Calgary comes back from 24-point deficit to win in overtime: 10 thoughts on the Stampeders’ robbery in Hamilton

Photo courtesy: Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca

On March 1, 1966, Thomas Leishman and his team of bandits stole the equivalent of $2.5 million in gold while posing as Air Canada employees — it’s thought to be the largest single heist in Canadian history.

Or at least it was, until Saturday.

That’s when the Calgary Stampeders spotted the two-time defending East Division champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats a 24-point lead in the first half, before storming back and finally jumping in front on the first series of overtime, notching a game-sealing interception to win 33-30.

Here are nine reasons why the game played out like it did and a bonus rant:

Sleepy Stamps

For the second straight week, the Stampeders allowed 24 points to their opposition in the first half. Dane Evans moved the ball at will before the break, amassing 273 total offensive yards and 245 through the air.

Evans exploited the inexperience of the Calgary secondary — which featured two rookies — and carved them up on the way to a 24-0 lead.

“We got our asses whipped,” Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said on the TSN broadcast after the half.

Unlike when he throws a challenge flag, Dickenson was completely correct.

On the other side of the football, the Stampeders put together less than 100 total yards of offence and only managed a single field goal, going into the locker room trailing by three touchdowns.

#NoLeadIsSafe

I’m not sure what was said by the coaching staff at halftime but for the second straight week, it worked.

After the game, Bo Levi Mitchell referenced some other large come-from-behind wins he has seen in his career. Specifically, he mentioned his CFL debut against Montreal in 2012 — when he came off the bench to replace Kevin Glenn and complete a comeback from down 24-0 at the half — and the Stamps’ 2014 matchup with Toronto in which Drew Tate’s hail mary secured the victory.

This was the first time he was able to complete the comeback from start to finish and that made it extra special.

To pull or not to pull

Even though the team is now 2-0, Mitchell didn’t look like the quarterback holding the CFL’s all-time winning percentage record through the first six quarters of the season. That changed in the last two.

Bo Levi had no small share of doubters heading into this year, with some people claiming he had lost whatever magic he once possessed — including several writers on this site.

Mitchell, it seems, was well aware of that criticism and had a message for his detractors following a sparkling second half.

“I’m not going to use my middle fingers but to the ones talking trash, it’s nice to be back,” he gloated.

Mitchell threw for 243 second-half yards in the comeback, including a pair of touchdowns and an interception, and finished with a total of 313 yards passing on the day.

There is still room for improvement, however. Of Mitchell’s 28 completions, only four were throws of 15 or more yards down the field. On the flip side, only six of the incompletions went less than 15 yards downfield, meaning that on balls that travelled more than 15 yards in the air, Mitchell was just 4-of-12.

Given his success on shorter throws — where he went 24-of-30 –, one has to wonder if Mitchell is evolving into a quarterback who no longer relies on the deep ball, instead moving the team down the field with a more methodical pace.

Logan’s Run

Peyton Logan had a few impressive runs during the Stampeders’ preseason but ultimately lost the battle to back-up Ka’Deem Carey to Dedrick Mills.

Mills was out with a bad wrist this week, which meant that Logan got his chance to show what he could do in live-action for the first time when Carey went down in the first quarter with an apparent injury.

The Memphis, Tennessee native didn’t disappoint when the keys to the rushing attack were turned over, amassing 104 total yards including 45 yards on the ground on nine carries.

Where Logan really shined was in the passing game, as he took a pair of Mitchell passes for 19 and 20 yards respectively in the second half to garner a total of 59 yards on four catches.

Those numbers likely would have been higher, but former Stampeder Tunde Adeleke timed a hellacious hit perfectly and appeared to knock Logan unconscious early in the fourth quarter.

After being down on the turf for a considerable period, Logan appeared to have gathered himself on the bench as the game progressed but he was replaced by fullback Charlie Power for what remained on the clock.

Hitting the Wall

Earlier, I said that Dane Evans was taking advantage of a young Stampeders’ secondary. However, rookie safety Titus Wall was a part of that group and he didn’t look out of place while collecting six tackles.

Wall also produced two turnovers on the afternoon, an endzone interception to save a touchdown and a spectacular strip-score where he tore the ball out of Dane Evans’ hands on a short-yardage sneak to tie the game at 24.

Wall came around the edge and drove his arm between Evans and the ball, before ripping it out and heading straight for pay dirt.

Elsewhere though…

Coach Dickenson was obviously critical of the rest of his secondary, as they allowed Dane Evans 425 yards — the third-highest total of his career.

“Our backend right now is very thin. Not experienced, not talking, not communicating, and calls are not getting relayed to each other on different motions and different sets,” Dickenson said after the game, adding that consistency with personnel has also been a challenge through the first few weeks

“I did feel like they exploited some of the underneath coverage, not really our backend, and we took the cheese again on a double move late. I think our secondary has to rally. I think they have to come together and keep working.”

Untimely laundry

While there were fewer penalties taken by the Stamps this week, with just five for a total of 50 yards, the timing of every single offence seemed to have a major impact.

The wind killed a Jimmy Smith punt and drew a 15-yard no-yards penalty to make the punt just a nine-yard net.

Kamar Jorden was offside on a 34-yard gain to Reggie Begelton a few plays later, which brought Calgary from the Hamilton 47-yard line back to their own24 and led to a punt.

A 37-yard field goal attempt by the Ticats was good but it didn’t matter, as the Stamps had too many men on the field. That provided a fresh set of downs that turned into a 14-yard catch and run touchdown from Sean Thomas-Erlington just two plays later.

Derek Wiggan jumped early on a field goal attempt by Calgary, driving them back out of already questionable range.

All were avoidable infractions with serious implications.

When is a horse-collar not a horse-collar? 

The last penalty of the night was a horse-collar tackle called on Mike Rose that was unsuccessfully challenged by Dave Dickenson with less than four minutes remaining.

Dickenson’s position was that Rose grabbed Evans by the name bar, which was proven true on replay, and therefore it did not fit the definition of a horse-collar tackle.

He was nevertheless overruled.

The old adage tells us that we learn something new every day. Today I learned that the words “horse-collar” don’t actually appear in the CFL rulebook. Rather it states under Article 4, Section K that “tackling an opponent by grabbing the inside collar of the side or back of the shoulder pads, or jersey” is an infraction.

Certainly Rose did not have the inside collar of the jersey, but it seems like the interpretation has become grabbing any part of the back of the jersey at all.

Hopefully, a clarification will be sent out from the league on what exactly constitutes an illegal tackle these days.

Rush Defence

Cameron Judge led the team with nine tackles on the day, as the Stamps effectively shut down the Ticats’ rushing attack.

It may have been a by-product of Evans doing whatever he wanted through the air, but the Ticats ran the ball 19 times for just 74 total yards. Evans had a game-high 22 yards on six carries, while the other rushers were effectively bottled up.

Just call the game already

I know it was Hall of Fame weekend and they were inducting two classes, but interviewing all of them or their families over the course of the TV broadcast left little time for actual analysis of the football game.

The CFL is the exclusive property of TSN from a broadcast perspective. I’d have loved to see all kinds of HOF content, but please make it into its own special and air it that way rather than having a parade of interviews throughout a live game.

I’m not sure when it was at its most awkward; when we watched a Greg Vavra TikTok, found out the secret to playing offensive line was to “run and duck”, or when the play-by-play team were congratulating Henry Burris on his accomplishments as Peyton Logan lay unconscious on the field.

Make the event special by taking it out of the game and giving these players the time their accolades deserve, rather than squeezing their highlights in between replays.

Instead of hearing the very capable Duane Forde break down a CFL classic that showed why the league has the best rule set around, we got a litany of bad interviews and wasted opportunity.

Next up for the Stamps, they return home next Saturday for the first of four meetings with the Edmonton Elks.