A YEN FOR ZEN
IT can be a tough gig trying to motivate a football team on the fast train to nowhere. But while Tim Burke has yet to come up with the theme or details of his pre-game speech to his Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he does have an idea or two rolling around in his head.
And so here's the gist of what he'll tell the troops prior to today's home date with the Toronto Argonauts (2:30 p.m. TSN/CJOB), a matchup of the best and the worst of the CFL's East Division.
"The thing we've tried to focus on in the last few weeks is just play it one play at a time, reading your keys one play at a time, performing your technique one play at a time," said Burke Friday after the Bombers' pre-game walkthrough at Investors Group Field. "Don't dwell on what happened previously in the game. Don't think ahead about what could happen or what we need to do in the future. Just concentrate on that one play.
"I guess we're into Zen football."
Yes, the 3-12 Bombers will try to channel their inner energy source today when they play host to the Argos who, at 9-6, remain atop the East despite consecutive losses to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A loss would officially eliminate Winnipeg from the post-season -- the Edmonton Eskimos were knocked out last week -- and set the six teams advancing to the CFL playoffs.
But keeping that faint hope alive has hardly been spoken about in Bomberland in recent weeks.
"We're not out," said Bomber quarterback Max Hall. "Obviously, I'm going to be cliché and say we're going to take it one game at a time and all that stuff. But what we can control is this week and if we win this week we might have another chance next week to stay in the playoffs. But, having said that, we're all still playing to keep our jobs, No. 1.
"And, No. 2, I also think it's a pride thing. We want to go out there and play well. We get another chance to play in front of our fans, who pay good money to come watch us play. We want to give them a show and beat a really good team if we can."
The Bombers, who haven't won consecutive games since August of 2011, will make two changes to their starting lineup -- Mike Sims-Walker will start at wide receiver for the injured Aaron Kelly while Jeremy McGee will step in for Desia Dunn, also on the injured list, at the nickelback spot.
NO HOME HEROICS
If the Bombers don't win at least once in their final two homes games, they will finish this season with more wins on the road than at home for the first time since 2006 -- and only the second time in the last 30 years.
MAX RATES HIGHLY
Max Hall's first career victory in the CFL last week also came with another first -- his 110.6 QB rating was his highest ever.
MASTERS OF THE PUNT
With 129 punts already this season, the Bombers are on pace to punt 155 times, which would be the highest total in the CFL since 2002, when Toronto punted 156 times.
The Bombers had sold over 28,500 tickets to this afternoon's game versus the Argos and are averaging 31,507 fans per game through their first seven home games. The club has also pre-sold over 27,000 tickets to their final home game on Nov. 2 and will shatter their previous single-game average attendance mark of 29,566, set in 2011, even if they don't sell another ticket between now and the end of the season.
Only 16 players remain from the 42-man roster the Bombers fielded for their final regular-season game in 2012 and the team has now dressed 75 different players in 2013 -- a new franchise high.