I’m glad the Monday Morning Quarterback gets to react to what happened over the weekend as opposed to trying to prognosticate what might be coming. The 2012 Canadian Football League season is turning into the year where fearless predictions have turned into fruitless predictions, because you just can’t get a handle on what’s going to happen week-to-week. Aside from one team starting to separate themselves on the West Coast, we’re talking about a whole bunch of teams bunched really tight together.
|Elliott Leads Bombers|
Joey Elliott won over Bomber fans in fine fashion on Thursday night, throwing for 406 yards and 1 TD pass in a winning effort.
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Without two of their most consistent game breakers, the Montreal Alouettes rolled into Edmonton Friday night and shot the lights out en route to a 38-25 win. With Jamel Richardson sitting out at receiver, Anthony Calvillo decided to throw four touchdown passes to four different receivers while Victor Anderson made Brandon Whitaker’s rib injury a whole lot less of a tough pill to swallow.
I still think Montreal is moving closer to an “as Whitaker goes, as does the offence” type of scenario, but Anderson did his job admirably, putting up 102 yards in his first start of the season. Every Als offensive lineman has at least three years of CFL experience under their belt, but from what they showed Friday, by no means are we talking about an old group. They did a really nice job blocking down field against Edmonton, allowing Anderson to do some nice work when he broke the ball outside. Combining that with typically good pass protection for Calvillo and you saw a pretty good effort for the offensive front five.
From an Edmonton perspective, Friday was the first time I wondered whether their defensive group was starting to wear down a little. Even though the Eskimos offence turned a Calvillo interception into points in the fourth quarter, as a whole, Edmonton was on the field defensively far too often, especially in the first three quarters of the football game.
This is an issue I’ve been worried about all year, it was the same issue that lead me to believe the acquisition of Cory Boyd was a smart one in Edmonton. There’s no question this offence is a work in progress, and I don’t think there needs to be any panic whatsoever. But, when you do have an offence learning and growing like Edmonton’s is right now, you have to understand there will be some carryover in terms of fatigue defensively.
Being tired isn’t an excuse the Eskimos D will fall back on, you can be sure of that. But far too many times they’d force a two-and-out in effective fashion and be right back on the field when the offence couldn’t move the ball. This happens all the time in football, but it really starts to take a toll when an offence goes three and four consecutive series without going more than four or five plays. I think this was a factor against Montreal, and I really believe the Edmonton defence is a whole lot better than what we saw. That doesn’t change the most resounding fact, however: that Alouettes attack looked extremely dangerous at Commonwealth Stadium.
A steady roar
Watching a BC Lions defence dominate an opposition is becoming somewhat old hat these days. We saw it happen so often last season on their way to a Grey Cup championship, and over the last three weeks of Lions football, we’ve seen it in a similar fashion.
If you’re keeping score at home, BC has allowed just 22 points in their last three games combined and now became the only 5-2 team this season with an emphatic 24-5 win over Saskatchewan on Sunday night. Yet, this defensive effort had some different characteristics in comparison to what we’re typically used to from the Lions.
First off, I’m glad that Khalif Mitchell’s suspension was upheld by an arbitrator leading into Week 8, because there just wasn’t any way it would have been good for the league had that been overturned.
|Lulay Extends Streak|
Travis Lulay extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass to 18, helping the Bombers to their fifth win of the season.
» WATCH: 18-straight for Lulay
I’m as big a fan of Mitchell as a player, because he’s one of most disruptive individual forces in Canadian football today. However, deliberately hyper-extending an opponent’s arm was an action that needed to be punished, and I’m glad the punishment levied will stand. All that said, removing Mitchell from the BC lineup leaves quite the whole in the front four.
Watching the Mitchell-less defence go to work, it was the first time this season I’ve seen the Lions dominate another team without having an overly dominant game from their defensive front. Don’t get me wrong, they still did the job exceedingly well, and BC racked up three sacks en route to victory last night. But it was the way Defensive Coordinator Rich Stubler used his defensive backfield to confuse Riders quarterback Darian Durant that really had me intrigued while watching.
It just seemed like Durant couldn’t get a handle on what the Lions were throwing at him with coverage schemes, and he threw three interceptions as a result. I really enjoyed watching Adam Bighill move around at middle linebacker, and with Cauchy Muamba right behind him most of the time at safety, the middle of the field can turn into no-man’s land for a quarterback. Bighill’s pretty decent range allows Stubler to mix up how he uses him and also how he uses his defensive backs as a result. Because Bighill can cover impressive ground, the Lions can blitz from either corner or half and feign that blitz just as easily. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
Oh, and one quick side note: the defensive front was still pretty good on Sunday night. Their fourth quarter stand and turnover on downs showed you what they’re capable of. It just so happened I was more intrigued than usual with what was happening in the BC secondary.
The game I saw live and in person this week was at McMahon Stadium in Calgary as the Stampeders fell 22-14 to the visiting Toronto Argonauts. For the Argos, it was the fifth straight regular season win over Calgary dating back to the 2010 season. Overall, it was a weird football game, because neither team left overly impressed with themselves. The main reason for that stems from how many points both teams left on the field Saturday night.
When it came down to it, the smarter team came away with the victory. In terms of offensive execution, especially in the redzone, both teams were fairly equal. Toronto finished with more total yardage, but both teams had their chances to put majors on the board. But while the Argos weren’t overly thrilled to keep turning long drives into field goals, at least they weren’t continually knocking themselves out of scoring range with ill-timed penalties and execution errors.
Stampeders Head Coach John Hufnagel has been harping on better discipline all season long, and it’s been a constant theme with Calgary teams dating back to Hufnagel’s predecessor Tom Higgins. The first half narrative centered around a feud between Stamps running back Jon Cornish and Argos defensive back Brandon Isaac.
|Week 8 Replay|
Miss any of the Week 8 action? Don't worry, get up to speed on all the best grabs, hits and runs with CFL Replay.
» READ: Week 8 CFL Replay
A Cornish post-play helmet-to-helmet bump happened directly in front of an official, as did Nik Lewis’s verbal exchange with Isaac after a thrilling 22-yard reception put his team in great scoring position. But unnecessary roughness and objectionable conduct calls respectively pushed the Stamps back and stalled momentum in a game where that ‘M’ word was extremely hard to come by.
When it came down to it, Toronto played a much smarter game than Calgary did overall and were fully deserving of the win. The Argos used Chad Kackert effectively and he definitely picked up steam as the evening went along, finishing with 94 yards on 14 carries in his first start of the season. After not being able to convert great drives into majors earlier on, Ricky Ray hooked up with Andre Durie on a nice 26-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Toronto did a nice job holding on from there.
My final observation came from watching Chad Owens play live once again. I don’t know if he’s the fastest player in the CFL or not, but it’s very safe to say you can count on one hand as many guys in this league who can burn it like he can.
On one second quarter play in particular, Ray found the speedy slotback on a crossing pattern at midfield and threw a pass that had me saying to myself “that’s a bad pass”. Except that it wasn’t. Ray knew he could lead Owens a good yard while still hooking up on the reception, because when he accelerates, Owens separates so quickly. Not only did Owens catch up to the ball, he also kept his speed constant and using his burning speed to finish off a big gainer. He’s a treat to watch in person.
Joey Elliott deserves all the attention he’s getting following his 406-yard performance against Hamilton to kick off the CFL week on Thursday. The Bombers needed a win, and almost as importantly, they needed a quarterback they could show confidence in. They got it at home to Hamilton, with Elliott leading the way in a 32-25 triumph over the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Now, please don’t accuse the MMQB of raining all over Elliott’s parade, but the young man is going from one extreme to the next. The Hamilton defence is still very much a work in progress, and there is still a lot of improvement that needs to be shown there. Next up for Winnipeg is BC, a team that presents a much more formidable task at this stage of the game. As impressive as his starting debut was, I’m going to be very curious how he performs against the Lions.
There is an interesting dilemma forming in Winnipeg. With Buck Pierce inching closer to returning to active duty, the Bombers need to decide what exactly they’re doing at quarterback. Having Elliott and Alex Brink as insurance for when Pierce finds himself injured, as he tends to regularly do, is great. But how much longer can Winnipeg go using Pierce on a quarter-to-quarter basis? If Elliott continues to impress (and I don’t mean 400-yard outings every week), Head Coach Paul LaPolice will have an interesting decision to make.
Is it Pierce’s job when he gets back? It’s a little premature to be having that discussion, absolutely, and that’s why we’re not spending much time on it this morning. The MMQB wants to see how Elliott does against the vaunted Lions defence before determining just how relevant this conversation is going to be.
Pat Steinberg is the co-host of the drive home program on Sportsnet Radio FAN 960 in Calgary. He also reports on the CFL and the Stampeders and hosts pre and post-game programs for the team. He looks forward to traveling to the Grey Cup every year. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|