Calgary was supposed to have it all this season.
The reigning Grey Cup champs were locked and loaded, looking to repeat in front of the McMahon Stadium faithful.
At least that is how it felt in Cowtown this season when the Stampeders won 12 games, good enough for second in the west, and had the game’s best QB dialled in as they headed into the playoffs.
I wrote about the keys to stopping the Bombers and how to win for Calgary.
Contain Andrew Harris on the ground? Check. The West Division all-star tar running back was held to a rather pedestrian 57 yards on the ground with 14 carries.
Prevent Janarion Grant from killing them on special teams? Got this one too. The longest return of the night was 18 yards.
Hold Collaros to an average night? 11 completions for 193 yards and a touchdown would be a line that most defensive coordinators would be just fine with.
Kamar Jorden returning to the lineup maybe held higher potential than we saw executed, but it was his first game action in 14 months. So one could be forgiven for not lighting the world on fire. Two catches for 15 yards on five targets meant that Jorden was essentially a non factor.
The biggest issue on the day though was the very first thing I mentioned. Bo Levi Mitchell had to be Bo Levi Mitchell. To put it very simply, he wasn’t. Below 50 percent passing, one touchdown against three interceptions, Mitchell spent the majority of his day just off target, unable to get anything going and putting together the worst performance of his career.
That isn’t my assessment. It’s his. “I wouldn’t say second half, I’d say game…” Mitchell responded when asked about whether the second half was the worst he could remember.
Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson wasn’t any kinder suggesting that the Stampeders were outplayed and out-coached by Mike O’Shea and the Bombers.
Some thoughts on the game:
Viva La Strevolution
The Stampeders had no answer for Chris Streveler. Streveler did what Harris couldn’t as he gashed the Stamps for 81 rushing yards on 13 carries including a put-the-game-away 24-yard scamper into the end zone with a little over six minutes left.
WPG 35 – CGY 14 pic.twitter.com/WP3VNdiJeL
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) November 11, 2019
Strevelor never threw the ball once but was almost impossible to stop on the ground as the Stamps had to continually account for his legs instead. The Bombers ran the run-run option play very effectively in the second half whether it was Streveler handing it off or keeping it. The Bombers destroyed the clock in the second half with long drives or scores that began in the Stampeders territory after a turnover.
When is a simultaneous catch an interception?
Didn’t really get much of an explanation on why the Stamps weren’t awarded the ball on what appeared to be a simultaneous catch from my press box seat in the first half.
Josh Huff and Mike Jones were both in the air when the ball arrived and they both had their hands on it, or at least arms wrapped around it, when they landed. Neither released the ball until well after the whistle.
By definition, it should have been Stampeders ball but was declared an interception by the referees on the field. CFL communications tweeted out the following:
Play #31 – All turnovers are automatically reviewed by the Command Centre. After review, the Replay Official determined that there was no clear and obvious evidence that an incorrect call was made on the field. The ruling on the field stands. #GCPlayoffs
— CFL Football Operations (@CFLFootballOps) November 10, 2019
However, this doesn’t really offer an explanation as to why it wasn’t a simultaneous catch which is awarded to the offence. Could have made a difference as it would have put the Stampeders within the 10-yard line and they turned all red zone opportunities into touchdowns in this game.
When watching the replay, the official that seemed to make the definitive call ran in from behind Huff and so likely didn’t have the best angle. You can clearly see Huff’s arms around the ball when the two players go to the ground however.
Might not have changed the outcome, but one that certainly should be answered by the CFL office.
Bye weeks matter
Mike O’Shea looked a little like the cat who ate the canary in his post game media availability when he discussed having the bye week to prepare for the Stamps. That came after finishing their season with a home-and-home against Calgary, making this game the third straight time they had faced the ted and white.
O’Shea mentioned that his defensive coordinators had spent nearly endless time developing a scheme to stop the Dickenson offence and were totally successful.
Mitchell admitted to being thrown off by the different looks that the Bombers were sending which resulted in the two second half interceptions.
Those fresh looks, combined with a few drops, had Bo second-guessing his receivers, and his throws according to Dave Dickenson who said that Bo “stopped trusting his eyes”.
When looking for a positive from this season, one has to wonder what will become of one of the youngest teams in the CFL next year. The Stampeders started nine new players on defence this year and will see at least a little turnover as Brandon Smith has retired in the secondary and Cory Greenwood gets one year older.
While not an excuse, because the better team certainly won, one wonders what might have happened if the Stamps didn’t have nine Day 1 starters on the injured list in this game, or the majority of the season for that matter.
This is not meant to take anything away from the Bombers who were by far the best team on the field. Eric Rogers, Cordarro Law, Juwan Brescasin, Brad Erdos, Folarin Orimalade, and Ka’Deem Carey all make this team better when they are on the field.
While the same is true of Romar Morris and Junior Turner, they may never come back from their most recent injuries.
Who’s ordering the Begels?
Reggie Begelton said he would be looking towards the NFL but expects to be back in Canada next year, but the question is where.
As a pending free agent, Begelton would certainly garner some interest from other CFL teams following a year where he was the Stamps nominee for Most Outstanding Player.
The pay envelope is likely due to get a whole lot thicker for Begelton and John Hufnagel has been reticent in the past to overspend on players, surely someone will offer him a ton of cash.
As this is my final game-related article for the season, I need to thank all of you who take the time to read my stuff, especially those who do so only so they can argue with me in the comment section. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to cover this season of Stampeders football and the countdown to May is officially on.
If you are in town for Grey Cup, make sure to find me so I can thank you in person.