The first game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders has often provided the Calgary Stampeders with a measuring stick to see how their own season was going over the past few years. On Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium, that couldn’t have been further from the case.
Due to the CFL’s scheduling in 2022, the Stamps had exactly nothing on the line when meeting the Riders for the first time this season in Week 20. The B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers have already secured the home playoff games in the West Division and Calgary can’t be caught by any team behind them, already booked for a trip to Vancouver in a few weeks to chase the Grey Cup.
On the other side of the field, the Riders were in must-win territory, desperately clinging to their last hope of securing a crossover berth. They needed a sweep of the Stamps in this back-to-back and help from the Redblacks in Ottawa to keep that dream alive.
They wouldn’t get either.
Here’s how I saw the game from near a fire as the snow piled up around the house:
Maier does enough
Jake Maier is still establishing himself as a starter in the CFL and had a rather uncharacteristically low completion percentage in this game. In addition, outside of a long completion to Jalen Philpot in the first half, Calgary’s quarterback didn’t test the waters with many deep throws.
Maier would finish 15-of-24 for 205 yards and a touchdown with a 62.5 percent completion rate. His previous season low was 68 percent.
Unlike the gunslinger days of Bo Levi Mitchell where the Stampeders’ offence was described as “explosive,” “methodical” has become the name of the game in Calgary. Grinding teams down with the run and high-percentage passes, the deep ball has seemingly fallen out of favour.
The ultimate measurement of success in Calgary is playoff-based, and given how the game plan has changed along with the starting quarterback, you wonder if Mitchell’s penchant for chucking it downfield rather than taking the check-down may have contributed to that switch more than has been reported.
Paredes keeps it consistent
Rene Paredes was called upon frequently in the first half and was perfect on four attempts in the first two quarters, adding three converts in the second half.
Paredes leads the league in made field goals and also has the most success at every 10-yard interval distance outside the 30 while being tied for the fewest number of red zone makes among the current kickers in the league. Paredes has only missed one convert all season as well.
Paredes’s value becomes even more obvious when his counterpart struggles like the Riders’ Brett Lauther did Saturday, missing a pair of attempts.
Paredes has contemplated retirement during the last few off-seasons, but it is clear that it is not because his skills have diminished.
Dave Dickenson’s horrible house of terrible frights
Halloween is right around the corner but for defensive coordinators, the nightmares they are experiencing aren’t filled with ghouls and goblins. Instead, it’s the Stampeders’ rushing attack that causes them to wake up in a cold sweat.
Peyton Logan has been a revelation for Calgary this season as the backup to the league’s best running back in Ka’Deem Carey. Add Dedrick Mills to the equation and Calgary can run you over; over, and over, and over again.
Mills scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter as part of a performance that included 103 yards over 17 carries. And he was the change of pace backup.
Carey, for his own part, reestablished himself as the league’s top rusher by dominating the Riders with 75 yards over 11 carries and a touchdown of his own, his tenth of the season. He also had a score taken off the board due to a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.
No matter who is getting the ball in the Calgary backfield, they will slash your defence to shreds. That’s the formula the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have used to win the last few Grey Cup championships.
Death, Taxes and Tommy Stevens
If you need a yard in the CFL, there is absolutely no one better than Tommy Stevens.
Stevens is averaging more than 2.5 yards per carry as the short-yardage quarterback for the Stamps. He was uncharacteristically stopped on a second-and-short in this game, but immediately converted it on the next play.
There isn’t much you want your third-string QB to do besides avoiding turnovers, and Stevens has done that while also scoring eight touchdowns in goal-line situations.
Stevens hasn’t had many opportunities to throw the ball in this season, so it will be interesting to see how next season’s depth chart comes together — assuming Mitchell is headed elsewhere. It is clear, however, that Stevens has value in the QB picture.
Philpot gives but also gives it away
Saskatchewan was only able to score a single touchdown in this game and it came at the hands of Jalen Philpot, who fumbled the second-half kickoff and allowed Saskatchewan to get the ball deep in Calgary territory.
Every other touch that came the rookie’s way was a positive one but the error could have been more costly, as it did give the Riders the lead.
Philpot would also concede a single on a missed field goal, but that wouldn’t have been his choice after having returned the previous miss.
He also corralled a 47-yard pass from Jake Maier to set up a field goal in the first half and ended the game with 74 all-purpose yards, leading the Stamps in receiving yards with 62.
The Stampeders have to be happy with the progression that their first-round pick has made in his first season, especially given that it was injuries to other key contributors that opened the door for him to receive more playing time.
Defensive backfield more than Fine
There were times this season, as the Stampeders suffered through injuries all over the defensive backfield, that teams were able to throw the ball seemingly at will.
This was not one of those nights.
New Riders’ starter Mason Fine threw for less than 150 yards before the final three-minute warning, after which he added some garbage time stats to make the line look a little more appealing.
With games against B.C. and Winnipeg happening during that stretch of poor, short-handed play, it will be very interesting to see what a healthy group in the secondary will be able to do in the playoffs.
Titus Wall is also on pace to return and before getting injured was garnering chatter for rookie of the year votes, although we all know that award belongs to Winnipeg’s Dalton Schoen.
I finally “Beets” Hodge!
I’ve written about it a few times in this space, but I have finally won my bet with 3DownNation editor John Hodge.
Hodge thought there was little chance the Stampeders would be over .500 this season and as someone that has watched Calgary put up double-digit wins in every John Hufnagel-led 18-game campaign, I was happy to be able to turn that faulty analysis into $100 for charity and a beet — thanks autocorrect!
The charity of choice will be my local chapter of the Kinsman Adopt-a-family, as we help provide Christmas gifts and dinner to those having a tough time.