Grey Cup potential is there for Bombers

Blue Bombers Chis Garrett (left), Glen January (back) and Buck Pierce celebrate a touchdown against...

Blue Bombers Chis Garrett (left), Glen January (back) and Buck Pierce celebrate a touchdown against the Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., Oct. 7, 2011. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency)

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

WINNIPEG - It’s time to come clean.

The 18 or 19 people who follow me on Twitter already know this, but I actually declared that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will make it to the Grey Cup this year after they lost to Montreal and before they beat Hamilton. And yes, I was serious.

The thing is, the Bombers came within two failed quarterback sneaks of beating the team that had won the last two Grey Cups two games ago. And they came that close to winning with a third-string QB (Alex Brink) starting and playing the whole game. They did it with a tailback (Chris Garrett) — who had been cut earlier this season — replacing the man (Fred Reid) who had won the CFL rushing crown a year ago, and was in second spot this year. And they did it with future CFL Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Doug Brown out with a shoulder injury.

They may have lost that contest to the Alouettes, but they emerged with a new resolve that resulted in their most compete game of the season when they downed the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton 33-17 on Friday.

But I made my prediction knowing they still had to play the ’Cats, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. I made it because, when the Bombers play up to their potential, there is no team better in the CFL. But the main reason is that their defence is the best on the circuit right now. And lest you believe I am one of those who types with pom-poms tied to my wrist, remember, that I am the one who gave the Bombers an F on their report card midway through last season.

Winnipeg is 9-5 right now and can get better. Its offence is not as good as Montreal’s, Calgary’s or B.C.’s, and some aspects of the special teams still need work.

“The beautiful thing about this team is that the potential has not been tapped, it’s not been reached and you can see the progression … with these guys because of that learning curve and maturation and the progression of the abilities here,” said Brown, who went to the Grey Cup with the Bombers in 2001 and ’07. “If we can continue on with this, we’re presenting ourselves with creating a great situation for us to be involved in.”

That defence has been leading the league in quarterback sacks, interceptions and takeaways pretty much all season.

“I think what really defines a defence is a performance put forward when it really matters the most,” Brown said. “Obviously, it was a huge game for us in Hamilton and I thought the defence, as well as the other two phases, played extremely well. And we’ve been pretty consistent.

“I’ve been with a lot of defences where we just knew we were going to be lights-out and that’s the one thing we need to turn the corner on with this defence — the assuredness of the performance. There’s been a few games where things have gotten away from us. You want to create an identity and be a legacy defence where people will remember back to it and you have to have that MO where people knew, game-in and game-out, what you were capable of and what was going to happen.”

Yes, there’s still some tweaking necessary, but the Bombers need to get it done before they lose defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke to a head knock job elsewhere.

“Coach Burke comes up with some great schemes and we just try to work at it the best we can,” defensive back Jonathan Hefney said.

Just remember, I’m saying the Bombers will get to the Grey Cup. Whether they win or not will depend on how they get there.


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