Kelly hell of a scrambler

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly has turned his team around, stringing three wins in a row. (Sun...

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly has turned his team around, stringing three wins in a row. (Sun Media/Brian Donogh)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

If you didn't choke on a bone watching the Blue Bombers eviscerate the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Monday, congratulations.

Because, seriously, who saw this coming?

Jumping out to a 31-0 lead, due mainly to the passing game?

There were better odds on the Thanksgiving turkey winning its battle with the carver's knife than on the offensively-challenged Bombers putting up 38 air-induced points against anybody.

But there it was, in living colour for all to see: the Bombers turning the corner on a season that, three short weeks ago, was headed straight for a cliff.

Three straight wins, and Mike Kelly's gang, at 6-8, has slammed on the brakes and done one of those spineramas Jim Rockford used to do in his gold Firebird, driving off with a share of second place in the CFL East.

The win over Toronto? Big deal.

Edmonton at home? A start.

This one -- you've got our attention, Professor.

We've got to disagree with one thing, though.

The coach, with all due respect, is full of stuffing when he says his club has turned things around simply by staying the course.

Anybody who's been watching knows this isn't the same team, and it's certainly not the same offence, that broke camp back in June.

"It's totally different," running back Fred Reid said yesterday. "We've got players running everywhere, creating different mismatches. It's wonderful right now. It's giving defences different looks. They don't know how to game-plan us, because you never know what we're going to come out in."

Motion, the shotgun, hitch screens, deep balls -- it all looks so, well, so CFL. And so unlike what the Professor was teaching earlier this season.

Had this thing turned around with Kelly still calling plays in that unimaginative attack, and with quarterback Stefan LeFors still at the helm, that would have been staying the course.

Putting out the SOS to Michael Bishop, trading or cutting half his receiving corps and placing assistant Manny Matsakis in charge of a revamped game plan -- that's improvising on the fly.

Kind of like how Bishop found Adarius Bowman deep on the first play from scrimmage. Who cares if it's not the way it was scripted? Long as it works.

Bishop looks like a kid in a sandlot with his best friends -- only now someone's handed him a pail, shovel and garden hose.

"It's a big change," No. 16 said of the attack. "The receivers are running routes that are giving us a chance to win, especially taking advantage of where the defence is playing us now. They just can't sit back and sit on our routes now.

"The receivers are going full speed, coming out with all kinds of motion. Instead of being stationary we're doing some different things that open up gaps in the field. As a quarterback that's what you want to see in the CFL."

Everybody acknowledges this became a real team when Bishop spoke up, before, during and after that brawl-filled win over the Argos.

Who would have guessed: a quarterback on the scrap heap, pulling his team off it.

But it's time to give the Professor his due, too. Lord knows he's taken enough flak in this space.

I don't know what kind of quarterback Kelly was back in the day, but as a head coach he's one hell of a scrambler.

Dodging missiles from fans, the media, even his own boss through the first 11 games, he's got this team on a roll not even Nostradamus could have seen coming.

Clearly, Kelly performs best when the heat is on: the losses piling up, the stands emptying and the CEO's hot breath on his back.

Now he's got his turkey in the hunt.

And it's carrying a knife.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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