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November 14, 2016

Landry: 5 takeaways from Division Semi-Finals

Adam Gagnon/CFL.ca

Hello, CFL fans. God bless playoff football. That’s all I have to say about that. Well, that and these other things, too.

Here are the Semi-Final Sunday takeaways:

1. The Loch Ness Monster exists.

 

It truly must, beyond a shadow of a doubt. I know this because, on Sunday, a CFL team gained more rushing yards than passing yards on the way to victory. The Edmonton Eskimos totalled 180 yards in rushing in their 24-21 win over Hamilton in the Eastern Semi, while their aerial attack consisted of a total of 152 yards.

Not only that, the average yardage the Eskies gained on the ground was 6.9 yards as compared to an average passing gain of 6.6 yards. Edmonton rushed the ball MORE times than it passed. What? A CFL team winning a game powered by a running attack?

Drop another sonar into the Loch, because Nessie’s out there somewhere. Sasquatch exists too. Probably watching this game in his man cave with the same astonishment as the rest of us.

2. Yes, John White will ever be the same.

 

“I wonder if John White will ever be the same?”

That was a question that so many asked at the top of the 2016 season as the veteran Edmonton running back was returning after missing a year due to an Achilles injury. It wasn’t an unfair question. Some bounce back just fine, some do not. It was even a fair question to ask part way through the season as White didn’t seem like his old self and the Eskimos decided to elevate Shakir Bell to the starter’s role.

However, Bell got injured, White was back in and he has not looked back, other than to see just how far behind him all those defenders are. Sunday’s performance was the finest we’ve seen from a running back all season long, with White darting, dodging, picking and powering his way to 160 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.0 yards a carry.

His footwork was so marvelous that I have to wonder who’ll play him in the Broadway musical based on this game. Maybe it should be him. Can you sing, John?

3. Wally has had it with the Jonathon Jennings development questions.

BC coach Wally Buono said “bullcrap” – or thereabouts – twice, when answering a post-game question about quarterback Jonathon Jennings’ superb performance, which sprung to life after he’d thrown a pick and fumbled in the first quarter.

“Throwing an interception, guys, is part of the game,” Buono said, blinking rapidly, obviously wanting no part in talking about his young quarterback’s rocky start. “It’s how you react after you throw it.”

Buono went on to say something that I’ve always firmly believed and that is that, basically, the other team is pretty good too and that they are trying very hard to make you fail.

“I’m tired of you guys always looking for the negatives,” Buono went on to say. I thought he might then blurt out “this is why we can’t have nice things!”

Jennings was a little sloppy with the ball on the play where he fumbled, but that interception was the result of a terrific, terrific play by Winnipeg corner Chris Randle. BC’s young quarterback was steady in the second quarter and then superb in the second half and his touchdown run late in the game was so good, so jaw-droppingly athletic that I’m sure even John White exclaimed “Good Lord!” Or something more footbally.

4. Maybe picking Anthony Thompson in the draft was okay after all.

 

Much has been made, this season, of the Lions bypassing Taylor Loffler and, instead, drafting Anthony Thompson back in May. Loffler has been stellar in blue, thumping his way to the starting free safety role.

Thompson, the Montreal native, has been paying his dues in his rookie season and not yet making the same kinds of waves as Loffler. But he made a slick and very important play in Sunday’s Western Semi.

The Lions had just scored a touchdown and added the convert to narrow the score to Winnipeg 31, BC 26, with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Bombers’ returner Quincy McDuffie fielded the ensuing kick-off at the Winnipeg 14-yard line.

He took it up the gut about seven or eight yards where he ran into a wall of humanity, so he spun and veered to his left, leaving most everyone else going the other way as he bounced towards the outside. There, he was getting ready to do that thing he does once in a while. The one where he accelerates and leaves everyone in his dust on the way to the end zone.

Thompson, one of those downfield tacklers that was converging on the original focal point, sniffed that out and accelerated on a diagonal, just as McDuffie was about to get loose to the outside and fire the afterburners. He shot in like a rocket, and made the tackle at the Winnipeg 20-yard line. If not for that tackle, McDuffie was gone and the score was Winnipeg 37, BC 26, convert pending. “With their second round pick, the BC Lions select a guy that will make a game-saving tackle….”

5. Mike Benevides is gonna need treatment.

 

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Edmonton defensive coordinator was first in line at team physio on Monday morning. That celebration of his after Kenny Ladler picked off Zach Collaros, with just over a minute to go, was epic and Coach Bene might have awakened this morning with a rotator cuff injury. One, two, three, four…. five…SIX full on fist pumps, in rapid succession, coiled from up high at his armpit down to just above the ground. It looked as though he was really ticked off at a chainsaw that wouldn’t start. Can’t blame him.

Early in the season, with the Eskies’ defence struggling, Benevides was the subject of scorn and suggestions he be fired, even though the Edmonton defence was dotted with plenty of new faces. He’s got them rowing together now, and I think his pride in that progression all came out in an emotional moment. Hope you got some heat on that shoulder last night, coach.

And finally… Kicking 61 yard field goals at sea level, with no wind at your back, is hard. Very hard. Even if you’ve got a big leg.