Pick up where they left off

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

It was shortly after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had shaken an 800-pound gorilla off their backs against Saskatchewan last Sunday.

Having avoided a fifth straight loss, the Bombers looked and sounded like a death-row inmate who'd just received a call from the governor.

"This is going to be the start of something special," linebacker Kyries Hebert said at the time.

Five days later, the team that narrowly avoided a death sentence marches into Calgary, its ball and chain still attached, but feeling a tad lighter than before.

Upon first blush, the 6-6 Bombers are living in the same middle-class CFL neighbourhood as the 7-5 Stampeders.

Dig through their trash, though, and you'll find a different story.

The Bombers have the remnants of that four-game losing skid -- four weeks worth of junk food containers and empty beer bottles -- just below the surface.

Let's face it, this team has really only played 30 solid minutes of football over the last five weeks.

The Stamps, on the other hand, are the favourite new family on the block, the ones with the spotless front lawn, shiny new car in the driveway and empty boxes from fancy electronics stores in the back lane.

A popular choice to get back to the Grey Cup for the first time in five years, Calgary was riding high with four straight victories, two in a row over Montreal, before suffering a hiccup in Edmonton last week.

No wonder it feels like the Bombers are a huge underdog tonight.

They'd better not play like one, though.

I wouldn't call this a must-win, like last Sunday's.

But the Bombers have to show that the win over the Roughriders wasn't just an act of desperation.

Most teams will come up with an effort like that when backed into a corner, playing in front of the season's biggest home crowd.

Take that same opportunistic offence and stubborn defence on the road, against a team as solid as the Stamps, and now you've really got something.

Only problem is, a dozen games into the season and this group is still trying to come up with an offensive line it likes, an ongoing issue that should make Bomber fans, not to mention quarterback Kevin Glenn, a little nervous.

Let's suppose the new front-five holds together. Can we guess which players the offence will revolve around?

Hmmm, how about Charles Roberts and Milt Stegall? And that's another problem working against the Bombers.

It's as if they're addicted to Nos. 1 and 85. Take one of those away, and opposing defences are halfway home. Two-thirds of the way to the finish line, and the Bombers still haven't unearthed a good secondary receiver.

Of course, none of this will matter if the Winnipeg defence doesn't pick up where it left off in the second half against Saskatchewan.

A brick wall over the first third of the season, this group had been crumbling, to where you could start to see through it. The 'Riders actually began knocking some serious holes in it, before coordinator Greg Marshall did an emergency patch job at halftime.

Will it hold up against Calgary's Henry Burris and Co., a group that can expose flaws in a hurry?

The bottom line is, I don't like the Bombers' chances of winning tonight.

But that wouldn't be the end of the world, unless they revert to the bumbling of Sunday's first half, and the month before that.

Go down that road, and we'll be calling for the executioner again.

On the other hand, if Winnipeg resembles the team that started the season 5-2, then, win or lose, Hebert's words might prove prophetic: last week's win may have been the start of something.


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