'If I play well, we win'

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Starting slowly and finishing strongly isn't exactly new to Gavin Walls.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end has gone through it in the past, and this year he's experiencing it both personally and from a team perspective.

It could be argued that the fourth-year player's recent resurgence and the fact that the Bombers have won four of their last five games is not a coincidence. In fact, defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall might just subscribe to that theory.

"For us to be successful defensively, I'm not saying one position's more important than the other, but you have to have a guy that gets up the field and off the edge in that position consistently," Marshall said. "Gavin's starting to do that."

After mustering only three sacks in the first nine games, the 28-year-old Walls has improved his footwork and dropped the opposing quarterback five times in his last five matches. The late-season surge shouldn't be a surprise, because in 2005 he had six sacks in his last four outings and a season later he got to the quarterback seven times in his last seven contests.

Walls knows he's an important piece of the puzzle as the Bombers close in on a playoff spot.

"I do feel I play my part on this team," he said. "I've been here, I've seen a lot of guys come and go, I've seen a lot of situations. I think if I play well, we win. When we lose, that's when I always go and evaluate myself, like, 'Dang, if I could've done this better or done that better, would we have won?'

BETTER OUTING

"It's indeed true it takes 24 players to make a team on offence and defence, but I personally feel if I don't play good or if the D-line doesn't play good, we don't win the ball game."

The defensive line had one of its better outings of the year in Friday's 25-16 win over the Toronto Argonauts. Walls wouldn't say it was the best, however, noting the Argos aren't exactly explosive these days.

"Their offence is not like the offence we're getting ready to play now," Walls said. "Calgary comes with multiple things."

The Bombers meet the Stampeders on Saturday night at McMahon Stadium. A Toronto loss to Montreal on Saturday afternoon or a Winnipeg win over Calgary will give the Bombers second place in the East Division.

To start a season at 2-8 and nab a playoff spot with two games to go would be a minor miracle, but Walls won't be getting too excited because he's has been down that road before.

The situation was dire for Walls in 2002, when his Arkansas Razorbacks started the SEC season with a 1-3 record. It was looking like the playoffs were going to avoid the Hogs that year.

A month and a half (and four consecutive wins) later, the Razorbacks met Terrence Edwards and the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship game. Arkansas lost that match, but at least it got there when it looked like it wouldn't.

Walls said the same thing is happening with the Bombers this season.

"The whole year I knew there would be a time when the cream would rise to the top," he said. "... It just shows you what type of guys we got.

"Somebody knocks you on your butt in a fist fight, so are you going to lay there and cry? Or are you going to swing back, pick something up and knock them out?"

More often than not, Walls picks the second one.


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