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Tait: Riders another test of Bombers' resolve

It’s all about how the Bombers respond this week mentally, physically and schematically, writes Ed Tait.

Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Nic Demski, left, stretches out for a pass as Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Maurice Leggett looks on during first half CFL action in Regina on Sunday, September 3, 2017.

Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Nic Demski, left, stretches out for a pass as Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Maurice Leggett looks on during first half CFL action in Regina on Sunday, September 3, 2017.

One of the defining characteristics of these current Winnipeg Blue Bombers – dating back to late July of 2016 – has been their collective resiliency.

It’s an ability to take a punch, literally and figuratively, and then counter with one of their own.

There’s plenty of evidence to back all this up, from the seven-game win streak last year that breathed life back into the franchise after a 1-4 start, to that remarkable comeback against the Montreal Alouettes a few weeks back, to winning a total of four games this year on the very last play -- twice in overtime.

And now that resolve is about to get tested all over again in the days leading up to Saturday’s sold-out Banjo Bowl against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Investors Group Field.

The Bombers were popped in the mouth by the Riders in Sunday’s Labour Day Classic, falling 38-24 to the Riders in a game that showcased everything that the Canadian Football League’s rivalry week is all about.

But with that in the rear-view mirror now, it’s all about how the Bombers respond this week mentally, physically and schematically.

That was the sense in the Bombers locker room late Sunday afternoon following the game. There was a tip of the hat to the Riders. And there was also a real hunger to line up and do it all over again against the same opponent on Saturday.

“They made plays. Respect to those guys,” said veteran cornerback Chris Randle. “They made the plays to win the game and we didn’t today. I think we’re better than what we displayed and we’ve just got to go back and make those corrections.

“It’s like Pop Warner football all over again. It’s like a jamboree. You get to go right back at it. That’s a good feeling that we can turn right back around and go face those guys.”

The Bombers were undone Sunday in about a 10-minute stretch near the end of the first quarter that turned a 3-3 tie into a 24-3 Riders advantage after mistakes by all three phases: offence, defence and special teams.

That, in part, explains why there was no finger-pointing after the loss by the Bombers – a defeat that brought to an end their five-game win streak. Everyone owns a piece of every victory, just as everyone owned a chunk of the Labour Day loss.

But now that resiliency gets tested again.

A win this week and the Bombers not only capture the season series with the Riders, but assuage concerns that pop up after Sunday’s loss.

A loss, meanwhile, means the CFL’s West Division playoff race – already a dandy – gets just that much more interesting.

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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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