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Tait: Blue Bombers' resilience to be tested in Calgary

The Bombers have taken some serious body shots over the last few weeks and are now up against the ropes hoping for the bell to ring.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers  quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws against the BC Lions during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday, October 28, 2017. The Blue Bombers' quest for an elusive home playoff game might've hit a snag. Starter Matt Nichols is questionable for Friday night's regular-season finale at Calgary after suffering a leg injury in Saturday night's 36-27 home loss to B.C.

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws against the BC Lions during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday, October 28, 2017. The Blue Bombers' quest for an elusive home playoff game might've hit a snag. Starter Matt Nichols is questionable for Friday night's regular-season finale at Calgary after suffering a leg injury in Saturday night's 36-27 home loss to B.C.

Their timing, quite frankly, is awful. And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers luck is even worse.

Every team in every league on the planet wants to be healthy and rolling when the postseason approaches. It guarantees diddly and squat once the playoffs begin, of course, but it’s better to be in a good place mentally and physically when the pursuit of the championship begins.

So, let’s just take a pit stop for a moment to assess the state of the Bombers as they head into Calgary this week, needing a win – or some help from the Saskatchewan Roughriders in their game against the Edmonton Eskimos – to secure a coveted home playoff date…

The Bombers lost for the third time in the last four games last Saturday, but saw quarterback Matt Nichols exit the game with a leg injury in the first quarter and running back Andrew Harris leave with under five minutes to go after taking a helmet-to-helmet shot that left him wobbly.

And so, what happened Saturday isn’t as much about the result, but the after-effects. Just to recap, the Bombers finished the game minus their quarterback and running back, without 1,000-yard receiver Darvin Adams – gone for the season – dual threat running back/slotback Timothy Flanders as well as defensive forces Jamaal Westerman and Maurice Leggett, those two also gonzo for the rest of the year.

That’s a whole pile of star talent convalescing in sick bay.

The Bombers have long preached a "next man up" approach, but the play of back-up quarterbacks Dom Davis and Dan LeFevour – who combined to go 12 of 24 for 124 and two interception in relief – was hardly inspiring. And if Harris can’t go and with Flanders still injured…

“It’s tough. I mean, that is a tough part of football,” said veteran receiver Weston Dressler after the game. “Any time guys go down the initial reaction is I feel bad for them personally. And then you think about the team and the effects it has on the team.

“When there’s multiple guys, all-star type players that are going down, it hurts.”

“I don’t know if we got shook by it,” added right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, “but when your head goes down, when your top rusher goes down, you start hearing things in your ears sometimes.”

The Bombers have shown an admirable resilience in the last couple of years, both in terms of dealing with significant injuries and rallying in games in which all seemed lost.

That surely gets tested again now. The Bombers have taken some serious body shots over the last few weeks and are now up against the ropes hoping for the bell to ring.

What happens next – whether they come out for the most-important chunk of the season firing punches, or crumble under the weight of all the injuries – will ultimately define their 2017 season.

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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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