The Calgary Stampeders entered the playoffs as the hottest team in the league — 6-1 run to end the regular season — looking poised to go into Saskatchewan and take a road playoff victory after a year that saw them start 2-5 before going on a mini-heater in the second half.
Alas, for the Stamps on this day, the game in Saskatchewan seemed to mirror that pattern.
A first half that was plagued by uncharacteristic errors, most notably a pair of Rene Paredes missed field goals, a career first Cody Grace punt single, a punt return for a touchdown that was the first the Stampeders had allowed all season and on the final play of the opening half Shawn Lemon was ejected for rough play.
Now to dive a little deeper into a 33-30 double overtime loss.
I’m not sure if it was the closest to Christmas that the CFL has ever played in Regina, Grey Cups included, but both teams gave away the ball with a frequency that rivalled the big man up north.
Each team had four turnovers in this game with all of the Stampeders takeaways coming off Cody Fajardo interceptions. On the flip side the Stampeders did it in every way they could with two interceptions, one giveaway on downs, and another via a Reggie Begelton fumble on a punt return.
Begelton was forced into return duties due to a death in the family of Malik Henry, who attended the funeral of his brother and was ineligible for the game due to COVID quarantine restrictions as a result and Shawn Bane was also injured.
It was the second time the Stampeders tried to go without a specified returner and just as in Hamilton earlier in the season, it cost them.
The Begelton fumble led to a TD drive and any points given up are magnified when a game goes into overtime.
Nightmare night for Paredes and the rest of the special teams
Paredes is one of this league’s best kickers — ever. There is no question as Paredes now holds five of the top 11 marks for accuracy in CFL history.
It’s important to say that out loud following a game where he missed almost as many kicks as he had this season to this point.
Paredes was a disastrous five-of-eight on the night. He had two misses in the first half and another in overtime, essentially ending the game. Three missed field goals after a season where he only had missed four field goal attempts and was on a 19 straight make streak coming into the game.
The misses were all from 35-plus yards, but after a season where Paredes had hit more field goals from 30-plus yards than some kickers had attempted, the results of the day were shocking.
Elsewhere, the Stampeders allowed a punt return for a touchdown that could have been called back based on an uncalled hold on DaShaun Amos, and a kick return that didn’t count due to a suspect blocking in the back penalty.
The Stampeders cover units had been the best in the league this year, but were beaten badly on two separate occasions in this one.
Ka’Deem Carey goes off
22 carries for 117 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, Carey put together a rushing performance that hasn’t been seen since Jon Cornish was in town.
Carey got better and better as the season went on and grew into the running back Stamps fans had been waiting to see as he dealt with some injury issues in 2019.
The bad news if you are a Stamps fan is that Carey was less than committal following the game about his contract status and future in Calgary, intimating that his contract was up but that he “hasn’t had much time to think about it.”
Far from the emphatic desire to return that Stamps fans have to be hoping for.
He did suggest he would like to continue playing with Bo Levi Mitchell, stating you “ride those rings” as long as you can, but given some earlier discussion in the press conference, that might not be as certain as you would have thought.
All the Moxey
Jonathan Moxey had two interceptions this regular season, one of which came off Fajardo.
Moxey was a bloodhound who apparently got the scent, as he was able to get his hands on and corral three Fajardo passes in the first half, using very aggressive play to jump routes and take the ball away.
Moxey is another in a long list of great defensive backs found by Calgary’s scouting team and should look to improve those numbers next year.
Jameer Thurman also had a nice diving interception for his first of the year.
Mitchell ponders future
It started with Dave Dickenson hinting that Mitchell may or may not be back in a Stampeder uniform next season and it didn’t get any clearer when No. 19 stepped to the mic.
Mitchell said that he will need time this off-season to decide his future and figure out if his body can compete at the level he expects from himself. He asked the media: “Did I look like myself out there this season?”
Mitchell has been the top pivot in Calgary since 2014 and sits atop the all-time winning percentage list as a starting QB in the CFL, so if his career would end with this loss, it would be a surprise.
That said, next season will be four years since his last injury-free year, and this was the first time he had more interceptions than touchdowns with a 10 to 13 TD-INT ratio. A shoulder surgery and a broken leg have shortened seasons since then and the body stops recovering quite as thoroughly as it used to when you get older.
If Mitchell did decide to hang them up in the off-season, it would be a massive blow to the Stampeders organization.
Dickenson for his part said he hopes to still be coaching Mitchell in “four or five years” not only because Mitchell would still be playing, but that Dickenson would also still have his job.
As the Stamps season comes to a close, I want to thank all the people who have regularly checked out this space, interacted with me on Twitter and have a love for this league and this game.
Without you, I have no reason to write and I’m very appreciative you take the time to read.
While I will now be a little less than weekly, look here for all the news, and reaction to it, as the Stampeders begin building towards 2022.