Bombers: Reid key to beating Ti-Cats

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence this season has been a lot like those SuperBalls you find in vending machines at the mall.

You just never know which way it's going to bounce.

Leading the way has been the always entertaining but rarely consistent Michael Bishop, the Bomber quarterback who is a SuperBall unto himself. He goes this way one week and that way the next.

If Bishop and the Bombers (7-10) can bounce the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-9) tomorrow in their regular-season finale at Canad Inns Stadium, they will secure second place in the East Division and a home playoff game next Sunday afternoon.

'Our key'

If the Bombers lose, they will be bounced from Grey Cup contention, forced to watch the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

While the play of Bishop will go a long way in determining Winnipeg's fate tomorrow, the man running the Bomber offence figures the starting tailback is the one who will matter most.

"Our key, as crazy as it might sound, is Fred Reid," de facto offensive co-ordinator Manny Matsakis said yesterday. "That's why we got 'em last time (a 38-28 win over Hamilton on Thanksgiving). The threat of Fred Reid is sometimes a bigger deal than just him running the ball, because they bite on play passes because he's there.

"He could rush for 50 yards, but his worth is 150 (yards) because the backers have to stay in, and Michael can take the easy passes and go get them. That's been our game plan since after I had to take the role I took."

Matsakis said the gunslinging Bishop, who was not the primary offensive problem in last week's 48-13 blowout loss to the Montreal Alouettes, must focus on quick reads and short passes if the Bombers are going to get into the playoffs.

"That's helps him a lot," Matsakis said. "The type of offence we have is not predicated on our quarterback dropping back and figuring a bunch of things out. I haven't seen anybody in the CFL who can do that consistently.

"... We need to make sure our guys are focused on getting first downs as opposed to always trying to go deep all the time. That's probably our biggest issue right now -- if we can just be patient."

For Bishop, tomorrow's contest represents a chance to prove that Good Mike can force Bad Mike to stay away at a critical moment. Or perhaps, like the time in 1998 when he fumbled five times but threw for 306 yards in Kansas State's 40-30 win over Nebraska, he can put forth just a little more Good Mike than Bad Mike.

"I hope it's the good one," head coach Mike Kelly said. "The one where I don't feel like I'm grabbing a bridle and trying to look at a stallion's eyes. Mike's going to be fine. He really is."

Bishop, who is 6-7 as Winnipeg's starter with 14 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, said he doesn't have anything to prove tomorrow. He is proud that the locker-room stuck together in a sea of negativity. The Bombers will win as a team or lose as a team, he noted.

He is not thinking about next year but said it would be a "blessing" if he could play football again in 2010.

Bottom line

"I've been on teams where the last game of the season, we're playing let's see who can pack the fastest and get back to the States," Bishop said. "Now it's totally different. I'm enjoying every bit of it.

"Regardless if it's good or bad, I enjoy every bit of it."

There has been plenty of good and bad since Bishop rode to Winnipeg's rescue in late July, but the bottom line is he has done enough to give the Blue and Gold a chance at a home playoff game.

"Nobody gave us credit, but look where we're at right now," Bishop said. "That's amazing in my eyes."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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