Bombers on the bubble

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers might want to think about beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium.

Unless, of course, they want to miss the CFL playoffs.

The Bombers are on the outside looking in at the post-season picture. Their 42-31 loss to the B.C. Lions Saturday night in Vancouver dropped them to fourth in the West Division with a 6-9 record. They are two points back of both the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders and one point behind the Ticats for the crossover spot in the East.

The Bombers, Eskimos and Roughriders all have three regular-season games remaining, and all three could still make the playoffs with the crossover.

Winnipeg will make the playoffs if it wins the final three games.

A loss to the Tabbies wouldn't eliminate the Bombers from post-season contention, considering how poorly the Eskimos are playing and that they own the tiebreaker against the Roughies, but that's not how the Blue and Gold are thinking.

"Lose to Hamilton and it's apocalypse now," Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said. "We're just backing ourselves into the corner right now and it's not getting any easier."

Winnipeg, which lost to East-leading Montreal last weekend, could have joined Edmonton and Saskatchewan in second place had they hung on to beat B.C., but devastating breakdowns on both offence and defence in the third quarter spelled disaster.

The Bombers led 24-14 at the break, but the Lions erupted with 24 unanswered points in the third quarter. Star quarterback Casey Printers completed six of nine passes for a touchdown and rushed for another score, defensive back Bo Lewis scooped up a Kevin Glenn fumble and raced 40 yards for a score, and kicker Duncan O'Mahony booted a 27-yard field goal.

The Bomber offence, meanwhile, managed just three first downs and 35 yards of offence in the fateful frame.

Game, set and match.

"I guess we were too proud of ourselves coming into half-time," Brown said. "We were 10 points up and I guess we got over-confident, whereas they really dug in and came out with a hell of a lot more intensity than we showed in the third quarter.

"It's disappointing because we really let this one get away. It's a game where we were playing with them offensively and defensively and just collapsed on both sides in the third quarter."

The Lions finished with a whopping 522 yards of total offence, while the Bombers produced a respectable 416 -- their fourth-best total of the season.

"They're a high-powered offence," Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley said, "but even if we had gotten a stop here or a stop there it's a different game.

"... Playing the two first-place teams has exposed how much growth we still have to do. It exposed some weaknesses, or some concerns. Now having said that, progress in terms of our offence was obviously noticeable. Last week (in the loss to Montreal) the progress in terms of our defence in the second half was noticeable.

"So yeah, I think we're progressing. We gotta understand we're not at their level yet, but we came darn close to beating a good team (Saturday night)."

B.C. improved to 10-4 and has all but locked up first place in the West; only Saskatchewan has a mathematical shot at still finishing first.

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PLAYOFF PICTURE

Here's a closer look at the heated battle for playoff spots -- and potential crossover positions -- in the CFL's West and East Divisions:

WEST DIVISION

T2. Edmonton (7-8, 14 pts) -- vs. Mtl, at Sask, vs. Wpg, BYE.

T2. Saskatchewan (7-8, 14 pts) -- at Ott, vs. Edm, BYE, at B.C.

4. Winnipeg (6-9, 12 pts) -- vs. Ham, BYE, at Edm, vs. Cgy.

EAST DIVISION

2. Toronto (8-5-1, 17 pts) -- vs. B.C., at Cgy, vs. Ham, vs. Mtl.

3. Hamilton (6-7-1, 13 pts) -- at Wpg, vs. Ott, at Tor, at Ott.

4. Ottawa (5-9, 10 pts) -- vs. Sask, at Ham, at Mtl, vs. Ham.


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