- Free Agency
Hello, Walby Burger. Yeah, you had a lot of stuff piled on you, for sure. But are you truly a Walby Burger if you don’t have at least one pancake on you somewhere?
Here are this week’s takeaways.
1. IT’S STREVELER’S SHOW NOW
Alright, Chris Streveler fans, it’s all on your guy now.
As successful as he’s been as the Blue Bombers’ starting quarterback, Matt Nichols has not been able to quiet the rather loud Winnipeg lobby that would have him take a back seat to the kinetic, bouncing ball of “hell, yeah” energy that is his back-up buddy.
“They win in spite of Nichols,” some cry. “They’d win bigger, more comfortably without Nichols,” others insist.
With Nichols being injured on Thursday night, it is Streveler’s spotlight moving forward for the foreseeable future and we’ll arrive at one of two destinations down the road:
Either the Streveler faction is beating chests and hollering “told-you-so’s” at every opportunity, or they are sinking in their seats while the others glare at them and remind them that they ought to be careful what they wish for.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: There’s load management and then there’s Andrew Harris load management. Load management is being careful to trim back the physical exertion, so as not to burn one’s self out. I, for one, am very, very good at this. Andrew Harris Load Management seems just to be him saying “more please.” Remember that scene from The Simpsons where Homer finds himself in Hell, and the devil decides to punish him by force-feeding him donut after donut after donut? To Harris, carries are donuts.
2. MESSAGE RECEIVED, ADJUSTMENTS MADE, RETURNERS STYMIED
Hang on a sec. Not a single kick return TD at all during Week 10? But this is the “Year of the Returner.”
A lot of punters and placekickers — and a lot of coverage guys — really stepped up this past week. All over the league, coordinators were drilling the message home: “gotta be better on kick placement and cover.”
In Calgary, both punter Rob Maver and downfield tackler Courtney Stephen were lights out. Apparently, Stephen was challenged by special teams coordinator Mark Kilam to bear down. He made five special teams tackles against Montreal.
And Maver? I’d spoken to him during the week about the importance of target punting; of landing his kicks on the numbers or outside of them.
Maver was ticked after the last game. He popped two punts down main street against Winnipeg and both were returned for majors by Janarion Grant.
Against Montreal, Maver punted nine times and landed each and every one of them numbers-out, astoundingly. The Alouettes averaged 2.9 yards per return.
League-wide, punt returners had been averaging 11.8 yards per return in 2019, an all-time CFL high. In Week 10, the average was 7.6, with only Hamilton’s Frankie Williams having what you’d term a really notable day, averaging 13.4 on the seven he lugged back against Ottawa.
Is the party over?
Well, for one week at least, the guys with the lassos prevailed.
3. SIGN THE DEVELOPMENT DEAL CONTRACT NOW
There was so much going on in that wild and wonderful Montreal/Calgary game that it’s hard to know where to start and end with takeaways from it.
Reggie Begelton’s dominating four-touchdown performance. Eric Rogers’ micro-miss toe drag in the back of the end zone. Boris Bede taking a delay-of-game penalty, for crying out loud, as the Alouettes readied for a do-or-die onside kick. Then following up with a delicious, delightful, perfectly placed lob on the attempt, giving Montreal the life they needed to send the game into overtime with Bede’s own field goal with two seconds remaining.
Montreal’s back-from-the-dead win could only be rivalled by a Game of Thrones screenwriter, and even they’d have looked at that script, crumpled it up, and tossed it in the wastebasket as a bit far-fetched.
After all of what transpired, I’m left with the indelible mark left by the battle between Calgary’s nearly unbeatable defensive back Tre Roberson and Montreal’s ever-emerging superstar pass-catcher, Eugene Lewis.
Those two went at it all night long, alternating victories over each other in ferociously contested plays.
Lewis showed that no matter who’s covering him, he might still make the play, as he did on a contorting, leaping, reaching-back catch on a successful two-point convert during the third quarter.
Roberson showed that no matter how good of a night you’re having – no matter how smooth and fluid your moves are, he will follow tightly as though he’d snuck into your brain to read the thoughts of your own personal huddle.
As far as one-on-one battles have gone this season, we’ve rarely — if at all — seen better.
One-on-one basketball… high jump… 100-metre sprint… speed walking…ping pong… Go Fish… thumb war… dance-off… curling… cupcake baking competition… rock climbing… air guitar… cup stacking… birling … freestyle canoe (yes, it’s a thing. Do yourself a favour. Google it and click on some video)… flexed arm hang… sack race… barn-raising… karaoke… spelling bee… chess-boxing… sheep-shearing….
And anything else they’d agree to.
4. CAN’T SHOULDER THE LOAD ALL BY THEIR LONESOME
It’s pretty simple for the Ottawa REDBLACKS. They cannot contend for a playoff spot unless they somehow get their offence going.
The Ottawa defence did everything in its power to provide that offence to find a gear against Hamilton on Saturday, including keeping the score tight with not one but two interceptions in their own end zone.
But with so many short Ottawa offensive drives – the REDBLACKS had five two-and-outs and punted eight times in the first half alone – that defensive unit must’ve felt as though there was no need to take a seat on the bench once they’d held the fort once again.
The time of possession in this one favoured the Ticats by almost a full ten minutes and it looked pretty obvious that Ottawa’s defensive stalwarts were running on fumes as the fourth quarter marched on.
Failing that, the defence just might stage a wildcat strike to protest poor working conditions.
5. THE MOST THRILLING RIDE AT THE CNE WASN’T EVEN ON THE MIDWAY
At the Canadian National Exhibition, you’ll see scores of midway rides that have a sign in front of them reading: “you must be this tall in order to ride.”
On Friday night, only one of them had a sign in front that read: “you must be wearing Edmonton jersey number 82 in order to ride.”
Greg Ellingson’s magnificent touchdown catch against the Argos blew everyone out of the water and had me thinking that the only part of it I might be able to equal is the stretching out part, which I do on my couch all the time. Pretty good at that, actually.
History tells us that the first man in orbit was Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, on April 12th, 1961. He was blasted into space aboard the Vostok spacecraft, orbiting the earth for a little over 89 minutes.
Yes, Gagarin’s time in orbit was greater than that of Ellingson’s, but Gagarin needed a rocket in order to scrape the edges of space. Ellingson used just his own two legs.
Run that touchdown catch over again, in slow motion. Play Johann Strauss’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” and tell me it wouldn’t fit right in with Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Little known fact: Just prior to that play, the Eskimos asked for and received clearance from the air traffic control crew at nearby Billy Bishop airport.
And, yes, I know I’ve just piled on a bunch of mixed metaphors in this takeaway; carnival thrill rides, rockets and space capsules, airport jargon. Just think of it as a literary Walby Burger.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Oh, yeah. DaVaris Daniels. Have fun, opposing secondaries.
AND FINALLY… In light of the move he put on Cory Greenwood during a third-quarter run, Vernon Adams should be wearing a matador hat, not a helmet.