Time to put up or shut up

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

HAMILTON -- This is the first game of the rest of their lives this year.

And the last three games of Winnipeg's season is critical.

The Blue Bombers face the lowly Tiger-Cats in Hamilton this afternoon, then finish the CFL's regular season against Calgary at home next week and the Lions in B.C. the following week.

"Technically, I suppose, we could still finish 10-8 here," Winnipeg's first-year head coach Doug Berry said on the eve of the final leg of the current campaign.

"We're very close to .500 and we're very close to securing our eighth and ninth wins. That was our goal at the start of the year, to at least get back to where we were in 2003."

That was the last year the Bombers advanced to the post-season.

But no matter what happens this weekend, there will remain an element of doubt as to whether the Bombers are indeed legitimate contenders, even if they are playoff-bound.

"What we need to do is prove that we can play with people," Berry said. "We've beaten everybody on the schedule with the exception of our last two opponents, whom we've only played once (each), and we'd like to be able to show that we can play with each of them in the forthcoming weeks."

Of course, both Calgary and B.C. blew the Bombers out the last time they faced Winnipeg. But it is time to send a message to those the Bombers expect to challenge come post-season play.

"If you're in the playoffs, anything can happen, especially with a team like our own where we seem to play pretty well on the road," Berry said.

The Bombers head into Ivor Wynne Stadium this afternoon with a road record of 4-3 while they are an embarrassing 3-5 at home.

Of course, the other scenario is that the Bombers have already won two more games than last season and advancing to the playoffs makes Berry a leading candidate for coach-of-the-year honours.

On the other hand, losing their last three and a quick exit from the playoffs would be cause for sober reflection on the futures of both GM Brendan Taman and Bombers president/CEO Lyle Bauer.

It is still time to put up, shut up or get chased out of town.


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