'Coming to play'

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

HAMILTON -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had been preparing all week as if this afternoon's CFL match would be a playoff clincher.

But now that the Toronto Argonauts finally put Edmonton out of its misery by beating the Eskimos yesterday, the Bombers will be in the post-season picture for the first time since 2003.

And with a victory over the Tiger-Cats here today, Winnipeg could still threaten for first or second place in the East.

"It feels good," Winnipeg's first-year head coach Doug Berry said after the Edmonton loss. "I knew it was coming. Whether it happened (today), next week, I knew we were going to get there.

"It's something that I'm used to being in and I'm glad that this team has played well enough to be in a position right now where we've actually secured a playoff spot."

As Montreal's offensive co-ordinator since 1999 before being hired by Winnipeg, he had become part of a perennial playoff performer.

"Actually, I didn't care," Berry said of the Toronto-Edmonton outcome. "I felt like we were going to take care of our own business anyhow and if Toronto were to lose, we have the tie-breaker on them and that would have made that situation a little bit better for us. There's a silver lining either way you look at it."

Winnipeg placekicker Troy Westwood echoed Berry's sentiments.

"I care about (the game)," he said. "I don't care that we're in the playoffs, actually because I expected us to be in the playoffs anyway."

Berry doesn't expect his charges will suffer a letdown knowing they'll be pocketing playoff cash before the ball is even kicked off.

"We're coming to play," he said. "Actually, we want to ramp up the way we're playing and not go backwards. There's only two things you can do. One is you get worse or you get better. You never stay the same and we're certainly going to try to get better ...

"I do feel good about it but I want the players to feel real good. If we play the way we want to (today), we'll feel real good ... Let's get to 8-8 and feel we've earned where we are. Now we can start moving ahead to the next goal, which is to get a record of .500 or better at the end of the year, which would be a good accomplishment. And the more we win, there's still possibilities of having a playoff game at home."

"And I don't think anyone wants to come to Winnipeg to play," said Bomber defensive lineman Ron Warner.

"All of our games from here on out are important," said Bombers defensive back Kelly Malveaux. "We don't want to be losing any more games just for the emotional state of the team for going into the playoffs. We want to know that we're peaking at the right time and getting things done at the right time.

NO CHAMPAGNE

"So we want to go 3-0 in these last three games of the season but we can't go 3-0 until we go 1-0, and that's against Hamilton."

But the last thing the Bombers want to do is lose all three remaining games of the regular season.

"It doesn't matter how you get in -- by hook or by crook," said Bombers offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek. "Just as long as you get in, anything can happen. We've got a good enough team to beat anybody on any given day.

"(But) if we back into the playoffs at 7-11, we're not going to go very far. Our playoffs begin now."

And no champagne has been ordered for this celebration.

"The champagne comes on Nov. 19 (Grey Cup day)," Berry said.


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