Bombers’ have a history of strong finishes

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 AM ET

TORONTO — - The coaches keep changing and so do the players, yet the trend remains the same.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a second-half-of-the-season kind of club.

They will be looking to cash in on that post-Labour Day prowess Sunday afternoon at the Rogers Centre, where they will take on the wobbly Toronto Argonauts in a critical East Division clash (noon, TSN).

The Bombers (3-7) need a victory to close ground on Toronto and possibly Hamilton, which, like Toronto, had a 5-5 record going into its game late Saturday night in B.C. against the Lions.

Winnipeg also needs to top Toronto to stay alive in the season series. The Boatmen won the first of three meetings in Week 2, which means they have a chance on Sunday to take a four-game lead on the Blue and Gold with seven matches to go.

Winnipeg has already lost the season series with Hamilton.

If the Bombers lose Sunday, their only way into the post-season might be through the crossover spot in the West Division.

The gravity of the contest, therefore, is not lost on slotback Terrence Edwards.

“I won’t necessarily say we’re desperate to get wins, but it’s on the cusp of win or go home,” Edwards said Saturday afternoon in the lobby of the team’s downtown Toronto hotel.

Argos head coach Jim Barker was a little more blunt: “This game will have huge playoff implications.”

The good news for the Bombers is history suggests they’re just hitting their stride. Since 2006 the Blue and Gold have a .362 winning percentage up to and including the Labour Day Classic.

Then they heat up. They don’t catch fire, as they sport a modest .571 post-LDC winning percentage, but they usually do enough to barge their way into the post-season.

Defensive tackle Doug Brown suggested the trend is simply a product of necessity, but slotback Brock Ralph believes there is another, more reasonable explanation.

“There have been a lot of new faces, even since I’ve been here, and that takes time,” Ralph said. “These last two weeks I feel like we’re learning one another even more and just trying to continue to grow.”

Edwards, one of the longest-serving Bombers, noted the slow starts and fast finishes can’t be attributed solely to turnover.

“After ’07 we had the same team and we started off slow in ’08,” he said. “I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on why we start off slow and gain momentum at the end. But I guess they say you want to be playing your best ball at the end of the season.

“That’s what we gotta do now. We gotta turn it around. If we can capitalize on our momentum from last week we’ll be all right. But we can’t go win one and lose two. We gotta string together some wins.”

The Bombers looked brilliant in a 31-2 thrashing of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in last Sunday’s Banjo Bowl, snapping a five-game losing streak in the process.

The Argos, meanwhile, have dropped three in a row and will also be without their prime-time offensive player, league rushing leader Cory Boyd, who will miss Sunday’s game with a concussion.

Not only that, but the Argos are 1-18 after Labour Day since 2008.

In other words, the Bombers have a glorious opportunity to make some hay — just as they usually do at this time of year. Head coach Paul LaPolice downplayed the importance of Sunday’s tilt as it pertains to his team’s post-season dreams, however.

“It’s against an Eastern opponent that’s four points ahead of us. We can get two points and they can’t,” he said. “That’ll help your cause dramatically to get closer to the playoffs.

“I never say things are must-wins until they are must-wins. But we want to prove to people we can win back-to-back games. That’s a start. We haven’t won on the road. There’s a lot of things we need to step up and perform at.”


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