Hello, Alex Singleton. Thirteen tackles? Crikey, man. What’d you do for fun after the game? Drive out to the country and wrestle a few Herefords to the ground? You know you didn’t have to try and catch up to Solomon Elimimian all in one week, right?
Here are this week’s takeaways.
1. HEY, EVERYBODY, YOU’RE ALL CHASING CALGARY AGAIN
The Blue Bombers are solid. The Roughriders are rising. The Eskimos have been resilient. The Lions still have explosive potential. But no team – no team – has it together like the Calgary Stampeders and their Mark’s Labour Day win over Edmonton was a tour de force of insistent, cruel, cold and calculating efficiency.
The defence is humming, complete with the league’s best secondary. The offence is balanced and can barge through you or over you; whatever they choose. Now, with the full and complete emergence of Roy Finch as the CFL’s “it guy” on return teams, the Stampeders can really hurt you a third way. They are the measuring stick. They are the rabbit. They are best team in the Canadian Football League and they are on a mission. By no means does that suggest the rest should fold their tents, though. Because on any given day… well, ask the 2016 Ottawa REDBLACKS. There are no locks in this league but right now, the Calgary Stampeders are the cool kid on campus that everyone else is trying to be just like.
2. MAKE WAY FOR SHAQ RICHARDSON
The second year Stampeder is ascending at the all-important strong side linebacker position, though like a lot of SAMs, he’s adaptable and able to play back in the secondary, which he’s done this season, hitting the depth chart at halfback for weeks five through seven. He is entering the conversation as one of the league’s best SAMs, however, and his Labour Day efforts cemented that notion. Three defensive tackles and another on specials may not, by themselves, be attention-grabbing numbers but when you factor in two interceptions, two quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery… Yahtzee!
“I like the SAM position, but I’m not getting a lot of action as far as passes my way and targets,” Richardson told the Calgary Herald just last Friday. I did not know the Calgary Herald was in the position to grant wishes but there you have it. More opportunity.
Richardson got his chances against Edmonton and he certainly made the most of them. Dear Calgary Herald: You still giving out wishes? I’d like my hair back. Thanks.
3. THE BANJO BOWL IS GONNA BE A TRIFLE INTENSE
There is the battle to see who has the loudest fans as a backdrop to Saturday’s return match between the Roughriders and Blue Bombers. There is the crush of tightening collars as the race in the super-competitive West ratchets up. Then, there is the bad taste left in the mouths of the Blue Bombers, who were good and spanked by the Riders on Sunday. Yup, the players from each side shook hands as a show of Labour Day solidarity before that game but all those niceties have since scattered in the cooling late summer prairie wind.
There has been some sniping about disrespectful behaviour among some fans and Duron Carter tweeted about how he couldn’t wait to kick Winnipeg’s rumps again. You can bet that the Blue Bombers will come out in a very physical way this Saturday, and that the Roughriders will have been appropriately prepared for that by their coaching staff. One team wants to ensure they don’t start a second half back-slip. The other wants to show it has indeed entered the arena of contenders. I hear the home crowd topped out at 104 decibels on Sunday. Over to you, Winnipeg.
4. HENOC MUAMBA IS ON TOP OF A WAVE
The Saskatchewan middle linebacker dashed around the defensive backfield like he was a CF-18 on a post-national anthem fly over. Slowly but surely, Henoc Muamba has returned to the form that we knew so well when he was emerging as a star in Winnipeg a few years ago. His return to the CFL, with Montreal in 2015, was short-lived and while not especially spectacular, it was not without at least some hints of his all-star play with the Blue Bombers.
Joining the Roughriders last fall, Muamba ended the season looking like the promise was back. The beginning of the 2017 season, however, saw him hobbled with a knee problem, one that is apparently behind him, because the 28-year-old ST. FX grad was at full speed during Sunday’s win, with seven defensive tackles and one on special teams. He crashed the line of scrimmage, chased down receivers and wrapped up tackles with the old Muamba aplomb. Henoc Muamba is back, baby. He’s comfy and confident and that means opponents coming into his area will not often be either of those things going forward.
5. THE OTTAWA REDBLACKS MIGHT BE CARVING OUT A GROOVE
For the most part, the Ottawa REDBLACKS spent the first half of the season looking like they were going from room to room, looking for their damn wallet. They knew they’d just had it but, where on God’s green earth did they plop it down? A 32-4 win over Montreal gave us a little more evidence that the REDBLACKS are perhaps starting to groove a little. It’s not a red-hot The Roots kinda groove yet, more like a Vegas-era Elvis kinda groove. But they’re workin’ on it.
While their win over BC the previous week came with a fourth quarter collapse that could have easily cost them a victory, the REDBLACKS showed a reluctance to breathe easy against Montreal, finishing strong and building a little more confidence. Their next two opponents are Hamilton and then the Alouettes once again, so there’s a chance to really prove the early season mistakes and inopportune relaxing are things of the past. After that, they go to Winnipeg and host Saskatchewan and I suppose it is there that the measure of this team will really be taken. For now, at least, the Ottawa REDBLACKS appear to have found their wallets and are ready to step out on the town.
Slow clap for the person or people who decided that the statue of Ron Lancaster, at Mosaic, should be posed with him handing the ball off.
When you think of quarterbacks, you think of them with their arms cocked, ready to let fly with a pass. That would have been an outstanding look for the statue and might have been the natural choice.
However, the chosen pose means fans can get pics of themselves taking a hand off from the Little General and many have already taken the opportunity. As well, with a statue of the great George Reed nearby, it seems a nice bit of associative imagery. Nice play-calling, Roughriders.
Great execution. Just like Ron.
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