The Calgary Stampeders won the 106th Grey Cup Championship. It has taken this fan a while to dry out and recover from the celebration, but here are some thoughts on the game as it unfolded and the aftermath of what is to come.
First, I was lucky enough to be selected as the representative from Calgary to vote on the Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian awards that went to Bo Levi Mitchell and Lemar Durant respectively; both of whom I voted for. It was far from an easy decision. Sadly, the field conditions made for a rather sloppy game rather than a replay of the Grey Cup classic produced by these two teams in 2016.
For MOP of the game, there were a few candidates that deserved consideration for me. There was Terry Williams, who did receive a vote, who turned the game firmly in the Stampeders favour with his Grey Cup record punt return ending with just one second to go in the first half. It was no question the play-of-the-game. However, I was reticent to offer an award to a player that made one spectacular play regardless of it’s impact on the game as a whole.
Another was Stampeder running back Don Jackson who totaled 92 total yards on the day where traction was difficult including a 21-yard TD reception that he was so wide open for, I feel like even I could have got a first down on it before collapsing into a pile of flab on the field. Eric Rogers played on one leg, admitting to me after the game that he tore his meniscus last weekend against the Bombers, and had six catches including a few clutch grabs to keep drives going.
Eventually I settled on Mitchell, who may have one of the worst individual stat lines of any QB to win this award in the past. This award is a perfect reason to look beyond the stat sheet. 24-of-36 for 253 yards with two TD’s and two picks, the game was a perfect example of what makes Mitchell special. Terrible field conditions that saw receivers slipping so often as to make timing routes near impossible, a running game that was able to find little purchase, and yet still Mitchell was able to effectively move the offence downfield and score enough to win the game.
The two interceptions he threw cost the Stampeders only field position as the Stampeders defence was able to get one of them back via punt, the other via fumble. Sometimes when broadcasters are asked to offer game balls they will say things like “the whole defence” which would have been my vote if it could have been. Asked to isolate a single player, the choice was not obvious, but it was clear that the QB that was able to conquer the playing conditions as well as the opponents’ defence would carry the day.
For Most Outstanding Canadian, the choice was a little easier to make as Lemar Durant had a four catch day including a touchdown in addition to a 22-yard scamper for a first down to bring the Stamps into field goal range and extend the lead to 10. While there were other Canadians that made an impact on the game, Durant played a more vibrant role in the offence than he typically does, and stood out for that reason.
The game itself has been well covered by my colleagues here on 3DN but if you will indulge me some final thoughts:
Yes, the field conditions made playing offence difficult. However, the Stampeders defensive backfield smothered the Ottawa receivers, leading to Trevor Harris having a 53 per cent completion rate, after a regular season 70 per cent to lead the league. DeVone Claybrooks told me after the game: “everyone was asking us how we were going to contain their offence, no one asked them how they were going to deal with us.”
If it ain’t broke
I know you can’t continually hammer a running back into the line of scrimmage play after play, but given William Powell’s success at almost six yards per carry, I wonder why the Redblacks didn’t go to him more often than the 16 carries he did get in the backfield. It seemed like the offensive line from Ottawa was able to push back on the vaunted Calgary defensive line frequently throughout the day. It may have been because the Calgary defence was willing to let Powell chew up the clock, especially in the second half, thinking that eventually, they would get a stop.
Punters rarely get any spotlight, unless nominated for league MOP for some reason, but Rob Maver was called upon to punt the ball nine times. Cue the Ferris Bueller audio… nine times? Nine times. Maver was excellent as always with his directional kicking and kept it from going into the end zone for any rouges. A crucial part of the game often overlooked, Maver did his part in getting his third ring.
Terry Williams wasn’t the only one setting records among the Stampeders special teams unit. Going against the man who took his record for most consecutive field goals without a miss in Lewis Ward, Paredes hit all his kicks to remain a perfect 11-for-11 in the Grey Cup Game. That makes him the most accurate CFL kicker ever when the trophy is on the line.
The list of high profile free agents in Calgary starts and ends with a pair of QBs. Both on the offence and defence where Alex Singleton and Bo Levi Mitchell have their eyes on opportunities down south. It’s believed that at least 10 teams are interested in Mitchell, but he has said he won’t go to a place without a legitimate shot at starting. That may change if the CBA discussions drag on and he can’t lock up a contract or an extension in Calgary.
Singleton is as good as gone for a shot down south where he has already been part of the Seahawks, Patriots, and Vikings organizations before coming to Calgary. Back to back seasons of 100-plus tackles will sure look nice to scouts in the NFL. Jameer Thurman may also be headed south which will gut the Stampeders linebacking corps.
The big question though will be the destination for DeVone Claybrooks. Look for more on that soon from our own Justin Dunk.
Lastly, it has been an honour and a privilege to write for you this season. It was just about a year ago when Drew Edwards reached out to me and asked if I would consider joining the team and what a year it has been! From everything CFL related to all the support you guys gave me through my Big Brother experience, I couldn’t be more grateful. I will be writing on Stamps related news throughout the offseason as well as continuing to host my Horsemen Radio podcast (“a must listen for any Stamps fan” – Postmedia’s Danny Austin).