The Calgary Stampeders had a week to stew about their loss in Winnipeg before taking the field at McMahon Stadium on Saturday, by virtue of a bye week between consecutive tilts.
They will now have to shelve that revenge mindset for a few more weeks after once again falling to the league’s lone unbeaten club, this time by a score of 35-28.
Here’s what I saw from Row 55 in Section I:
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers just don’t make mistakes. They don’t turn the ball over, they rarely take penalties of consequence, and they stay on the field.
For the Stampeders, the mistakes were fewer and farther between than they have been in previous weeks. They were certainly better than they were against the Bombers in the first matchup of the season, but perfection is seemingly required to win against this version of the club.
The Stamps took only four penalties; the Bombers took two. The Stamps had seven scoring drives, two were touchdowns. The Bombers had six scoring drives, four were touchdowns. There were no turnovers by either team or any sacks surrendered by either club.
This was as good as CFL offensive football gets against two very good defences.
Mitchell credits Bombers coaches
Bo Levi Mitchell played a game that would have been good enough to beat at least six other CFL teams — we shall see what it takes to beat the Lions in a few weeks — but fell short due to a very conservative game-plan.
That may have ruffled the quarterback’s feathers, however. After the game, he seemed to question the offensive strategy the Stampeders employed.
“I thought at times we played well. We played conservative like we are supposed to be. Take care of the football…but we gotta make plays,” Mitchell said. “We gotta make bigger plays. You don’t win football games making six-yard catches, and just making tackles on six-yard catches. You have to make big plays.”
On the flip side, he gave praise to the Bombers’ staff and indicated how the Stamps can use the tape from these two losses to get better.
“They are one of the better-coached teams, so obviously anything they’re doing against you they’re picking up on film,” he said. “They’re showing you what your deficiencies are.”
Carey keeps streak alive
Ka’Deem Carey’s children were in attendance for the third time this year, and as he has done every time they show up, Carey had a pair of touchdowns.
Even more impressive on this night was the opponent it came against because the Bombers had yet to surrender a rushing touchdown this season.
Carey gave the Stampeders everything they could have asked, producing 92 rushing yards on 14 carries and 32 yards through the air after collecting all four of his targets.
He is moving into the Most Outstanding Player conversation, now just 13 yards off the league lead in rushing despite playing two fewer games than current leader Jamal Morrow.
Having now played one of the league’s best rush defences twice and with some softer targets ahead, the sky is the limit for Carey. He is on pace for more than 1,400 yards on the ground and 350 more through the air.
Should Carey get to 1,400, he would be the first running back to do so since 2013, when both Kory Sheets (1598 yards) and Jon Cornish (1898 yards) went over the mark.
Andrew Harris and William Powell have both gone over 1,300 rushing yards since, with Harris eclipsing the mark twice, but neither has broken the 1,400-yard threshold.
Reggie Begelton had his two best yardage games during this home-and-home series, as he managed 74 yards on his five receptions.
Begelton wasn’t much of a factor in the Stampeders’ first four games but saw the ball a lot in this one, seeing 10 targets. There were a few that were overthrown and at least one into tight coverage, but he did look as good as he has all year.
Two back-to-back catches ended with him rolling army style for more yards. Not exactly sure why he went down in that manner but after the game, his quarterback suggested it may have been anticipatory.
“I teased Reggie about (falling in that manner), but it was the second time it happened,” Mitchell said. “I see guys catching the ball and falling down. I don’t know if you just think someone is there, because (the Bombers) are a good football team, or what it is, but we need to be the aggressor.”
Rene keeps rolling in a different way
Ho, hum, just another perfect day for Rene Paredes.
Paredes went five-for-five in field goal attempts in this game, including a very impressive 53-yarder to give the Stamps a 9-7 lead.
The Stampeders have been calling on Paredes more frequently than they have historically in long kick situations, rather than punting the ball away in plus-territory. He continues to make that decision pay off.
Paredes is sitting at a 95.5 percent make rate on the season and has hit every convert he has been asked to kick.
Grace stays clean too
Stampeders’ punter Cody Grace has never scored a regular season rouge. Not one.
“My coaches told me to focus on high and hang,” Grace told me this week on the Horsemen Radio podcast after explaining that he taught himself to punt in just under eight months to find a skill that would help him get a US college education.
Grace said that his time in the CFL has taught him about needing to send the ball to the sidelines as well, something he did well in this game.
The Stampeders were able to limit Janarion Grant, one of the league’s best returners, to just 30 total yards on the three punts and one of them was a 20-yard scamper.
I will die on the hill that says Grace should have been Rookie of the Year in 2021.
Collaros picks apart defence on second and long
Winnipeg’s offence showed why they are now 8-0 on the season by seemingly moving the ball at will, especially on second down.
The Bombers averaged 10.5 yards on second down plays in the game, collecting 199 yards on 19 plays, and were only forced to punt the ball four times.
Stampeders’ middle linebacker Jameer Thurman was furious when addressing the media post-game.
“(Defence) lost us the game. We stayed on the field too long and gave up touchdowns (at the wrong time),” Thurman said. “Offence was scoring and we didn’t do our part, so that’s on us.”
Postmedia’s Danny Austin suggested that the Stamps had been effective against the run in the previous meeting and before he could even get to the question, Thurman cut him off.
“No. No. Not good enough, not good enough. Too many explosive plays in the run game. Not good enough.”
In that, he isn’t wrong. The Bombers led the league in total carries but were dead last in yards per carry heading into the game. They managed to pile up 160 yards on the ground on Saturday in a performance reminiscent of previous Winnipeg teams.
“We know what we need to do…,” Thurman continued venting. “It’s little mistakes and little details that we are messing up on constantly and it is costing us these games. We need to hone in on those and pick it up.”
Thurman wasn’t shying away from the mirror in that conversation either.
“It’s all about accountability. What are you going to do to be better? It’s as simple as that.”
Almost no rest for the wicked
Next up for the Stampeders is a road game in Ottawa next Friday night where Calgary will look to right the ship following a two-game losing streak.