The storm clouds overhead were getting thicker and darker no matter how often you heard talk about silver linings.
But, now that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers snapped a five-game losing streak by blitzkrieging the Saskatchewan Roughriders 31-2, the sun is starting to peek through.
The Bombers are no longer tied for last place in the CFL. In fact, they kept pace with the B.C. Lions for the crossover playoff spot, with both sides improving to 3-7 on the weekend. And they can even talk about catching either Toronto or Hamilton — both 5-5 — for third spot in the East without people staring in disbelief.
While the Bombers insist that they never doubted themselves, trouncing last year’s Grey Cup finalists so convincingly has already added spring to their step for the second half of the season.
“We needed that,” tailback Fred Reid relished after rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. “We needed a win and down the stretch, we feel like we can do some good things right now. Everybody’s coming together.
“Defence played a tremendous game (Sunday). Offensive line, they blocked well for me. (Quarterback) Steven Jyles, he’s getting more and more comfortable. The receivers played a good game — they were blocking for me downfield. That’s what we need right now and it’s all coming together.”
Not only was it their most complete game of the season, but the Bombers played with more passion than previous outings when they often looked afraid to make mistakes. And they pounded the Roughriders before a sold-out Banjo Bowl crowd.
“They’re good players, but we like to feel like our swagger is sky high and we can compete against anybody,” said Bomber defensive back Jovon Johnson. “Whenever they come in our home with our fans backing us the way they did, it’s going to be tough, especially down the stretch, for teams coming in here.
“If we can keep this momentum and stay on the winning track, we’re a team that believes in each other and we believe that we can win games now. It’s going to be hard for anyone that plays us from now on.”
The victory does give the Bombers a fresh outlook for the last eight games of the year.
“It’s very uplifting,” said safety Ian Logan. “We need this momentum. It’s just been frustrating week after week, losing the close ones. All that anger and all that aggression came out in this game. We were flying around, and we just said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We were tired of being on the losing end of those close games.”
But the reality is that Winnipeg is still out of a playoff spot today.
“We can’t get caught up and get too excited about it,” said veteran defensive lineman Doug Brown. “We’re still a 3-7 team right now. The second part of this deal is, we need to go out to Toronto and break our winless streak on the road.”
The Bombers, who are 0-5 away from home, take on the slumping Argos in Toronto this Sunday.
“If we don’t take care of business against Toronto, it doesn’t really matter what happened last week,” Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice said Monday.
“The players have to be process-oriented to get on to the next opponent … They’ll get their own confidence but they’d better forget about that (Saskatchewan) game.
“Toronto’s a good football team and it’s a team that we didn’t beat early in the year so, to me, you have to move on to the next spot. I know they’ll have confidence from this past game. I know they’ll be more excited and they’ll be ready for the game and all those things, but they’d better be focused on going back to work (Wednesday).”
— With files from Kirk Penton