SPORTS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers must beat B.C. Lions to keep playoff hopes alive

10/24/2014 06:19 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a gangbusters start to the year but the season has been a plain bust since August.

Now they must beat the B.C. Lions on Saturday to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

One more Winnipeg loss and the Lions (8-7) are guaranteed to finish no worse than fourth in the CFL West, which could be enough for a crossover playoff spot depending on what happens in the East over the last three weeks of the season.

"I wasn't really thinking ahead but obviously I thought we were going to have more than six wins at this point," Bombers quarterback Drew Willy said of his expectations earlier this season. "Starting so hot like that we had a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence."

The Bombers were 5-1 at the end of July but they've won only a single game since. That victory came back on Aug. 22, and Winnipeg has since dropped seven in a row to sit at 6-10.

Even with a win, the Bombers still need help to pass the Lions and Toronto Argonauts. But at least they would be able to go into another must-win game Nov. 1 against the league-leading Calgary Stampeders with a purpose.

"Clearly, 25 or 26 hours from now it's the biggest game for them and us," said Lions coach Mike Benevides.

The Bombers beat the Lions 23-6 in Week 5 but the Lions earned a 26-9 victory in Week 12.

Benevides said their running game worked better in the second game but "it's just guys making plays."

"We missed a few opportunities and we also turned the ball over in that first game," he said.

Kevin Glenn was originally tabbed to be the Lions' backup quarterback but je has led the Lions for most of the year with Travis Lulay out due to injury. Glenn said the Lions aren't focused on the various post-season permutations at this point.

"It just so happens that if we win this game they're out of the playoffs and we're in," said Glenn.

"But if it wasn't that situation I think guys would still have motivation to come out and win because it's the end of the season and you have to be playing your best football in order to ... win in the playoffs and get to the Grey Cup."

One key to success Saturday for the Bombers may be their ground game. They will be going with running back Paris Cotton again, who managed 108 yards in last Saturday's 33-23 loss to the Stampeders.

Willy has been vulnerable to the rush of late and the team has been among the league leaders in sacks allowed. The Bombers improved in that area last week and Cotton said they need to keep it up.

"We gained some confidence last week and we just want to build off it this week, keep our quarterback healthy and keep our ground game going," he said.

Cotton took over from Nic Grigsby, who asked for and received his release after being told he would be used in a backup role. Grigsby was later picked up by Hamilton.

But the team's defence also has to be able to contain B.C.'s ground game, something the Bombers have struggled to do consistently.

The Bombers are just 3-5 at home this season despite having one of the louder stadiums in the CFL.

"We haven't taken advantage of (home field) like we should have this year," said coach Mike O'Shea.

"More than that, we haven't given our fans what they truly deserve. They certainly deserve more."

Notes: The Bombers have cut Canadian offensive lineman Paul Swiston. O'Shea said frequent injuries kept setting him back. Swiston was drafted by Winnipeg in 2011.

MORE:cpSports