The Calgary Stampeders were a near sweep from all the prognosticators this week, myself included, but it was a pick based on reputation instead of results — a pick generated from the knowledge that the Stampeders had only started a season with back-to-back losses once since John Hufnagel returned to town and not since 2009.
This effort by the home club’s offence is best summed up by Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons: “Worst game ever!” And he wouldn’t be wrong.
Bo Levi Mitchell threw a career-worst four interceptions in a losing effort, was off target for most of the night, and of all the completions that were made, anything downfield required a receiver to climb the ladder to come down with it.
When he wasn’t throwing the ball high, Mitchell was on the run from a Lions defensive line that was constantly in the backfield, registering three sacks.
Here are my takeaways from a game that Stamps fans will want to forget:
Why Malik why?
Malik Henry had a good night returning the ball, until it all fell apart in the waning moments of the game.
The Lions had a chance to bury the Stamps for good inside the three-minute warning as they lined up for a very makeable field goal. Shortly after yet another miss from Global Kicker Takeru Yamasaki, Henry ran the ball out of the end zone and was tackled at the one-yard line.
Head coach Dave Dickenson didn’t mince words when he was asked about it.
“You know it’s not a smart play, but if you have a lane, go for it. It’s not a play Malik will want to be known for. He had some nice plays, so I’m not going to beat him up first game, but c’mon, we all know that.”
Dickenson also went on to suggest that the coaching staff should have addressed it with Henry before the play so je knew what the best option would be.
D-Line Q’s getting A’s
Mike Rose and Derek Wiggan were disruptive for the Stampeders as they combined for five defensive tackles, had several tackles for loss, and two sacks.
The defensive line was one of the big questions heading into the season, and with the late addition of Shawn Lemon, there is still some growing to do. However, if Rose can bloom, this line could cause trouble for other squads.
Dickenson takes the heat
Dickenson was quick to assume the blame for the loss repeatedly saying that coaching was an issue, but also issued a subtle warning to his roster.
“The players are a reflection of who we are (as coaches), and that’s why I said I need to look in the mirror. You can’t just sit back here and say the players aren’t doing good things,” Dickenson said.
“You gotta make sure you put them in the right mindset to make them do it. If they’re not doing it, then you move on from the player. But, I think as a staff, we need to do a better job of communicating with these guys.”
The lack of preseason games and Mitchell’s groin issue in camp has substantially hindered the chemistry on this team offensively and it shows.
Sparse crowd and the game day experience
I am a season ticket holder for the Stamps and often sit in the crowd rather than the press box so I can experience the game in a different way and get a different viewpoint from the relatively sterile press box atmosphere.
I got my first set of tickets at age 14 and have enjoyed nearly three decades of winning football at McMahon.
After being away for game one, it was my first contest of the COVID-19 era and it was easily noticeable. It wasn’t just the sparse announced crowd of 21,029 fans, most of whom could physically distance if they wanted.
The cheerleaders are on a stage under the scoreboard instead of the sideline, blocking the view of some statistics that nerds like me like to see.
There were far fewer giveaways in the stands, and there was no indication there would be the normal mini footballs thrown into the stands had the Stampeders scored a touchdown.
There were no beer vendors, 50/50 sellers, or purveyors of peanuts and liquorice wandering around encouraging an impulse buy.
The experience was incredibly bland and not for anyone but the hardcore football fan.
It was a stark reminder that this isn’t over, and the temporarily suspended post-game experience of wandering the locker room means a lot less possibility of getting to know this team of strangers and rookies in a meaningful way. You get who the team puts in front of you on Zoom.
Next week is a must-win for the Stampeders at home as they face the Alouettes.