No Maas, Bombers cry

Blue Bombers running back Charles Roberts needs smaller pants, coach Jim Daley says. (Winnipeg Sun...

Blue Bombers running back Charles Roberts needs smaller pants, coach Jim Daley says. (Winnipeg Sun File/Jason Halstead)

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

The last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers visited Commonwealth Stadium, Jason Maas made a little history.

If the Edmonton Eskimos quarterback does something similar this Sunday, the Bombers will be history.

Maas completed a CFL-record 22 consecutive passes and was 27-of-30 overall for 535 yards and four touchdowns when the Eskimos thumped the Bombers 41-24 on July 30.

"The first thing they did was throw two bombs," Winnipeg defensive back Ricky Bell recalled yesterday. "They were bombs away the whole game."

Must win

Bell is the only starting secondary member from that game who will do so again this Sunday when Winnipeg (6-10) attempts to keep its playoff hopes alive against Edmonton (8-9).

The Bombers must win their final two games to finish third in the West Division.

Also starting in the secondary that fateful July night were Markus Howell, Jayson Bray, Terry Ray and Marcus Smith. Howell is back on offence, Ray is hurt and Smith has been released. Bray is still around and will likely come on as the dime back.

The different faces starting this weekend will be cornerbacks Eric Carter and Raheem Covington, halfback Stephen Fisher and safety Wes Lysack.

Bell said there are numerous reasons for his secondary to be optimistic about this weekend, even though there have been numerous other poor outings this season that would suggest otherwise.

"We're more of a cohesive group," Bell said. "Now we have a prize in front of us. Back then it was Grey Cup or bust. Coach (Dave) Ritchie was still here, he had a lot of pressure ... we weren't really focused.

"Now we have a focus, we have a cohesive unit, we're a little bit closer as a unit, and we'll come out and make a better showing."

The Bomber secondary also held Maas to 191 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-14 win over the Eskimos on Aug. 12 at Canad Inns Stadium, "so we have a little more confidence as a unit," Bell said.

Bell has won only one game at Commonwealth Stadium, and that happened in the 2001 West Division Final when he was playing for the eventual Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders. Otherwise, it's just been loss after loss after loss.

"The common denominator in all those games was that they jumped up on us early," Bell said. "We gave up a big play, whether it was Ed Hervey, Jason Tucker or Terry Vaughn breaking a tackle, we gave up a big play.

"So we go in and make them play the game, don't give them anything. If they're going to beat us, then God bless them, I hope they have good luck in the playoffs. We're going to have to make them beat us."

Another thing the Bombers have going for them is the fact the Esks are reeling after a 40-16 thrashing at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders over the weekend.

Getting off to a quick start has never been more important for the Blue and Gold.

"A lot of times up there they jump up on people and then that's it," Bell said. "The crowd gets into the game and the defence gets fired up. We gotta go in and the game has gotta be close or we gotta jump up on them."


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