Bombers come out on top

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Who'd have thunk it?

To think it was just last month in Montreal that the Blue Bombers felt that they had it rock bottom. They had just been blown out for the third straight match, dropping to 3-8 and in danger of missing the CFL playoffs.

But Winnipeg has suddenly become one of the most dangerous franchises with the playoffs looming. Quarterback Michael Bishop completed 21 of 38 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bombers to a convincing 38-28 victory over the Tiger-Cats before just 19,562 fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium yesterday.

Winnipeg, which posted its third straight victory, improved to 6-8 and moved into a second-place tie with Hamilton in the CFL East. It also tied the season series with the Cats 1-1 and kept the Bombers ahead of Edmonton in the crossover playoff derby.

"Slowly, we're starting to put Band-Aids on all the gaping wounds we had exposed in the first half of the year," said Bomber defensive tackle Doug Brown, one of the veterans who had expressed concern after the Montreal match, a 33-14 loss. "We're serving a little bit of notice that you can't overlook us any more. It was a real strong performance.

"We're on a little quest for respect here in the second half of the season and if we keep playing like that, we just might get it."

They might get more than that because Winnipeg now has a chance to host a playoff game next month.

"We said coming into September that we controlled our own destiny and didn't have to worry about anybody else helping us out," said Bomber head coach Mike Kelly. "We just had to take care of our own business and to our players' credit, they're doing that."

Improved offence key

What has been most encouraging is the improvement of the offence. Not only did wide receiver Adarius Bowman lead both teams with 10 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns but receiver Brock Ralph added another 98 on five receptions, including a 20-yard TD -- his first of the season.

"The main thing about that game is that we got the win," said Bowman. "It makes my performance feel a lot better. It wasn't just me, it was all the receivers and the running backs. Our offence as a whole these last few weeks have stepped up and made the plays when it came their way. I think that's the difference in the games we've won these past few weeks and I also take my hat off to the defence. They've been playing great all year."

Bomber defensive back Lenny Walls also scored on a seven-yard fumble recovery.

"Hey, we're for real, man," Bowman assured. "I believe in this team. I think our team chemistry is at the top and we're ready to finish up, man."

The offence has improved because Bishop is feeling more comfortable at the helm, despite his two interceptions and fumble.

"I'm in a place right now where I'm not getting lied to," he said. "I'm going out there making plays and I'm feeling good. Those ups and downs in the past were out of my control. Now, we're in a spot where we can go out and play ball. We don't have to worry about what's going on off the field and all of that. We just go out and play ball to win."

Winnipeg plays host to the B.C. Lions this Sunday, then face the first-place Montreal Alouettes in back-to-back games before finishing off with Hamilton at home.

"It's how you finish, not how you start, and our offence played great," Walls said. "If we can stay consistent, we can cause some problems in the playoffs."

Winnipeg kicker Alexis Serna also kicked field goals of 18, 43 and 38 yards, and punted for two singles.

HASHMARKS: The win could prove costly as RB Fred Reid left the game with a hip injury and P Mike Renaud suffered a bruised knee and was on crutches after the match.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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