Hello, Mike Collins, hello Buzz Aldrin. And here’s to the late Neil Armstrong, too. With this week’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, I salute the three men who climbed aboard a small nuclear bomb with only lukewarm assurances that they’d probably be coming back safely. What’s this got to do with football? Well, when the Eagle landed on the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969, it became what remains, to this day, the greatest touchdown in human history.
Here are this week’s takeaways.
1. ARE THE ALOUETTES… COULD THEY BE… DO YOU THINK?
Yeah, I think they might be.
Let me put aside the Kavis Reed issue for the moment, as you can read plenty of analysis and opinion on what that matter means elsewhere on this site.
Let’s talk football here.
Two impressive wins in a row should be just what the Als need to believe and I mean really believe.
Sure, the jury might still be out on the Ottawa REDBLACKS as a whole, but not on their defence so much. That means two weeks in a row, now, the Alouettes have moved the ball on what are thought to be pretty good fortifications.
Is quarterback Vernon Adams now getting it? With every start, he looks a little more comfortable, even if he does still make the odd low-percentage decision (when you’ve got a guy like Eugene Lewis ready to go up and just pilfer the rock away from a defender, why not take that shot?).
The fourth-year quarterback’s aplomb must be in orbit right now and if he tastes a little more success, his confidence will be “go” for trans-lunar injection. Not long ago, you’d never have thought that possible. Remember, this is a guy who was resigned to re-imagining his pro career as a receiver when he was with Hamilton.
I think we all liked Montreal’s defensive personnel going into this season and now we can all like their offensive personnel too. Quan Bray is gonna be a thing, y’all, and Lewis and B.J. Cunningham already are. William Stanback out of the backfield has been everything they’d hoped he’d be.
Ignition sequence on in Montreal. Can they now clear the tower?
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Go ahead and take the “Interim” off Khari Jones’ title of Interim Mission Commander.
2. SPECIAL TEAMS: LIKE THE MOON, ALWAYS SHIFTING TIDES
The power to blow you out, the power to keep you hanging in. Special teams were all the rage in Week 5, back in fashion as a way to score, it seems, after generally sorta going out of style.
Not that they ever went completely away, of course. Nothing in fashion ever disappears completely. I know some people with shag carpeting even though it hasn’t been popular since the Partridge Family went off the air. Hey, I like a good pair of bell-bottoms as much as the next guy.
In Week 5, special teams scoring roared back to life, with speed being showcased, new guys leading the charge. Lucky Whitehead’s blistering opening kick-off return for a touchdown, followed by Charles Nelson’s punt return to the five yard line, gave the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a start they parlayed into a breezy win against Toronto.
In Hamilton, Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey raced through a hole to block a Ticats punt attempt and took the loose ball to the end zone for a major and Hamilton’s Will Likely answered on the very next play when he blasted off on a 110-yard TD romp.
All of them showing the right stuff and when you tack on the speed and know-how of wily veteran astroturf-nauts (it is so a term. Well, it is now) like Chris Rainey and Brandon Banks, you get the feeling that many more daring missions are to come in 2019.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: “Do you think that kick return touchdown means the new guy will stick in Hamilton?”
“Me too. What’s his name, again?”
“I heard you the first time. Now I’m asking you his name.”
“I know he’s probably gonna stick. I’M ASKING YOU WHAT HIS NAME IS.”
3. A TALE OF TWO CITIES. TWO SIMILAR, SIMILAR CITIES (PART I)
The BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts have reached a critical stage in their young seasons and by the sounds of things (and look, really) changes are on the horizon if Week 6 doesn’t go a whole lot better for each of them.
First, the Lions.
“That was not professional football,” said quarterback Mike Reilly after his team had been squashed, 33-6, by Edmonton.
Reilly, himself, had been particularly squashed, sacked five times and hectored an innumerable amount more for a second time against his old mates. If anyone knows the physical stress and strain of re-entry into earth’s atmosphere without actually doing it, it’s Reilly.
For Head Coach DeVone Claybrooks, who seemed genuinely incensed after the game, the time is now for his men, and what he sees in the immediate aftermath is going to guide his course of action on some players, most assuredly.
“This is a tipping point of the season, he said. “Do we reload and answer or do we just lay down and wallow in our self-pity?”
So what’s it gonna be in BC? Bring in new pilots? Maybe, but it sounds like the flight commander wants to give these gents one more crack in the simulator before making that decision.
4. A TALE OF TWO CITIES. TWO SIMILAR, SIMILAR CITIES (PART II)
In Winnipeg on Friday night, the Argos got so far behind the Blue Bombers so early, that it’s hard to know if their rally during the second half was more what they did or more what the Blue Bombers failed to do after getting too comfy. (More on that below)
“It’s just not doing your job, it’s doing your job well,” said Toronto coach Corey Chamblin. “That’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got some guys doin’ it but not doin’ it well.”
That’s usually a hint that personnel changes are being seriously considered, but Chamblin insisted that he still puts responsibility at the feet of the coaches.
The Argos might have a little more time than the Lions, in the eyes of their respective head coaches. With two games upcoming in Alberta, it seems like Chamblin is willing to give an extended road trip some time as a kiln for hardening his team into form.
“We have to spend more time with each other… and really figure out who we are as a team,” Chamblin said.
Chamblin seemed to be a little more upbeat than Claybrooks after the latest loss, what with the team’s offence looking much better, and with receiver Derel Walker finally being broken out in a big way. “The biggest thing is we’re starting to function as an offence,” he said.
Well, that’s one small step for a team. What they need now is a giant leap for teamkind.
5. THE BLUE BOMBERS ARE NASTY AFTER A NAP
That’s not a criticism. Takes me awhile to “shake the grumpy” after I wake up, too.
“It’s all about being consistent and we weren’t consistent tonight,” said tailback Andrew Harris, following the team’s moonwalk – er, cakewalk – over the Argos.
After firmly planting their flag in the first half, the Blue Bombers decided that since they’d reached Tranquility Base, they might as well take that literally, put their feet up and juuuuuust rest their eyes for a sec.
While they slept, the Argos pushed them around pretty good both on offence and defence, during the second half, turning a laugher into a chuckler, and for a brief moment, the possibility of a huge, unlikely comeback emerged ever so slightly, like the Columbia command module peeking out from behind the dark side of the moon.
A ferocious goal line stand kept the Argos from creeping close enough to consider the possibilities and then, with forty seconds left to go in the game, the matter comfortably settled, Winnipeg quarterback Chris Streveler, feeling ornery, spun out of the backfield and bootlegged to the end zone, scoring a 23-yard touchdown to make the score 47-21.
Why so testy?
So many of the Bombers complained of getting sloppy and letting down, although quarterback Matt Nichols gave credit to the Argos for grinding. But the prevailing theme afterward was that there is another level on which the Blue Bombers need to reside and until they find it, they’re bound to remain grumpy.
“There were highlights and big points, it’s a win and we’re happy about it,” said Harris. But we’ve got to be cleaner than that… For us, we need to be better and close out that game in a better fashion.”
It ain’t over ’til the hatch is cracked after splashdown, babe.
AND FINALLY…Natey Adjei is another guy who has a Saturn V booster ready to burn when he needs it.
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