VANCOUVER -- A poor team looking for a win had to settle for just playing better.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were gamers, but with the game a toss-up at 17-17 with less than 11 minutes to play, they eventually buckled and succumbed 27-20 to the B.C. Lions before 26,856 nervous fans at BC Place Stadium on Monday.
The loss drops the Bombers to 1-5, leaving them with 10 days to stew about their plight as they head into their CFL bye week.
"It's disheartening, but at the same time, we're on the cusp of doing good things," said Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz. "It's close. We're making progress every week, but progress didn't get us a win tonight and that's the only thing that matters."
Bombers coach Tim Burke, who has had a few days of spitting nails in the last two weeks, was fairly mellow and not despondent after the defeat, Winnipeg's fourth straight.
"We're disappointed with the loss, but I'm encouraged," Burke said. "I thought we got a lot better as a team today.
"B.C.'s a good football team and any time you can come here and play down to the wire, I think you've had a good game."
Though they had a forgettable start -- Aaron Woods fumbled the opening kickoff and the visitors were instantly behind 3-0 -- the Bombers applied some pluck and resilience to make the home team sweat.
But the entire third quarter, thanks to a fading Winnipeg offence, led to great B.C. field position.
Burke eventually conceded a safety at 4:24 of the fourth quarter to send the home team ahead 19-17.
"We just needed better field position," Burke said. "We just hadn't had any. I was criticized before for not giving up a safety, so I guess I can be criticized when we gave one up."
After the safety, the Lions took the kick and marched it right back down the field for Travis Lulay's throw to Courtney Taylor from 11 yards and a B.C. major, making it a nine-point difference.
A man who was nearly spitting nails after the game was Goltz.
After completing seven of his first nine throws, he ended the game 13 for 28 with just 112 yards.
Goltz was four of 13 in the second half.
"Keep living and learning," the quarterback said after his second CFL start. "It's a disheartening loss. We lost to a very good football team, a veteran secondary that really locked us down in the second half.
"It's disheartening because you win a game like this and it can really turn your season around. We're heading into a bye week with a division rival back-to-back (Hamilton, upcoming); that's the best way to describe it."
Goltz vowed he will learn from the game, but it didn't ease his pain.
"I'm not happy with how I played because we didn't win," he said. "Missing a couple (of throws) could be the difference between winning and losing this game. You take something from every time you step on the field. You take something from this loss and you have to build on it."
Burke sounded like he wanted Goltz to go easier on himself.
"He's going to have some growing pains," the head coach said. "I know one time he went to the zone side when they were playing man and he should have gone to the man side. And our receivers have to help him out. We had a couple of dropped balls in key situations, one that would have got us out of the shadow of our goalposts, another that would have got us to the red zone."
The Bombers are now off until a week Friday, when Hamilton visits to start a back-to-back. Needless to say, East Division positioning and playoff implications will be a hot story by game time.
On that, Burke made an early demand late Monday.
"We asked them to get better every week," Burke said. "I don't say we have to go out and win, I just tell them we've got to get better. I thought we got a lot better this week, so if we can get a little bit better the next week, that might put us over the top and get us a victory."