EDMONTON -- It's all over but the cryin' and the Khari Jones Show.
Winnipeg's slim playoff hopes came to an abrupt end when Edmonton beat the Bombers 40-34 in a CFL contest before 33,131 witnesses at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday.
ESKIMOS 40 BOMBERS 34
All the Blue Bombers have left now is a game for pride on Friday against the quarterback they banished to the Calgary Stampeders three games ago. Winnipeg has not won since.
The game was a microcosm of what has ailed the Bombers most of the season. They took too many penalties at the most inopportune times, the secondary had trouble stopping the pass in the early going and rookie Jon Ryan had yet another punt blocked. The Eskimos recovered the ball at the Winnipeg eight. Two plays later, Edmonton quarterback Jason Maas hit wide receiver Ed Hervey with a six-yard touchdown pass that gave the Eskimos a 37-27 lead with less than seven minutes left.
"That's a problem we've had all year, the blocked punt," said Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley, whose team had tied Edmonton 20-20 at the half. "We told them at halftime that we have to compete hard for 30 more minutes but we have to compete without the penalties. For us to take drive-sustaining penalties, or a penalty where we've had a great offensive gain, those haunt ya.
"You're very disappointed at a situation where you play as hard as we did, as tough as we did against the Grey Cup champions on their home turf, but hurt yourself with mistake or penalty that takes away your opportunity to have success. "
The Bombers drop to 6-11 on the season while the Eskimos clinched a playoff berth with a 9-9 mark. Edmonton extended its North American pro record streak of qualifying for the playoffs to 33 years.
Meanwhile, it is the first time the Bombers have failed to make the playoffs since 1999.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," said Winnipeg linebacker Ryland Wickman. "I haven't faced this problem in the five years I've been here. It's a bad feeling. I don't know what to say. We went in and took away the big plays, which is what we wanted to do. We made them throw underneath and we just didn't tackle well. And we also had penalties at the worst times. Then we had that blocked punt. It seems to me that those have been two areas that have been hurting us all year and it came back and bit us in the most important game of the season.
"It's disappointing. You know we've just got to suck it up now. We're out of the playoffs. We still have a game left and we've got to go out there and fight hard and give it our best and put on a good show, not only for ourselves, but for our fans. It's still football. We have to find a way to get better. We never seemed to get over that hump this year. We never seemed to put it all together. I really can't put my finger on it, we just never clicked and it showed out there, and it showed in our win-loss column."
Maas, who also completed a 17-yard TD toss to slotback Terry Vaughn, scored on a pair of one-yard plunges himself. Placekicker Sean Fleming booted field goals of 22, 37, 12 and 25 yards.
Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn completed TD tosses of four and 14 yards. Tailback Charles Robert added a 14-yard TD run and fullback Scott Regimbald scored on a one-yard dive. Placekicker Troy Westwood added field goals of 39 and 20 yards.
NOTEABLE: The Bombers have already sold 21,000 ducats to Friday's match versus Calgary.