It wasn't that long ago the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could have been described as a loud and proud collection of trash-talkers prone to grand pronouncements and brash statements.
They gave us, like it or hate it, 'Swaggerville.' And right up until a loss in the 2011 Grey Cup game, they backed up all that chatter with a smash-mouth defence and just enough offence to capture the East Division title.
Then along came 2012, when the Bombers stumbled out of the blocks with an 0-4 start, fired their head coach and managed to win only a third of their 18 games. Disaster doesn't begin to describe the campaign and it left behind enough scorched earth to have everyone wondering just what might be served up in 2013.
So it made for an interesting experiment to try and take the temperature of a squad that is 1-1 after last week's 19-11 gritty victory over the Montreal Alouettes -- a result that has quieted the naysayers and, temporarily at least, kept at bay the mob ready to storm the offices with torches and pointy sticks.
"We feel good as a team because we won a tough, close game on the road and pulled out a victory," said quarterback Buck Pierce with a shrug. "But don't take too much out of it other than that.
"All that other stuff... the doubters are going to doubt, the bandwagon jumpers will be on with us one week and off the next. We worry about ourselves and don't listen to anybody else."
"No offence to you guys," added receiver Chris Matthews, "but we can't worry about what reporters say about us and our team. There's going to be doubters, people are going to say whatever they want. But we can't worry about that. We're the ones out here every day putting in the hard work.
"Some people might not think it looks any different, but we know the truth."
The truth, as the Bombers would again have you believe, is the 2012 nightmare was the mirage, not the success of 2011. But some of the scars from a year ago -- when this club had some of the bravado torn from its collective flesh -- clearly remain.
"It boosts your confidence a little bit," said head coach Tim Burke of the win over the Als. "Now we don't have guys sitting around hoping we're going to win. Sometimes when you aren't successful you're waiting around to see if somebody makes a play or if something bad goes wrong. Once you win, you feel like, 'Hey, we can win' and so there is that confidence."
In a roundabout way, what it also means is there is less of a tendency to slam a fist down on the panic button that leaves management airlifting a constant procession of talent in and out of the locker-room.
It's brought a sense of stability for a few days, even knowing it could all come crashing down with a stinker against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday. For this Bombers squad still with more questions than answers, that's good enough for right now.
"Obviously I didn't want to come out here and face you guys and say, 'Ah, we're 0-2, but it's really not that bad,'" said Burke. "My approach to the team is, I don't care who we're playing. They're nameless and faceless. It's always about us. It's about how we execute. It's about how we perform. It's the effort we put into it.
"If we take care of what we're responsible for, it doesn't matter who we're playing, the score will take care of itself."
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