Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buck and the boys prep for Eastern trek

Schedule doesn't get any easier after stiff test in Als' territory

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It is, of course, utterly preposterous to suggest that the second game of any 18-game schedule is a must-win.

Just ask Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke: "I think that's guys in the press overblowing things," Burke said Tuesday after putting his team through their final full practice at Investors Group Field in advance of his club's rematch with the Alouettes Thursday night in Montreal.

So let's concede the point. No, the 0-1 Bombers (who lost 38-33 at home to the Als in Week 1) do not need to win in Montreal this week to continue to have a viable 2013 CFL season.

But indulge us just for a moment as we play out the scenario where the Bombers lose for the second straight week to Montreal, as the oddsmakers -- who've installed the Als as 7.5-point favourites this week -- expect Winnipeg to do.

What does that look like? Well, the 0-2 Bombers would then in Week 3 have to head back out on the road to Guelph, where the Hamilton Tiger-Cats destroyed Winnipeg's backups 52-0 just a couple weeks ago in the final game of the pre-season.

The Ticats would almost certainly be heavy favourites versus Winnipeg again, particularly after the Tabbies in all likelihood crush a truly awful visiting Edmonton Eskimos squad this weekend.

If things play out as expected in Guelph, the 0-3 Bombers would finally return home on July 19 to face the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts -- and need to win just to avoid starting the season at 0-4 for the second straight year.

In case you've forgotten what that movie looks like, the 2012 Bombers parlayed an 0-4 start into the mid-season firing of a head coach and a dreadful 6-12 final regular season record.


And what about after that? Well, Week 5 sees the Bombers hosting a Calgary Stampeders squad that looked very impressive in beating the B.C. Lions in Week 1. And that's followed in Week 6 by a Winnipeg visit to play the Lions at B.C. Place, the sports venue in Canada where Bombers dreams have gone to die in recent years.

And so put it all together and you've got this: No, the Bombers don't have to win Thursday night in Montreal. But losing to the Als again would really suck, and potentially set in motion a chain of events that could make for a very, very long season. Again.

That's very high stakes very early in the season. And so little wonder, then, that the Bombers players on Tuesday -- to a man -- seemed to be doing their best to dampen expectations this week and put whatever happens in Montreal into the context of a much larger picture.

"I don't think it's a must-win game right now," insisted slotback Terrence Edwards. "0-2 is not something we want to do, but it's not the end of the world. We've got plenty more games to play to rectify the problem.

"But I don't see us going (to Montreal) and not playing well. I think we're going to go in there, play well and put ourselves in a position to win the game."

Bombers centre Justin Sorensen was one of the few players Tuesday who agreed this week's contest was a must-win, but he qualified that by saying that's no different than any week.

"They're all must-win games, you know that," Sorensen said. "And I think we let a win get away from us last week. So I think we're motivated this week to come out and stick it to them."

Bombers cornerback Jovon Johnson said he's taking the long view right now and rejected any parallels with the start of last season.

"We've got different guys and different coaches this year. And I think we're handling things a lot differently than last year. This year has nothing to do with last year," said Johnson.

Which brings us back to Burke, who went out of his way on Tuesday to point out a couple things:

First, the Toronto Argonauts also started sluggish during the 2012 regular season and finished a measly 9-9 in the regular season before running the table and winning the Grey Cup.

And second, not all 0-4 season starts are created equal. "It's how we went 0-4 too," Burke said of last year's start. "We went 0-4 ugly.

"Certainly, I think if we play close (in 2013) and we were 0-4, you'd look at that stat differently. But I don't plan on doing that."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2013 D1


Updated on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 6:44 AM CDT: Changes headline, replaces photo

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