Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke has insisted all season that despite his club's performance, he has rarely felt that his team wasn't giving him their best effort.
After a less-than-stellar defensive performance in Calgary two weeks ago, in which the Bombers allowed 622 total yards, Burke had to at least temporarily re-assess that belief.
But, his faith in his players' work ethic was restored on Thanksgiving Monday in Montreal, when the Bombers pulled out a gritty 34-27 win over the Alouettes.
The game provided Montreal with a chance to clinch a playoff spot and keep alive their hopes of a high finish in the CFL East with a victory, so there was no lack of motivation for the Alouettes. Still, the Bombers weren't to be denied. Three times they squandered leads during the game but never once did they stop fighting. For Burke, the result had a familiar feeling in one particular way.
In one of those quirks that is difficult to explain, the win was Wininpeg's 3rd straight at Molson stadium and their 4th in the last 5 trips to the home of the Alouettes. Burke had no theories on the reason for his team's success in Quebec, other than to be thankful for it.
The most encouraging aspect of the Bombers win in Montreal was the play of their offence. With Max Hall playing the best game in his six starts at quarterback, the Bombers produced more than 300 yards of offence for the first time in 8 games.
Hall had modest numbers, completing 16 of his 27 passes for 223 yards. He also threw two touchdowns passes and no interceptions, while tailback Will Ford rushed for 93 yards, including a 69-yard run in the fourth quarter that produced the game winning touchdown.
The Bombers have been putting up some of the most anaemic offensive numbers in CFL history. The 309 yards of net offence against the Als marked the first time in 8 games they had topped the 300 mark. So, while the Thanksgiving day performance in Montreal hardly represented a "breakout" game for the offensive unit, it did represented progress.
Now we will see if the Bombers can do something they haven't done in over two years - win two games in a row. Yes, almost incredibly, the Blue Bombers have had a series of "one-game win streaks" but they haven't won two games in a row since the first half of the 2011 season.
The Toronto Argonauts will visit Investors Group Field on Saturday afternoon, fighting to stay ahead of Hamilton in the race for first place in the East. With Ricky Ray back at quarterback the Argos will provide a stern test for a Winnipeg team that has had their fair share of problems at home. But if the Bombers want to further support Burke's argument that they are still buying into the program, a victory over the Argos would do it.
Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB