Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time for Blue to put up or shut up

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The question of the day is this:

Is this the weekend that time runs out on the 2012 season for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?

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Yes, it's true that the Bombers will still have eight games remaining after this weekend and anything can happen in the crazy CFL, where even the woeful 4-14 Bombers in 2010 still had a slim playoff chance until just two weeks were remaining in that season.

So yeah, we'll play out the storyline this fall no matter what happens this weekend and there will still be forests of trees and barrels of ink spilled over this club regardless.

But when you look at the backdrop to this year's ninth annual Banjo Bowl, there is the overriding sense that if this game isn't a must-win game, then it is doing a very convincing impersonation of one.

Consider:

The Bombers head into Sunday's Banjo Bowl rematch with the Roughriders (Can you even call it a "rematch" when one team got 52 points and the other got 0?) with a 2-7 record.

I'm not great at math, but with a loss this weekend, I'm pretty sure that would make the Bombers 2-8. And then next week, the Bombers are in Calgary to take on the Stampeders in a season in which Winnipeg is winless on the road at 0-5. Lose in Calgary -- and it would hardly be a shocking development -- and the Bombers would be 2-9 and on a four-game losing streak.

Then on top of that, there's this: With a win over Winnipeg on Sunday, the Roughriders would improve to 5-5 and, along with Edmonton by week's end, be three wins up on the Bombers in the battle for the cross-over playoff spot that is increasingly looking like it might be up for grabs in the East Division this season.

So I repeat: Is this the weekend that time's up for the 2012 Bombers?

"Certainly time's not up yet," Bombers head coach Tim Burke replied when the question was put to him Friday afternoon. "So I don't want to get into a hypothetical that is down the line. If you look at our schedule, we've got six eastern opponents. So we control our future in that respect."

That's true -- the Bombers still have two games each against Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal. But with the crossover threat from the West in play right now, Winnipeg may need to finish at least second in the East to earn a playoff spot, meaning they might not only need to catch 3-6 Hamilton but also 5-4 Toronto or 6-3 Montreal.

If that sounds daunting, that's because it is. And so it is perhaps for the best then that the players on this beleaguered Bombers club are focussed on the trees rather than the forest right now.

"We're going to go out and try and get a 'W'. That's all I'm worried about -- I ain't worried nothing about the season," Bombers defensive back Jonathan Hefney said Friday after a chilly and abbreviated practice at Canad Inns Stadium. "We lost what, seven games? We got nine more, so we're going to get this 'W' and keep moving."

Jovon Johnson -- upon whom all eyes will be fixed Sunday as the 2011 Most Outstanding Defensive Player at cornerback makes his debut as a linebacker -- said he's enthusiastic about the immediate challenge.

"I'm ready to rock. I think all of our players are ready to rock and roll. We talked a lot about what we need to do to be a better team," said Johnson.

"And it starts this week, going out and playing with enthusiasm, being aggressive, flying around, making plays. That's what it's going to take."

Sounds good -- and very familiar. The difference this week is time might finally have run out to actually do it, instead of just talk about it.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

more cfl coverage C2-5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 C1

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