Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't think, just play

Bombers took a page from golf: grip it and rip it

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MONTREAL -- Tim Burke likened it to a golfer who one day just stops thinking and just starts swinging. Jonathan Hefney said it reminded him of being back on the playground again.

But while both men had a slightly different take on what had just happened, there was no disagreement in a triumphant Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker-room here at Stade Percival Molson on Monday about why it had happened.

Both the head coach and the defensive back -- along with the rest of the Bombers locker- room -- agreed that what changed so dramatically for a beleaguered Bombers team in a stunning 27-22 upset of the Montreal Alouettes had very little to do with any new wrinkles the team implemented on offence, defence or special teams and everything to do with another change they made -- of attitude.

"I had a great time," said Hefney, who recovered two fumbles against Montreal and was just generally a menace all afternoon. "It was the same team, same players -- we just had fun. Coach Burke said go have fun... and that's exactly what we did."

As the Bombers players described it, what happened in Montreal on Monday actually happened in Winnipeg last Thursday when -- with snow falling and a bitter wind howling on the practice field outside at Canad Inns Stadium -- Burke stood in the Bomber locker-room and gave a speech urging his players to leave behind the horrors of a trying season and instead go at the remaining five games of the season with a mantra more commonly associated with the links: Grip it and rip it.

"It's just like when you're golfing," Burke maintained Monday following the game. "You get up there and you're thinking, 'I've got to hold my hands this way and I've got to do this...' And you shank it, instead of just going up there and hitting it.

"And I think that's kind of like we are -- we just needed to get up there, address the ball and then swing away."

The question now is have the Bombers finally found their swing only to realize it's too late to make any difference?

Not at all, actually. As unfathomable as it may seem after everything that's gone wrong for the Bombers this season, the fact is they still very much remain in the playoff hunt.

Were the CFL season to end today, the six playoff teams would be Montreal, Toronto, B.C., Calgary, Saskatchewan and finally Edmonton, who would cross over and claim the third playoff spot in the East because their 6-8 record is currently better than either Hamilton, at 5-9, or Winnipeg, at 4-10.

But the Eskimos still have a tough schedule in front of them, with games in B.C. and Montreal and at home to Saskatchewan and Calgary.

That's hardly a cakewalk and Winnipeg doesn't have to finish ahead of Edmonton in the standings -- a tie would be good enough to keep the final playoff spot in the East.

As for Hamilton, the Bombers and Ticats play once more at Ivor Wynne at the end of this month and the Bombers already own the season series between the two teams, meaning they'd advance if the Ticats and Bombers both finish tied in the standings and clear of Edmonton.

Winnipeg has four games remaining -- this Saturday against Calgary, followed by back-to-back road games in Toronto and Hamilton respectively and finally at home to Montreal.

A sweep and a finishing record of 8-10 would be nice, but even a 3-1 record in their final four games and a 7-11 finish might be good enough.

Sounds like a long shot? Yeah, probably, but consider this: eight wins was all Hamilton needed to get into the playoffs last year and they made it all the way to the East Final against Winnipeg.

And even seven wins was enough to get teams into the CFL playoffs twice in the last 12 years -- once in 2000 when Winnipeg advanced with a 7-10-1 record and again in 2007 when Calgary advanced, also with a 7-10-1 record.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But the Bombers already proved here on Monday the long odds a team can overcome with some positive thinking.

In the CFL, mediocre

is often good enough

With a 4-10 regular season record and four regular season games remaining, the best finishing record the Bombers can hope for at this point is 8-10.

There's no way of yet knowing if even that would be good enough to make the playoffs, but recent CFL history shows a sub-.500 regular season record doesn't necessarily disqualify you from playoff contention.

Here's a recent sampling of teams who made the playoffs with more losses than wins since the CFL introduced the crossover rule in the late 1990s:

Hamilton 2011 (8-10)

Montreal 2007 (8-10)

Calgary 2007 (7-10-1)

B.C. 2000 (8-10)

Winnipeg 2000 (7-10-1)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2012 C3

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