BALLANTINE: Success begins with defence for Stampeders

The Calgary Stampeders defence is the best unit in the league right now – not just the best defence, but the best unit, period.

The team is 3-0 and has allowed six points less than the second-best team in the loop surrendering just 35 points through three games. Next up is the Redblacks who have allowed 41 points and then the Lions are 10 points behind that at 51. The difference here is that B.C. and Ottawa have played one fewer game, both having their bye weeks already.

For a historical perspective, should Calgary stay on this torrid pace they would allow 210 points in an 18 game season which would shatter the CFL record for fewest allowed by 92 points. The record currently belongs to the 1989 Toronto Argonauts who gave up 302 that season.

I also know what you are thinking: it’s so early in the season, this could be an anomaly, for sure. I’d even be tempted to agree with you except Calgary held Hamilton to 14 points. The Ticats scored more than 30 against their other two opponents. Ottawa hung 41 on the Riders before scoring 14 on Calgary. Toronto hasn’t looked great offensively but still scored just one point through three quarters at home against this otherworldly defence.

Combine this with an offence that is scoring more than 30 points a game on average and it has Stamps fans twisting the CFL’s marketing campaign to ask “Is it November yet?” As the Stamps appear to be chugging along as they have done for the last decade, the question that they will need to answer is whether or not all this spectacular regular season play will culminate in a championship.

Other thoughts from a sloppy Week 3 matchup:

Bo Levi Mitchell doesn’t care about completion percentage

During the Week 2 game against the Argos, Mitchell completed 20-of-22 passes for nearly 300 yards in three quarters. The game before he threw just 47 per cent and completed 54 per cent against the Ticats for 250 yards. During the telecast in Toronto, Bo was seen talking to his receivers saying completion percentage doesn’t matter when you get the yards. Mitchell told me that he didn’t know that Kamar Jorden was mic’ed up at the time, but re-iterated that he feels as long as the offence moves the ball and the team wins, his completion percentage rate doesn’t matter.

Ciante Evans is a beast

It was the second play in the fourth quarter when this game turned for the hosts. Protecting a 10-7 lead, the Stamps were backed up on their four-yard line when Dionte Spencer caught a Trevor Harris pass on the three. He turned towards the goal-line and looked to be taking the lead when Ciante Evans hit him with what the WWE would refer to as an Edge-like spear, stopping Spencer cold on the one. The play fired up the rest of the defence who made the goal line stand moments later, generating a turnover and protecting what was a very slim lead at that point.

Don Jackson just keeps running

Jackson continues to lead the league in rushing yards averaging just shy of 100 per game. Jackson has a 50 yard lead over C.J. Gable at this point while getting five fewer carries. His 8.2 yards-per-carry average certainly is taking the sting out of the off-season departure of Jerome Messam. In fact, this most recent game against Ottawa where he had 87 yards on 15 carries with a TD, was a serviceable day for any CFL back, his worst outing yet.

Kyries Hebert at it again

The hit, which everyone has seen, was dirty. The league agreed, suspending Hebert for one game. The question needs to be asked though, when will enough be enough for the player long referred to as “Dirty Bird”? Hebert launched himself like a missile at DaVaris Daniels and targeted the head of the defenceless receiver.

After the game coach Dave Dickenson questioned why Hebert wasn’t thrown out of the game at that time, citing player safety concerns. It could be, as a Stamps follower, that I am more sensitive to Hebert’s antics given that he ended the career of the greatest Canadian player of my generation, and possibly ever, in Jon Cornish. It was a clubbing forearm to the head then, and just because Daniels immediately popped back up and showed no ill effects, shouldn’t mean that as a multiple repeat offender that Hebert shouldn’t have got more than a single game.

Let’s not forget that Jerome Messam was suspended for one game last year for grabbing the face-mask of Chip Cox and pulling him to the ground. One of these plays was far more dangerous than the other, and yet Hebert gets the same penalty. It’s time for the “Dirty Bird” to be plucked. There is no maximum suspension listed in the CBA and very clearly, one game wasn’t enough.

The Stampeders now head to the bye week, looking to heal some of the bumps and bruises accumulated though camp. They will return for the second of back-to-back games against the Redblacks, this time in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 12th.

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