Dave Dickenson has a bit of a predicament over the next two weeks.
The Calgary Stampeders head coach needs to get his offence in gear. He also needs to make sure his franchise player is ready to start the post-season at 100%.
It seems hard to fathom, but a team that just clinched first place in the West Division, can rest up for a month until they host the West final Nov. 19 and just finished rattling off 11 straight wins needs to get straightened out.
For the first time this season, the Calgary Stampeders (13-2-1) laid an egg. The 30-7 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders was certainly a wakeup call and a serving of humble pie for a team that was cruising towards another West Division crown.
It’s the second straight week the Stamps were less than stellar in their play, but the road win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats can be easily forgotten because they did just enough to seal a victory, even if it was at the last second.
Against the Riders though, in a game where a win would seal the West, the Stamps stumbled in all three phases, but mostly on offence.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is dealing with a shoulder issue that has come and gone throughout the summer and into the fall. He admitted post-game that he’s dealing with an issue, but reiterated that if he couldn’t perform he wouldn’t be on the field. Clearly he was off, and that’s a bigger reason why he was replaced against the Riders.
With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers losing and allowing the Stamps to lock down first anyway this week, there is now a chance for Mitchell to get some rest if that’s what Dickenson chooses.
What does that mean for offensive cohesion though? The final outings against the Eskimos (still fighting for second) and the Bombers (who want to lock down a home playoff game) represent 120 minutes of warmup for what will likely be a West final matchup against one of those clubs.
The Stamps need to get Mitchell and the offence clicking, which they haven’t been for the majority of the season. Maybe the expectation is too high, but there are times this season when the Stamps have destroyed teams on special teams and defence, just done enough on offence and the score is lopsided.
At one point you could have asked, ‘how good will this team be once the offence gets rolling?’
You could even make the case that the Stamps defence, although not outstanding on Friday against the Riders, still performed well enough to win considering two of the Saskatchewan majors came on a punt return and a pick-6. The other 16 points should be good enough to win on a regular night for the Stamps.
A shuffling of receivers certainly hurt the Stamps on Friday, as Marken Michel went out early in his first start taking over for Marquay McDaniel. That caused a few players to be out of position and the Stamps offence didn’t find any rhythm after that — granted it was super early when that happened and it could be chalked up to a bad day overall.
McDaniel should return after a week off, but Michel is nursing a hamstring injury, which is devastating for a speed player.
The only thing you can pinpoint about the Stamps offence is it was a little off. Just a bit of an adjustment here or there and it likely would be fine to get the job done.
If Andrew Buckley takes the majority of the snaps the rest of the regular season, does that help the offence get ready for the playoffs? Buckley certainly deserves the chance to run the first unit for the majority of a game, and he’s shown to be one of the best backups — if not the one showing the most No. 1 type stuff — in the league this season.
There is no record for the Stamps to chase, unlike last year when 16-1-1 was still a possibility heading into the final week of the season.
What the Stamps need to do now is give Mitchell and his group enough rope to feel good about themselves, then let Buckley take over. Dickenson will need to walk a fine line as a coach, and it won’t be easy.
So much for cruising into the playoffs.