CALGARY -- The Calgary Stampeders search for their league-best 11th win of the season on Saturday, as they welcome the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to McMahon Stadium to close out Week 15 action.
On paper it’s the league’s top-ranked team against the bottom, but the Stampeders know that if they view Saturday’s matchup that way, the results could be disastrous. This is, after all, the Canadian Football League, where no lead is safe and any team can win on any given night.
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“We’ve focused on Winnipeg and sometimes when you play teams with that kind of record, if you don’t focus on the team and you focus on their record, you’ll get a rude awakening,” veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn told Stampeders.com.
Glenn’s been around long enough to know the danger of a trap game, which is exactly what Saturday night’s affair could potentially become as the Stamps look to tighten their grip on first place.
They currently own a one-game edge for top spot in the West, ahead of the very same BC Lions they’ll be hosting at McMahon next Friday night.
“It’s always dangerous when you look ahead, and that’s one thing that I don’t think we’ve done,” continued Glenn, who pointed out that the Bombers still have lots to play for in their remaining five games this season.
“That’s one thing that [Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel] has been addressing us on all week, that you don’t pay attention to the media or the rumours that this team is laying it down – they come out and play every game no matter what their record is, so we’re gonna have to do the same thing.”
“We have the best record in the league right now and so everybody’s gonna come give us their best.”
Glenn led the Stamps to a bounce back 35-11 win on the road over the Ticats last weekend, scoring 17 points in the second quarter and chasing Henry Burris out of the game en-route to their fifth win in six games. That came a week after having a 10-game home winning streak snapped, when the Stampeders were stunned by a late surge by second-year quarterback Zach Collaros and the Toronto Argonauts.
Now as they look to begin a new winning streak at home, the Stampeders know they’re in for a challenge, particularly in the face of perhaps the fiercest defensive line around.
“A lot of pressure,” Glenn said when asked what the Bombers are all about. “They do have a great front four, they have a good defence too, they all play together."
“The front four is what helps that back end do what they do and play aggressive,” he continued. “I think if we come out and we focus on what we need to do, minimize our turnovers, penalties, and execute our offence, we should be alright. Those guys are going to make some plays, but it’s about how we respond to that.”
The defensive lines will be the biggest story heading into Saturday’s contest, as the Bombers have a league-best 48 sacks this season. The best defensive line in the league though? Charleston Hughes might take exception to that, as the Stamps sit just one sack back of the Bombers with 47, led by Hughes’ 13.
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“It gets you a little excited just knowing that we’re considered the two best defensive lines in the league,” said Hughes. “They pretty much rush every down.”
According to the 29-year-old, however, the Stamps’ D-line does a little more than just get after the quarterback.
“As far as our defensive line goes, even though we’ve got that many sacks, the opportunities that we get we take advantage of,” said Hughes. “And we don’t have many opportunities to get sacks because we do have coverage responsibilities.”
“We cover backs, cover receivers, we line up all over the field so that cuts our pass rushes in half as defensive ends, and that just shows how good we are that we take advantage of every opportunity we have.”
The Stampeders are the highest-scoring team in the CFL with 408 points through 13 games, yet have also allowed a league-low 312 points this season, giving them a stellar point differential of plus-96.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Bombers, who are minus-153 this season and are the lowest-scoring team in the league while also surrendering the most points.
A reporter asked Tim Burke about the 16-point spread favouring the home team this week, the Bombers’ Head Coach said that he understands why his team is an underdog.
“I never get on gambling sites so I wouldn’t know. I don’t know what Oddsmakers do – sometimes they have it at three and it ends up being 10, so I don’t know,” Burke told BlueBombers.com. “We’re definitely an underdog as we go in there. Calgary’s a very good team.”
“They don’t have a major weakness anywhere,” he continued. “They’ve got I think a really good offensive line, a really good running back, I think [Maurice Price] is an exceptional receiver, Kevin Glenn’s doing a nice job running the offence. Defensively their secondary is really good, and their front’s really good too – they’re just really good.”
|The last time they met|
Friday, July 26, 2013
Calgary 37, Hamilton 24
Bo Levi Mitchell did everything required of him and more in his first career CFL start, completing 29 of his 33 passes for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading the Stampeders to a 37-24 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
» Read more.
Still hanging in there six points out of a playoff spot, the Bombers at the very least will get an accurate measure of where they stand as a football team – are they the team that stormed out to a 20-0 lead against the Eskimos two weeks ago, or the one that turned the ball over three times for touchdowns in a 53-17 loss to the Lions last weekend?
Burke said there was nothing wrong with the defence in one of the Bombers’ low points of the season, meaning the onus is on the offence to bounce back against the Stamps.
“I think we’re playing about as good as we can play right now,” said Burke. “If you can grab an interception and run it back, I mean we did against Edmonton – but those opportunities are usually few and far between.”
Of the 53 points against last week, 34 were a direct result of turnovers by the Winnipeg offence. On top of that the Bombers continue to surrender few yards defensively, allowing just 289 against the Lions to mark the third time this season they’ve held an opponent under 300.
Offensively, however, they’re averaging a net of 267.5, the second-lowest average for them in the last 43 years. Only in 1998 did they amass fewer yards, at a clip of 266 yards per game.
One major positive for the Bombers could be the return of veteran non-import slotback Cory Watson, who adds a dimension to the offence that has been sorely lacking. The Concordia alum has struggled with injuries early in his career, but when in the lineup is one of the team’s most reliable playmakers.
“I think he’s really good, he’s a physical player, number one, so he’s a good blocker,” said Burke. “I think the other thing is he’s willing to go into a crowd and mix it up with backers and bigger body type guys, so he’ll go into a crowd and find it out so those are the things he’s really good at.”
The prognosis essentially is that Watson should make life a lot easier for rookie quarterback Max Hall, who’s trying to prove he’s got a future as a starting quarterback in this league.
“I think definitely Cory doesn’t make very many mistakes, so the quarterback is going to know he’s gonna be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there,” continued Burke. “So I think definitely he’s going to help the young quarterback out.”
The Bombers head into Sunday three games back of the Alouettes for the third and final playoff spot in the East Division, and are scheduled to play the very same Als a week from now in Montreal. That means a Bomber win against Calgary and a Montreal loss to the Esks this weekend could lead to an interesting scenario in Week 16, with both divisional and cross-over implications.
Before the Bombers can start thinking about that, however, they’ll have to go against the odds and take care of business against the surging Stamps.
Kickoff is at 6:30 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Stampeders.com/BlueBombers.com