Rough ride

TED WYMAN

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

It's getting ugly.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers season has gone from surprisingly good, to bad, to worse, to slightly better than brutal in just a few weeks.

Just when it looked like the Bombers were turning the corner and had a chance to become Grey Cup contenders again, they went oh-for-August and haven't been in the win column for some 42 days now.

That would have even been a long time for teams coached by Jeff Reinebold or Jim Daley.

For a team that showed so much promise early in the season, it's an eternity. It's a losing streak which is eating away at the faith the fans have in the players and devouring the confidence the players have in themselves.

Of the four straight losses the Bombers have now endured, three came at home and three came against teams with records of .500 or lower. They lost to a Hamilton Tiger-Cats team that was 1-6 when it came here and is 2-10 now. Since beating the Bombers, the Ticats are 0-4 and have been outscored 157-31 in those games.

Losses at home to the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts brought the Bombers crashing back to earth and last weekend in Saskatchewan came the ultimate humiliation, a Labour Day pummeling at the hands of the arch-rival Roughriders.

Like we said, it's getting ugly.

But this season full of twists and turns is far from over and there's still plenty of time for the Bombers to rewrite this most-unusual storyline.

So far it's been a complete mystery but there's room for a hero or two to step up and avert the impending disaster.

With seven games left in the season, Winnipeg was still just four points out of first place in the East Division heading into play this weekend, despite their recent woes. A similar swoon by the Montreal Alouettes, who started 7-0 and were 7-4 through last weekend's games, has opened the door for the Toronto Argos (6-5) and Bombers (5-6) to chase down a playoff bye.

Sure, the idea of this team finishing in first place seems a tad far-fetched, but the Bombers are hard to predict. Nobody expected them to start like they did, compiling a 5-2 record before the end of July. Nobody expected them to suffer such a depth crisis when starters started going down with injuries and nobody expected them to so quickly become whipping boys for the likes of Hamilton and Saskatchewan.

Which way they will go next is anybody's guess, but you have to believe pride will start to become a factor tomorrow when the Roughriders pay a return engagement to Canad Inns Stadium for the Banjo Bowl.

Losing to the Roughriders in front of the biggest crowd of the year on Labour Day is never fun, but when it's your fourth straight loss it's an absolute slap in the face.

If ever there was a time for athletes to play for pride, it's right now.

And the beauty of it all is, that pride could carry the Bombers a great distance. A win this week would go a long way toward restoring confidence and setting the listing ship straight and in the process it would get the Bombers right back into the thick of things.

Right now, no one can say whether this team is destined for a home playoff game or no playoff game at all.

A modest winning streak could put them into a battle for first place, while any more losses will bring the Edmonton Eskimos into the rearview mirror. The Esks present a crossover threat to a gimme playoff spot in the East, and they are only four points back.

That simply magnifies the importance of this game for the Bombers, who need to get on the winning track now, with their next three games against Calgary and Montreal (twice), which were both 7-4 entering weekend play.

Another loss to the Roughriders and this season may just be a write-off after all.

As unbelievable as it sounds, a win and the sky's the limit.

It's time to solve the mystery and it all starts right here.


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