

Influenced

If we are to learn from the past, history tells us we should not put much stock into what happens in the "garbage time" of this Blue Bomber football season. It would be foolhardy to forget how we bought into the offensive success the 2012 football team had at the end of its season and how it influenced decisions in preparation for this year.

In case you forgot, the Bombers went on a tear of competency in 2012 that not only convinced the masses that better things were to come, but that the offensive overseers had broken through.

In the last six games of last season the team averaged 23 first downs and 385 yards a game. Not only were the Bombers the last team to beat the eventual Grey Cup champions, they went 3-2 down the stretch, and seemingly found their groove moving the football.

Fast forward to the start of 2013, and those late-season promises from 2012 were nothing more than an illusion. In fact, those rays of sunshine in the dying moments of that season are why the Bombers find themselves in the position they are in today.

While I'm as happy as the next Bombers fan this year's offence has finally escaped from embarrassment-ville, when it comes to the year-end review, the season should be looked at as a cumulative body of work, not a final that is disproportionately weighed against the rest.

You may argue until your blood pressure matches that of defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan after a personal foul, these games are critical to their opponents for playoff positioning, and you'd have a point.

As someone who has been on 14-win teams that lost to eight-win teams, I can assure you, these games are harder than you'd think to get excited about and be focussed on, and way too easy to take for granted. Besides, it is too little too late.

The rest of this season should simply be about who on offence gets the opportunity to come back and compete for a job in 2014, and nothing more.

To think any late-season success is certain to carry over, is to not learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the days following game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2013 C4

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