December 22, 2018

Year in Review | #3 The Rebound

As rallying cries or inspirational mottos go, it probably lacked more than a little creativity.

‘Remember the Alamo’ or ‘Carpe Diem’, it was not.

But in a Winnipeg Blue Bombers season which featured more than its share of peaks and valleys, the ‘We’re just trying to go 1-0 this week’ adage adopted by the players in mid-September and then beyond became a simple, yet effective mantra.

And how it framed the Bombers late-season push towards the playoffs – especially after a four-game losing streak in the late summer – comes in at #3 in our Year in Review series.

Now, before we continue, a little back-tracking is in order.

After a 1-2 start, the Bombers had gone on a 4-1 run into mid-August as Matt Nichols returned at quarterback and the defence started its transformation into a force. But losses at home to Ottawa and on the road in Calgary exposed some of the old warts with the club. That angst was only further compounded by losses to the arch-rival Saskatchewan Roughriders in the annual Labour Day Classic/Banjo Bowl doubleheader that had turned a promising 5-3 start into a 5-7 hot mess.

After the Banjo Bowl loss to the Riders – and the coaching staff’s decision to stick with Nichols at quarterback over promising rookie Chris Streveler after a bye week – the Bombers found their mojo again behind their ‘We’re just trying to go 1-0 this week’ rallying cry that seemed to be a part of every media answer from every player.

“Since the Montreal game two months ago, we’ve been preaching 1-0 in the locker room,” said Nichols late in the season. “It’s something we believe in and that’s all we’re focused on, trying to go 1-0 every single week. Once we accomplished that last week instantly the mindset was to try and go 1-0 again this week. Guys have really bought into that mindset and it’s been a good thing for us in the back half of the season.

“We feel like we’ve been playing playoff games for two months now, so really, this game’s no different than what we’ve been dealing with a long time now.”

A big component in the late-season resurgence was the play of Nichols himself, who went through an ugly stretch where he threw four touchdowns against eight interceptions during the losing skid, to a 7:1 ratio during the win streak that followed.

That efficient attack was then augmented by some stellar work of the defence, which gave up just 88 points in the six games after the Banjo Bowl, for an average of 14.7 per game.

“There’s no real point in going back and remembering where we were. It’s all about focusing on where we are now,” said linebacker Adam Bighill. “All that stuff has been dealt with already. We are who we are now based on those experiences. That whole process has molded us into what we are now. That’s the plan for this playoff week: keep doing what we’ve been doing and go 1-0, 1-0 and 1-0. That’s the goal.”

Added veteran offensive lineman Pat Neufeld: “You just can’t look too far ahead because then you are doing yourself and your teammates a disservice.

“So, it’s got to be about going 1-0 this week from here on out. It’s about living in the moment. You can’t go back in time and change things and you can’t look too far forward. You have to live and die in the moment.”

The moment ended a week too early for the Bombers and their faithful. But that they were even breathing late in the playoffs – given so many had given them up for dead in mid-September – is a testament to focusing on the here and now, not what is in the rearview mirror.

This is the eighth installment of a series recapping the Top 10 Bomber stories of 2018.

Next: #2: The ‘Biggie’ Impact