Hello, Taylor Swift. I was going to wait a couple weeks before writing this to you but I then I figured I’d better give you a heads up now because I know you have a busy schedule to plan around. The Grey Cup is November 19th, in Hamilton. Ditch Travis and the Chiefs and head on up to the Hammer. Gonna be lit. Oh, come in early, actually. Carrie Underwood is performing on the Friday night and she’s really terrific.
Here are this week’s takeaways.
» Matchups Set: Semi-Final Saturday heads to BC and Montreal
» ‘‘Growing’ Stampeders play complete game to win second straight
» Argos eliminate Riders from post-season with win at Mosaic
» Play CFL Pick ‘Em presented by Old Dutch
» Sign up and watch CFL games on CFL+ in the U.S. and Internationally
AT LONG LAST THEY HAVE ENTERED A PERIOD OF ENLIGHTENMENT
“A lot of joy tonight,” said Calgary quarterback Jake Maier after his team dumped the Lions in BC, on Friday night. He didn’t know it at the time but that win was about to couple with a Saskatchewan loss to give the Stampeders their 18th straight invitation to the post-season.
In beating the Lions – and winning a second straight game – the Stamps employed what I’ve been waiting all season to see from them, teased only a little bit here and there as they repeatedly smacked their shins while wandering the darkness of the lower reaches of the West Division in 2023.
An authoritative run game, a few splash plays in the passing game, good specials and a punishing defence were all on display in Calgary’s 41-16 victory at BC Place.
It was Calgary’s best game of the season at precisely the right time.
Actually, the timing might have been much better earlier in the campaign. Then they may have avoided the agony of the last few weeks.
But that’s of no consequence now. The Calgary Stampeders have sneaked their way in and they go into the playoffs armed with something that is even bigger than the joy of putting together a complete game on the road against a team they’ll face in the Western Semi-Final.
And that thing is belief.
RICK CAMPBELL IS NOT ANGRY. JUST DISAPPOINTED.
The BC Lions need to clean up their act.
Six major penalties, they took, against Calgary on Friday night. Had a player ejected, even.
That kind of stuff drives coaches nuts and since the Lions have been displaying that they have a problem with penalties of late, you wouldn’t blame head coach Rick Campbell if he started grounding guys, or at least sending them to their rooms without supper.
Instead, Campbell is the type to close the family room door and sit down for a calm, collected chat.
“All of us have bad moments in life,” said Campbell, asked to address the issue of BC penalties.
“There was some incidences with a very small group of people – who actually aren’t bad guys – but we have to have enough poise in the moment to be able to function and not lose our minds.”
“We can fix it,” he added. “We all learn. I’ve got stuff to learn too.”
Don’t mistake Campbell’s tactics for softness. His “sit down, son, we need to have a talk” strategy does not mean he isn’t taking the matter seriously.
“I don’t wanna lose a playoff game because of stuff like that,” he said.
MOTIVATION DOES NOT SEEM TO BE A PROBLEM
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t have ‘anything to play for’ on Saturday night when they played host to the Edmonton Elks. Yet they delivered a dominant, thorough and impressive performance in a 45-25 win.
The only real blemish on the Bombers’ masterpiece was a kick return for a touchdown by Edmonton’s Deontez Alexander and that didn’t come until Winnipeg was up 20 in the fourth quarter. And even then they answered it with a touchdown of their own.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers stumbled around from time to time, earlier in the season. Saturday night’s performance, though, showed clearly that they have shed any clumsiness that may have been lingering.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are dialled in, everybody.
QUARTERBACKS WANT TO PLAY. AND COACHES FEEL THEY NEED TO
A lot of hand-wringing over the weekend – and last weekend for that matter – over how much time head coaches were giving first string quarterbacks in games that were of little or no consequence for their teams in the standings.
But you will not find much second-guessing of that stance in the minds of those coaches.
“No,” said Rick Campbell, flatly, when asked if he regretted starting Vernon Adams and playing him for a half in the Lions’ loss to Calgary.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers played Zach Collaros for almost three quarters (Their offence didn’t appear to miss a single beat once Dru Brown got in. How’s that for luxury?). The Toronto Argonauts did the same with Chad Kelly. Last week, the Montreal Alouettes kept Cody Fajardo in the mix even when they had their game against the Edmonton Elks in hand.
Fajardo has already stated he wants to play this week against Hamilton, even though the two teams don’t play for keeps until the week after, in the Eastern Semi-Final.
“We’ll see what we’re gonna do next week with him,” said Argos coach Ryan Dinwiddie of Kelly, who left the Saskatchewan game after getting his ankle twisted by Roughriders’ defensive lineman Anthony Lanier. I get the feeling that if Kelly’s ankle is fine – both he and Dinwiddie say it is – you can expect to see Kelly play a bit against the Ottawa REDBLACKS to end the regular season.
It cannot be possible that these coaches are playing starting quarterbacks simply because they enjoy inviting chaos into their lives.
It’s not like they haven’t weighed the risks. It’s just that they don’t necessarily believe in shelving their starters when they need to keep them sharp for the playoffs.
Quarterbacks want to play. And given the evidence we have in hand, coaches believe they need to.
A HARD RAIN IS GONNA FALL ON THE PRAIRIE
The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be one of the most – if not the most – intriguing teams in the coming off-season.
Seven straight losses to end the season. For a second straight year.
Last season, the starting quarterback and the offensive coordinator paid the price for a year gone wrong. This time, the cost will be hung on people further up the chain of command. How far, though, is the question.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute here and I hope to continue to coach here,” said head coach Craig Dickenson after his team let another game slip away, this time against the Toronto Argonauts. “But if that’s not the way they go then I leave with no regrets.”
Saturday’s loss to the Argos was a mini-movie of the Saskatchewan season. A good start, an impressive performance that frustratingly gave way to the disappointment of a collapse that could not be stopped.
A hard rain is gonna fall and there are few umbrellas to be had.
AND FINALLY… I’ve a feeling that Hamilton/Montreal game is gonna be intense. Vanilla, sure. But hard-hitting too.