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Tait: Winnipeg Blue Bombers 'train is rolling' right past doubters

Talk of the Bombers and the Grey Cup doesn’t seem nearly as far-fetched as a year ago.

The Bombers’ Ryan Lankford straight arms Edmonton’s Kenny Ladler during the first half of Saturday’s game at Commonwealth Stadium.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press / CP

The Bombers’ Ryan Lankford straight arms Edmonton’s Kenny Ladler during the first half of Saturday’s game at Commonwealth Stadium.

It was about a year ago — not long after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had gone on a seven-game win streak that breathed life into a franchise struggling to be elite again — when the words were first uttered publicly.

At first, it made some cringe and others chuckle.

But it was out there, the combination of “Grey Cup” and “Blue Bombers” in the same sentence spoken by players in the Winnipeg locker-room.

Now, granted, the powerhouse Calgary Stampeders were cutting a swath through the rest of the Canadian Football League at the time. The Bombers — en route to finishing third in the West Division with an 11-7 record — were viewed, by and large, as a solid team, albeit with flaws and question marks.

Fast forward to the present and late last Saturday night in Edmonton, the words were strung together again after an impressive 28-19 victory over the Eskimos, the Bombers’ eighth win in their last nine games to push their record to 10-3.

Asked afterward if the win was the biggest of the year so far — it did give the Bombers the potential tiebreaker with the Eskimos and was the second straight season the club had won in Edmonton — receiver Darvin Adams thought for a moment.

“We’re going to keep our head down and keep grinding,” he said. “(Winning in Edmonton) is not the ultimate goal.

“The ultimate goal is winning the Grey Cup.”

Look, there’s a lot about the 2017 season that feels like déjà vu — the Stampeders are still cutting a swath through the rest of the CFL and the West Division is again vastly superior to the East.

But talk of the Bombers and the Grey Cup doesn’t seem nearly as far-fetched as a year ago. The Bombers aren’t without their flaws and question marks, but the offence and special teams are among the CFL’s best and the defence — after surrendering 19 and 9 points in the last two games — may have found some traction for a late-season push.

“Our defence played exactly how we wanted to play and how we’ve been talking about playing for a couple of weeks now,” said defensive back T.J. Heath. “We’re finally getting it together. Our young guys are making a lot of plays, C-Rand (cornerback Chris Randle, who scored the decisive touchdown on an interception return late Saturday) is still making plays, the offence and special teams are doing their thing … right now this train is rolling.”

There’s truth in Heath’s take and with five games remaining, the Bombers are inching closer to a home playoff game for the first time since 2011.

This team is deeper than a year ago. It’s closer than a year ago. And while the road to the last Sunday in November will undoubtedly feature a stop in Calgary, the words “Blue Bombers” and “Grey Cup” no longer look out of place in the same sentence.

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