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Tait: Winnipeg Blue Bombers expectations greater than .500 football

Go ahead and do the silver-lining thing when analyzing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 2-2 start to the 2017 CFL season, writes Ed Tait.

B.C. Lions' Ronnie Yell (25) is stopped by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris after intercepting a pass from quarterback Matt Nichols, back left, during the second half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday July 21, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. Lions' Ronnie Yell (25) is stopped by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris after intercepting a pass from quarterback Matt Nichols, back left, during the second half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday July 21, 2017.

They want more and they expect more.

And so, if you are so inclined please go ahead and do the silver-lining thing when analyzing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 2-2 start to the 2017 Canadian Football League season.

Just to briefly recap, those two losses include a setback to the perennial powerhouse Calgary Stampeders, and last Friday’s 45-42 soul-crusher to a B.C. Lions club that entered the year as a sexy Grey-Cup pick.

Yes, it’s also worth noting the calendar has yet to flip to August and that the Bombers defence started five CFL rookies in Vancouver last weekend.

And yet working through the Bombers dressing room after Friday’s loss – a game in which the club blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead – there was nary a soul satisfied with the .500 start.

Oh sure, there was an understanding that there is a whole pile of schedule ahead of them – starting with this Thursday’s home game against the Montreal Alouettes – and a universal vow to avoid the finger-pointing that can spread through a club like a cancer.

A sample, courtesy Bombers right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick:

“I know there’s a lot of things we can fix. But we’re going to stay together and get it fixed. It’s early in the season. We’re still confident. We’ve still got our heads high. We’ll be OK.

“I just don’t want to have any negativity. We play (B.C.)  two more times, but that’s not what I’m looking at; I’m looking at Montreal and getting this taste out of my mouth.”

Still, as we opened with in this piece, these Bombers want and expect more from themselves. That’s partly the byproduct of last year’s run that has them 12-5 run in the last 17 games and a core of veterans – some new, some who have experienced a ton of suffering over the last few years – who set a higher standard for this franchise in 2016.

The loss to the Lions stung not just because of what unfolded over the course of three hours – from the botched fake punt, to the offence stalling when it mattered, to the defence being lit up for 472 yards – but because so much of the implosion was self-inflicted.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… the Lions are a good squad and the other guys get paid, too. But, still…

“We found a way to lose,” said Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols. “We were up 42-27 and have got to find a way to close out that football game.

“It came down to probably 10 pretty decent mistakes that equal to losing a football game. We all took turns doing it… I had one, too.Everyone just has to look themselves in the mirror and make sure they don’t continue to make those plays down the stretch.”

That’s a good answer and an important message after a loss in July. Come October and November and the do-or-die games, there won’t be that kind of room for error.

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Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com.

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