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Tait: Winnipeg Blue Bombers gain momentum in playoff push

The team's world seems right again after winning five of their last six games, writes Ed Tait.

Malik Leggett, 9, holds the Banjo Bowl trophy as his dad, Moe Leggett (31), Jamaal Westerman (55) and Shayon Green, all look on after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders during CFL football action in Winnipeg, Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press

Malik Leggett, 9, holds the Banjo Bowl trophy as his dad, Moe Leggett (31), Jamaal Westerman (55) and Shayon Green, all look on after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders during CFL football action in Winnipeg, Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Andrew Harris surveyed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker room not long after last weekend’s Banjo Bowl victory over the arch-rival Saskatchewan Roughriders and grinned.

“That was a big team effort. There were ups and downs in a roller-coaster game,” began Harris, the Bombers workhorse running back. “And that was so much fun to be a part of with these guys.”

The Bombers are spread out all over parts unknown today, enjoying the benefits of their second and final bye week of the Canadian Football League season before the push for the playoffs.

But it’s worth rewinding a moment to Saturday to truly measure the impact of the Banjo Bowl win. Not only did the Bombers do the obvious, including improving to 8-3 – they’ll hold down second spot in the West Division standings no matter what unfolds during their bye week – but they also captured the season series with the Riders.

There’s also this: just imagine the alternative if the Bombers hadn’t got back up off the mat after being bopped in the mouth in the Labour Day Classic?

Taking a two-game losing streak into a bye would have had this bunch surly on their break and surlier when they returned to begin preparations for the Ottawa Redblacks at Investors Group Field Sept. 22.

Instead, the Bombers world seems right again after winning five of their last six, including critical results over the Riders and Edmonton Eskimos.

“Momentum is a huge thing in this game and it would have been a lot to think about if we had gone into the bye week on a two-game slide,” said offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick. “We’re all looking forward to Ottawa when we get back at it.

“I’m just so proud of this group.”

“A lot of guys left it all on the field,” added Harris. “That was huge going into a bye week. Now we can rest and regroup a little bit. Sometimes it’s good to get mentally away from the game a bit, relax and hit the reset button.

“Then we’ll come back flying.”

Look, the Bombers aren’t without their warts. They were scorched for two long TDs last Saturday by Kevin Glenn & Co., continuing an ugly trend of being lit up for the hated ‘explosion’ plays against defensively.

But there’s also a ton to like about this team as it pit-stops before returning for the stretch run. Paul LaPolice has the offence humming with Matt Nichols working behind a solid offensive line and playing pitch and catch with a number of weapons. And the special-teams units are as solid and creative as any in the CFL.

So, if that defence can tighten up a bit…

“These guys, they all want to be perfect,” added Hardrick. “That’s what we’re chasing in here. Every day we’re in here working and trying to fix everything we can. There’s a lot of love in this locker room. And there’s a lot of hunger. That’s a powerful combination.”

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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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