WINNIPEG — There is no safety net under the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as they face their final two games of the season with only one way to get into the playoffs — be very good and be very lucky.
“We have a glimmer of hope to make it to the playoffs and so that’s what we’re trying to do,” interim head coach Tim Burke said Monday.
After stumbling badly out of the gate this season, the 5-11 Bombers find themselves in a statistical tie with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL East.
The Bombers are ahead of the Ticats in the standings because they won both their meetings with Hamilton this year.
So far so good, but the 7-9 Edmonton Eskimos are poised to play spoiler.
The only way it works for Winnipeg is two Bomber wins and two losses from the crossover-threatening Eskimos.
Anything else, and lockers get cleaned out.
Their first challenge is in Hamilton on Saturday, when they face the Ticats.
While their two victories over the Ticats might give Bomber fans reason to hope, their following game is at home against the East-leading Montreal Alouettes.
But even that seems doable, after Winnipeg’s surprising 27-22 win over Montreal on Oct. 8.
Offensively, the Bombers have picked up the gauntlet with the return of starting quarterback Buck Pierce from a concussion.
“I really like where our offence is right now,” said Burke. “Obviously Buck being in there gets the confidence going.”
He also noted the strong play the Bombers are getting from their running backs. When he’s been able to play this season, Chad Simpson has been a consistent performer but the Bombers have found a hidden late-season gem in Will Ford.
“With the combination of Chad’s power and Will’s explosiveness along the edge, I mean those are two really good running backs,” Burke said.
“I wish our defence was playing as good as them. We aren’t though. We’re not playing very well in man coverage and we just have to do a better job on first down than what we’re doing.”
Winnipeg walked out of Toronto with a 44-32 win on the weekend, although the defence gave up four touchdowns to Ricky Ray’s passing attack.
Burke says he doesn’t know why the defence isn’t playing as well as last season.
Burke was the defensive co-ordinator when he was shoehorned in as head coach, after Paul LaPolice was sacked mid-season. Since then the Bombers have gone 3-5 but Burke’s focus has had to shift.
There have also been reports Burke will be offered the head-coaching job on a permanent basis, but he said Monday he knows nothing about that.
“First I ever heard anything about that was this morning when one of the coaches said I heard on the radio that they’re going to offer you a contract,” he said.
“I have not heard anything from the organization . . I’d love to be head coach here next year but nothing’s been said to me by anybody.”
The Bombers will be travelling to Hamilton without one defensive end Jason Vega and another, Kenny Mainor, is doubtful.
They also have question marks around safety Ian Logan, defensive tackle Bryant Turner and receiver Terrence Edwards.