Last week we talked about how many great stories and topics there were despite only being two games on the schedule. Apparently, history likes to repeat itself, because even with only two games on the schedule once again, Week 7 of the CFL season gave us more than enough to talk about.
Uh…has anyone figured out what happened in the first quarter/first half of Toronto’s 38-13 convincing win over the Als? Yes, the Argos are the defending Grey Cup champions, and yes they are a very good football team, but I don’t think anyone saw a 31-3 lead at half coming. I know I certainly didn’t.
As Jim Popp returned to the sidelines in his first game replacing Dan Hawkins, I couldn’t do anything but kinda feel sorry for the guy. I think we all agree that Hawkins was a bad hire and that he needed to go. I also think, however, that some of the problems that plagued Montreal went a little deeper than one man. That certainly seemed to be the case on Thursday night.
To see Montreal turn the ball over six times is not something anyone is used to. Yes, five of those six turnovers came from two guys, but the whole thing spoke to an overall lack of focus. Two or three key penalties played right into that same theme as well.
What I saw against the Argos was a directionless Montreal squad. For far too large a majority of the game, the Als looked like zombies and it seemed to be as quiet a Molson Stadium as I’ve heard in years. I guess this can be expected after a coaching change as dramatic as the one that was pulled off, but this needs to be rectified soon.
It’s tough to prognosticate what’s going to happen with this team. On the bright side, they’re playing in an East Division with only one team that looks like a true Grey Cup contender in Toronto. On top of that, the Als offensive line seems to have gotten things on track, as they’ve been much better of late, specifically in pass protection.
The negatives remain daunting, however. On top of the previously discussed focus issues, this is an Als team without their top receiver. Jamel Richardson isn’t coming back anytime soon with a knee injury, while running back Brandon Whitaker’s timeframe remains up in the air as well. While Whitaker could be back for Week 8, that isn’t a guarantee, and it’s just another question mark in a season full of them in Montreal.
I really didn’t see Friday’s tilt between the Riders and Stampeders having as large a margin on the scoreboard as it ended up. These two teams were so close statistically heading in, that three points one way or another seemed the most realistic scenario.
Instead, Calgary put together a stellar first half and stepped up at key moments late to take a 15-point victory, handing Saskatchewan their first loss of the season in the process. Both teams now sit 5-1 on the year, setting up a pretty fun lead up to their next meeting in October.
Following Thursday’s walkthrough at McMahon Stadium, it was clear what the two main topics us media hordes had honed in on heading into this matchup. The first of those topics centered on a question: How do you get a mistake-free team to make a mistake? That question was answered very early on after the Stamps recovered a Kory Sheets fumble, marking the first Riders offensive turnover of the season.
The other topic getting a lot of attention was the battle at running back between the aforementioned Sheets and Calgary’s Jon Cornish.
While Sheets is on record-setting pace in 2013, let’s not forget it was Cornish breaking Canadian rushing records the year prior.
Cornish Completes Hat-Trick with TD Run vs. Riders
When Cornish was asked about potentially upstaging his headline-making rival, he was pretty clear in stating how his season was pretty good in its own right. Cornish even made sure to point out the 41 more carries Sheets had on him heading into Friday night. I guess he was right.
Sheets still had a strong game, fumble notwithstanding. The CFL’s leading rusher racked up another 125 yards on the ground and still remains on pace to shatter Mike Pringle’s 1998 record of 2,065 yards in a single season.
On Friday night, however, it was Cornish who made headlines, putting up totals that would have any fantasy football owner jumping for joy.
At the end of the night, last year’s rushing champion had 175 yards and four touchdowns, including a game-sealing 53-yard dash in the fourth quarter to set up his final score. I’m not going to build a narrative of Cornish putting together a game for the ages solely because he wanted to upstage Sheets. I will say, however, that Cornish is a proud guy who likes to deliver on the big stage. In one of the CFL’s hottest rivalries, he did just that on Friday night.
As for the Riders, as unhappy as they’ll be, I don’t think it’s necessarily time to panic. There were some surprising elements that contributed to their first loss, however. They were one of the league’s least penalized team prior to Friday night, averaging about seven per game before taking ten penalties against the Stamps.
Four of those were of the major variety, gifting Calgary 60 yards in the process. For a team that is based on discipline, I would imagine Head Coach Corey Chamblin was none too pleased about that in the locker room.
I was also a little surprised at what happened early in the fourth quarter when the momentum swung back Calgary’s way. After a great special teams sequence that pinned the Riders on the five, Darian Durant was sacked for a loss of four after the Saskatchewan quarterback had to fight like mad to avoid a safety.
What baffled me is how things were handled on the very next play.
I am not taking pot shots at one of the league’s best offensive lines, but I can’t understand how they allowed Durant to be brought down for a game changing safety. Calgary didn’t do anything differently, and were able to bring the heat effectively by rushing just four.
That can’t happen in a six-point game when everything was trending green. It was a costly mistake for the league’s stingiest offensive line.
All that said, Saskatchewan is still legit as being the top team in the league; they just have company who are also full marks for where they are. Calgary did a good job of messing with the Riders’ pass protection, but that’s still a strength in Saskatchewan. Durant still hasn’t thrown an interception this year, and was pretty good at McMahon.
MUST WATCH: Owens Returns Missed Field Goal 118-Yards for TD
The best part is, both the Stamps and Riders have won a game against one another this season. October’s meeting in Calgary will be a lot of fun regardless, but knowing the tiebreak scenarios that could exist, it becomes just that much more meaningful.Nothing but turmoil
Even though they only have one win, you can’t say things aren’t exciting in Winnipeg. This week, the Blue Bombers did what they needed to: relieve General Manager Joe Mack of his duties. On top of that, CEO Garth Buchko was dismissed as well.
Many had been calling for Mack’s dismissal for some time, so it was a little surprising to see him kept on to start the season. From the head scratching handling of Paul LaPolice, to not actively going out and addressing the question marks at quarterback, it was clear Mack wasn’t the right guy for the job.
It was absolutely the right call by the Bombers board to make this move, but unfortunately, unlike firing a coach, there aren’t going to be a ton of short-term benefits.
In 2013, Winnipeg can’t seem to get out of they’re own way. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is having issues converting his four down attack north of the border, while the Bombers remain one of the most penalized team in the league, something that is driving Head Coach Tim Burke nuts.
Now, it sounds like more turmoil could very well be in the offing. On the field, it sounds like Max Hall will be getting his first CFL start at quarterback
when the Bombers host Hamilton on Friday night. The former BYU standout and one-time Arizona Cardinals starter will be in for a steep learning curve throwing against a first team offence.
Justin Goltz got two starts, and while he wasn’t awful, he also wasn’t inspiring a ton of confidence that he was going to be the guy to lead an upswing in play. Will Hall be that guy? Maybe, but don’t condemn me for leaning towards unlikely. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Buck Pierce starting again at some point in 2013.
Then, there’s the off field turmoil. With the pending addition of Marcel Bellefeuille to the Winnipeg staff as a “consultant” is only going to stir the rumor mill into even more frenzy. Will he and Burke be able to work together?
Is the former Tiger Cats Head Coach being groomed to replace Burke? Yeah, they’re just speculative questions, but they’re easy distractions for a team that needs less not more to mess with them.