The fourth week of the CFL season was defined by fourth quarters. In three of the four games played this past week, impressive performances from one team defined a victory, while in a few cases, a late collapse contained in the final quarter stained a loss. With no more unbeaten teams and just one team in search of their first victory, things are starting to bunch up just like we thought they might.
Before we get to some of the aforementioned fourth quarters, it seems appropriate to start with Henry Burris. In pro football, the highest possible quarterback rating is 158.3. Well, thanks to 360 yards on 27 for 30 passing and four touchdowns, Hamilton’s first year quarterback rang up a rating of 156.3 on Saturday night against Montreal. For the record, passer rating is calculated using a formula taking completion percentage, yardage, touchdowns, and interception into account.
Henry Burris Highlights Wk. 4
While the Tiger-Cats 39-24 win over the Als certainly raised a ton more questions about what is happening defensively in Montreal, it also showed you the continued evolution of the Hamilton offence. We discussed the steep learning curve being experienced by Hamilton playmakers in last week’s MMQB, and while I don’t think they’re totally ahead of that curve yet, they certainly are getting up to speed.
Receivers Andy Fantuz and Chris Williams impressed me as much as their quarterback did on Saturday, and they showed you some of the strengths of a George Cortez offence. In combining for 15 catches and 250 yards, neither player caught a pass longer than 41 yards. What does that mean? It means that Burris was connecting with his top two receivers on quick strike plays without having to dial through his progressions.
Because both Williams and Fantuz were so precise on their routes, Burris didn’t have to cycle through to third and fourth receivers very often. The few plays where Williams was the third look, his line was spot on and he was able to reel in the catch.
Yes, Montreal’s secondary (not to mention defensive line) leaves much to be desired as it sits right now, but that doesn’t take away from the crisp play in the passing game. Adding in another strong night from Chevon Walker on the ground and you had a very potent Hamilton attack firing on all cylinders for the first time this season.Still Stunned
I took in Thursday’s game between the Stampeders and Roughriders live at McMahon Stadium, and I still find myself blown away. Something told me from my perch in the press box not to leave to head down to field level (where the view is less complete), and I’m glad I listened to my gut. Now that I’ve had a few days to digest what happened, I still have more questions than answers as to what the heck happened in Calgary’s 41-38 victory.
Question #1: What happened to the Riders defensively? They’d been so strong all night long and had been keeping Kevin Glenn on the run on a fairly consistent basis, and then things reverted in a very startling fashion. You could start to see warning signs late in the third quarter when Calgary put together a ten play drive culminating in a 44-yard Rene Parades field goal. The Calgary passing game was starting to open things up while the Riders were looking tired and were not getting stops; the Stampeders drive stalled on their own accord.
And yet, all still seemed fine early in the fourth quarter when the Riders seemingly put things away.
Nik Lewis' Winning Overtime Touchdown
Saskatchewan took more than five minutes off the clock in going 75 yards down the field for a major and a 17 point lead. Observing from afar, I was fairly certain the substantial rest the Riders defence had gotten on the sideline was going to be enough to protect the lead, but they just had nothing left.
After the teams traded two-and-outs, Calgary started to roll. The Stamps averaged just under 17 yards a play (not to mention a 17 yard penalty to help matters) en route to a Nik Lewis touchdown. In fact, from the midway mark of the fourth quarter until the end of overtime, Calgary would hook up on eight passing plays of 15 yards or more. I don’t know why the Riders wore down so rapidly on defence, but they did, and were gashed play after play as a result.
Question #2: Where was Darian Durant throwing on Saskatchewan’s first turnover of the year? That one is just a rhetorical question, but it seemed like a desperate pass to throw for a quarterback who shouldn’t have been feeling a great deal of desperation. A short completion, or even an incompletion, allowed the team to punt and add another minute or two onto Calgary’s next drive (assuming they would have scored a touchdown). Those two minutes would have been crucial.
Question #3: Now what? The Stampeders feel they got a little karmic payback for their own late game collapse one week earlier, but overall the team needs to “cut the crap” according to Head Coach John Hufnagel. The team committed 11 penalties for over 100 yards including a number of costly penalties of 15 yards or more. For Saskatchewan, I’m intrigued to see how they respond.
Last week, the MMQB gave full props to Head Coach Corey Chamblin. Our opinion of him hasn’t changed whatsoever, but knowing how well he’s motivated his team thus far, how will he get his team ready after losing their first game in such crushing fashion?Still Stingy
Another game defined by the fourth quarter was Edmonton’s third win of the season. In their 27-14 win at BC Place, the Eskimos outscored the Lions 11-0 in the final frame and turned a two-point lead into a 13-point win. How did they do it? By being the same frustratingly stingy team to play against defensively as they have been since Kavis Reed took over as Head Coach.
Right now, Edmonton is defined by their linebackers and I don’t think there is a better trio in the league than JC Sherritt, T.J. Hill, and Damaso Munoz. These three freaks in the middle of the defence typify how the Eskimos swarm the football and make yards after contact a seemingly impossible task. On Friday night, they combined for 19 tackles and made life extremely difficult for their opposition, even as the Lions moved the football fairly well at times.
Even though BC racked up 451 yards of total offence, they still punted six times and had trouble moving the ball once in Edmonton territory. Edmonton’s domination in the middle of the field also forced two Travis Lulay interceptions. The first Joe Burnett interception came because Lulay had nowhere to go with it over the middle and had Simoni Lawrence in his face (funny enough, another linebacker). The second, which turned into an Edmonton major, came because Lulay decided to throw it over the middle.
Burnett 108-Yard INT Return Touchdown Wk. 4
It was linebacker Hill making first contact with the ball and allowing Burnett to return it 108 yards. The way defensive coordinator Mark Nelson has his linebackers (and entire team) swarming to the football makes them scary and extremely difficult to play against.
The Edmonton passing game still leaves plenty to be desired, as Steven Jyles and Kerry Joseph combined for just 210 yards and no touchdowns on Friday night. The Eskimos can probably survive that for the near future, however, if their defence keeps getting stops and putting them in excellent field position.Still Winless
Credit goes to the Argos for putting together a five- play, 74-yard touchdown drive to take the lead for good in the (surprise, surprise) fourth quarter on Wednesday night. But Toronto’s 25-22 win over Winnipeg has all of us wondering why the fortunes have changed so dramatically for the defending East Division champions.
I know Buck Pierce has been hurt far too often this season and isn’t coming back anytime soon, and I know the loss of Odell Willis on the defensive line was going to be tough to make up for. However, the problems in Winnipeg go a whole lot deeper than two players right now.
Offensively, this team needs to figure out their pass protection. Pierce was on the run far too often when he was healthy, and Alex Brink hasn’t gotten much better shielding either. Brink was sacked three times by Toronto on Wednesday (the Argos had just four sacks in three games heading in), and the Bombers have now allowed a league-worst 14 sacks against.
Defensively, I can’t quite wrap my head around the issues. For a group boasting top notch names like Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson, they shouldn’t be giving up the points they are, and they shouldn’t be as easy to play against. Willis leaving is part of it, but I really think the retirement of Doug Brown is being missed more than just statistics can flesh out.
Losing your emotional leader is a tough adjustment to make. Don’t get me wrong, Brown more than earned his right to leave on his own terms, but his team is suffering because of it. Brown was still an effective player on the defensive front, and the way he competed set the tone for the entire defence.