Team Complacency

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

So I'm wandering around the Blue Bomber locker-room yesterday, looking for answers after loss No. 9 on the season, when D-lineman Jerome Haywood hits me with one right out of left field.

In revisiting Saturday's 36-22 loss in Edmonton, Haywood, a barrel of a man who stands maybe 5-foot-10 but looks you right in the eye when he talks, suggested the butt-kicking might be just what the doctor ordered.

"We needed some adversity," Haywood said. "We had everything going our way, the last couple of wins. And sometimes you've gotta get brought back to reality.

"Some people get complacent."

I looked at the guy to see if he was serious.

He was.

Going into the Eskimos game, the Bombers may have been just a little too full of themselves -- with a 5-8 record!

The mind boggles.

Then again, hasn't that been the theme of 2008?

Going in, the Bombers read far too many of their own "Grey Cup or Bust" press clippings, and promptly fell on their collective mugs in an 0-4 splat.

That was apparently enough to shock them into two wins over their next six starts, during which they went out of their way to remind us they were still in the snail's race for second place in the CFL (L)East.

Then came three straight wins, and a Bomber fan could dare to dream that maybe mediocrity wasn't this team's goal, after all. Maybe it didn't just want to squeak into the playoffs in a joke of a division -- maybe it had designs on being taken seriously again.

Then came Saturday in Edmonton. A quick, 7-0 lead. A second touchdown on an easy bomb, and it's 14-2.

Suddenly, instead of playing with the urgency of a 5-8 team, the Bombers start playing with the complacency of one about to win its fourth straight.

And the roof fell in.

Outscored 31-2 in one quarter -- how can that happen?

Head coach Doug Berry says the quick start tells him there was no complacency, going in.

After the early lead, however ...

"Sometimes you worry about that," Berry said. "It looked easy, right? That's always the thing you have to caution against."

Why is it Berry has to keep cautioning this team from getting too full of itself?

Apparently, this bunch needs constant baby-sitting, or it's going to get into trouble.

"Maybe overconfidence had settled in," GM Brendan Taman surmised. "It could be an explanation, 'cause I don't have one."

So, pathetic as it may seem, maybe the Embarrassment in Edmonton was the tonic the Bombers needed.

You see, they play Toronto, here, this week, the game everybody's been talking about since 2-8, remember? The one game that finally means everything.

Win, and they're all but in the playoffs.

Lose, and they're all but out.

Is that urgent enough for you, boys?

Berry is leaving nothing to chance. The coach's message to the team as this week's practices started came through loud and clear when you talked to them.

"This is basically like our Grey Cup," Haywood said.

Ditto, said linebacker Cam Hall.

"If we want to get where we need to go, despite all the adversity we've had all year, this is the game we've got to have," Hall said. "This is our Grey Cup."

Who knew, the CFL's championship game being played in October, between two teams with a combined record of 9-19?

"We've discussed it as a team," Berry acknowledged. "This is the ticket to the Grey Cup, right here. This is the first challenge."

If that's what it takes to float their boats.

I'm just not sure what that says about a team, that it won't respond unless things are critical. That the slightest taste of success goes straight to its head.

A team that loses its edge as quickly as a skate blade on concrete.

It doesn't sound like a winner, to me.


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