Elks thwarted by themselves & more thoughts on the Alberta rematch

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

First off: I know Edmonton played terribly, in particular their offence.

The illegal contact call at the end of the game that wiped out a huge sack from Mike Moore that would have given the Elks one last chance was absolutely disgraceful. Kamar Jorden ran up to Darius Williams, they put their hands on each other, and the worst illegal contact flag I’ve ever seen in my life, factoring in legitimacy, cost, and circumstance, was thrown.

Atrocious. However slim the comeback odds, we were robbed of a proper finish. Next.


I was one of the few who was aware of the potential disaster of Trevor Harris’s fumble with 20 seconds left. Edmonton won game one by 12 points, and Calgary was leading game two by 9. Silly me, I thought Calgary might simply try to get into field goal range.

Poof, there goes the season series. Unbelievable.

I was not impressed that Jaime Elizondo didn’t even try to chuck up a Hail Mary and snag a pass interference call to get it back. If Edmonton is lucky, maybe it will work out that they cross over instead of having to go to Saskatchewan and then Winnipeg.

W’s for the L

Edmonton’s two worst players were left tackle De’Ondre Wesley and defensive back Darius Williams, playing strong side linebacker. I don’t like isolating specific guys but it was too obvious not to.

Trevor Harris was under pressure the entire night, taking seven sacks in total which ought to indicate more than a one-player problem. But on top of serious individual protection issues, Wesley was responsible for an anti-clever procedure penalty in Edmonton’s first red zone appearance, on second and 10 in reaction to a Calgary defensive lineman shifting, but staying onside, on a hard count. He also took a backbreaking holding call to start off Edmonton’s last real chance with two minutes left. Going back in the play-by-play, he also took a holding call on Edmonton’s very first offensive snap. I don’t think you can possibly start him against *checks schedule* ah, Willie Jefferson and the Blue Bombers next week.

Now Williams. He doesn’t deserve any blame for the game ending penalty. Unfortunately, he appeared to be a coverage liability all night – his primary matchup was with Kamar Jorden, who had 11 catches on 13 targets for 109 yards prior to the 50 yard touchdown to conclude. Calgary found the weak link and hammered it.

He’s a young (August birthday) 23 years old so there’s opportunity for improvement, but he’s not ready for full-time duty. Fortunately Edmonton just signed this guy named Derrick Moncrief. Similarly, I wonder how SirVincent Rogers is doing?

Hooray for Sean Whyte who was three for three from 30, 41, and 23 yards plus a convert.

Back to the not-so-specials

Punt cover and punt returns were both awful. All night, Calgary had easy field position and Edmonton was starting way back. The Elks so badly need to stop taking illegal block and no yards penalties because they’re giving up enough yardage without their help. On Saturday, they averaged 3.6 yards on seven returns while Calgary got an effortless 10 to 15, averaging 13.7 yards on seven returns.

630 CHED’s Dave Campbell is great at summing things up. This is one of Edmonton’s oldest issues. So far firing the special teams coordinator hasn’t helped.

Oh yeah, him

Bo Levi Mitchell came back and got a lot of praise for a guy who was 21 of 40 (53 percent) for 226 yards and a pick six, prior to taking advantage of Edmonton’s end-game ineptitude.

I thought it was clear that he wasn’t fully planting on his front leg, seeing as most of his throws came out wobbly and many off-target. He was tremendously lucky to only be intercepted once, especially early. Two or three more times an Elk defender had two hands on the ball.

Mitchell had one notably excellent throw, spiralling one to Jorden into a very narrow window on the left hashmark in the third quarter.

Offence? Offensive.

It was immediately concerning that the Elks couldn’t build a lead off of Mitchell starting 3/8.

At halftime, both teams had miserable stats. Calgary was even doing a little bit worse at 4.4 yards per play to Edmonton’s 4.8. But they pulled away in the second half, with 13 first downs to Edmonton’s six – partly due to time of possession, aided by the Elks’ defensive score – and raised their yards per play to 5.8 for the game, compared to Edmonton’s 5.3.

The Elks only got up to 50 offensive plays, and only managed 25 passes thanks to allowing so many sacks. Eight of those went at Derel Walker, which is good, but nobody else had more than a couple aside from Greg Ellingson scraping to four at the finish. And outright, Walker was the only one with more than two catches, leading with five for 43 yards.

221 passing yards is shocking when you think about last week where five receivers all had more – and several much more – than Walker’s 43. They moved the ball effortlessly at times on Labour Day, in great contrast to Saturday’s frustrations. There were a few really nice plays in the 25 yard range, but not nearly enough moving the ball.

Edmonton scored nine points on offence. The end.

Defence? Well, yes.

The defensive line is on a nasty cold streak. They had one sack last week and there was only one from linebacker Nyles Morgan this week (plus the non-sack from Moore). You can be effective without sacks, but it’s harder to earn the “game-breaking plays” that I identified a lack of last week. In general, it felt like Mitchell had quite a bit of time on most plays, though I’d have to check more closely since that impression might just be relative to Harris. The Stampeder O-line is short-handed, too.

Noel Thorpe called some heavier pressure near the end with excellent results. After that second half, I think it’s safe to say something needs tweaking going forward.

For the secondary, we talked about Williams already. I think the ‘big guns’ Jonathon Mincy, Aaron Grymes, and Jonathan Rose were all very good. You didn’t hear their names much, which is a great indicator. Safety Jordan Hoover also seemed to be fine, while Trumaine Washington was more high-event with (very) good and bad.

The little things

Twice Edmonton damaged a drive the instant a play started. One high snap caused an error, and with four minutes left Harris and Wilder turned in opposite directions trying to hand off which led to a massive waste of a play. Coach Elizondo commented post-game on the lack of first down success putting themselves in tougher spots, and I count 4 for 15 (27 percent) conversions of second down and more than five yards, and 4 for 7 (57 percent) on less than that.

On a different note: I was fully on board with Elizondo’s challenge of pass interference against Walker. Still with two timeouts left just outside the three minute warning, even if there’s only a 5% chance of getting it overturned it’s worth it with such a high reward and little risk.

On another different note: Elizondo was asked if Calgary was running up the score at the end and seemed totally unaware of the series point differential, which is not great. Quote, “we’ll remember that.” Me too, Jaime. Me too.

Was ANYTHING good?

Well, Markeith Ambles only caught five of his 17 (!!) targets. Part of that was his hands, part of that was Mitchell’s throws, and part of that was the defence. And Ka’Deem Carey was held to 45 yards on 11 carries.

Also, Trumaine Washington made a nice play! That was fun. He cut inside the receiver on one of Calgary’s many mid-depth out-routes and earned the reward.

Lastly, my league-wide predictions on players and teams were superb this week, with the exception of expecting Edmonton to be competitive.

So how ya doing?

I don’t know, I’ve seen this so many times, on this exact week.

At least expectations will be lower next Saturday when the Elks host Winnipeg.

Mike Ludwig enjoys math, chess, and football, all of which are kind of related. He lives in Edmonton and does not endorse Rod Black's metaphors. Follow him on twitter at @CityOfChamps14.