Blue riding wave of confidence

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The coach says it's the players, and the players say it's the system.

Whatever it is, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence is finally looking like it belongs in the CFL. In fact, it has moved past the Toronto Argonauts and into seventh place when it comes to points per game.

The entire locker-room is excited about the possibilities a rejuvenated offence might create.

"We work hard on our special teams and defence, and then the offence is coming along. They're scoring points, too," defensive back Jonathan Hefney said after Friday's 27-17 win over Edmonton. "We're rolling right now. I feel kind of good about it. Let's see what we can do with it."

The Bombers will need to keep it rolling a week from today in Hamilton when they take on the Tiger-Cats in a monumentally large East Division clash. Winnipeg (5-8) is two points back of Hamilton (6-7) for second place in the division.

They don't get much bigger than that, and if their offence can keep improving like it has for the past few weeks, the Bombers just might have a chance in Steeltown. The Ticats have lost two straight and three of their last four.

'FUNCTIONAL'

Although they didn't have their best statistical night against the Eskimos, the Bomber point getters were "functional," using head coach Mike Kelly's words, and perhaps more importantly were on the field for half the game for the second straight week.

That means the defence has caught its breath after spending most of the first 11 games on the field.

Right tackle Glenn January said subtle changes to the offensive philosophy are the reason why the unit has been more productive. He also said it's fair to suggest the alterations were needed to get all the offensive players on board.

"It's not terribly different. We still are going to be a 2-4 team with two backs and four receivers," he said. "It's just that we've added in some play action, we've added some stuff in. We didn't take anything out.

"Our bread and butter is going to be the run. With the addition of some play action and some different routes, it's opened some things up."

Kelly said last month that quarterback was the team's trouble spot, but Michael Bishop has come around and threw the ball "effectively," according to his boss, on Friday night.

But Kelly is also hinting that the recent trade of receiver Romby Bryant to Calgary has put the offence into another gear.

"We've got receivers now that are making plays after the catch," Kelly said. "And that's been big for us, because in the first half of the season we were catching it and then nothing. So this has been important for us."

While the devil's advocate would point out the win streak has come against the hapless Argos and the injury-depleted Eskimos, the victories have caused a wave of confidence to sweep the locker-room.

"Hopefully the growing pains are over and we can be consistent and put together a collective effort like that for the rest of the year, because that was very encouraging," defensive tackle Doug Brown said Friday night.

"It's not too little, too late yet. But we really have to pay attention to the next few games we have."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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