Jake Maier throws costly picks and six other thoughts on Calgary’s 25-18 loss to Montreal

Photo courtesy: CFL

The Stampeders went to Montreal for the first time since 2019 but the results stayed much the same for a club as they lost to the Alouettes by a score of 25-18.

Calgary now has a 1-6 record in their last seven trips to La Belle Province and fallen to 2-5 on the season. Here’s what I saw from my living room in Calgary.

Maier struggles but gets little help

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Jake Maier threw a few questionable interceptions — including a pick-six — and the Stampeders lost a one-score game.

TSN put up a graphic as Maier entered his 19th career start that showed what he’d accomplished in his first 18 games as a CFL starter. The third-year quarterback completed 68 percent of his passes over those contests for 5,200 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions.

This isn’t a subpar stat line, especially given Calgary’s penchant for running the ball in the red zone, which leads to fewer opportunities to score through the air.

With that said, it seems that every mistake Maier makes is magnified by the impact they’re having in close games. He’s thrown pick-sixes in back-to-back one-score games and, earlier this year, threw three interceptions in an overtime loss to Saskatchewan.

He now has 11 interceptions on the year against just eight touchdowns, which is clearly far from ideal.

Maier finished Sunday’s game completing 24-of-44 pass attempts for 246 yards and two interceptions but was punished by a number of second-down drops. The most costly one came from Tommylee Lewis with 11 seconds to go and Lewis beyond the first down marker.

That’s not to say the Stampeders’ quarterback was without fault as his interception late in the fourth quarter was thrown on the run and into coverage with little chance of success. With that said, he also needs receivers who can make clutch catches with game on the line.

Take off, eh?

Lately, Maier has appeared hesitant to run the football. Ottawa’s Dustin Crum has turned heads in the CFL over the past few weeks with his ability to get outside the pocket and generate offence when his receivers are well-covered.

More than once, Maier had the opportunity to scramble for a possible first down against the Als, only to throw the ball instead, often for a drive-killing incompletion.

Calgary’s offensive system hasn’t been built around quarterback mobility outside the pocket, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t run for first downs when they’re available. Maier had just one rushing attempt in the game and it was a sneak on second down. He’s not exactly Damon Allen, but he’s also far from Danny McManus. When there’s a wide-open rushing lane, Maier needs to use it.

When opposing defences don’t have to worry about a passer making plays with his feet, they can devote more resources to pass coverage down the field.

Stiff defence

Calgary’s defence allowed only 18 points and 272 yards of net offence, which should have been enough to secure the win. Middle linebacker Micah Awe led the way with eight tackles, while defensive back Branden Dozier recorded the unit’s lone sack.

The Stampeders entered Week 8 allowing only 5.9 yards per offensive play, which ranks second in the CFL. Though they’ve struggled to generate takeaways at times this year — they didn’t record any against Montreal — Calgary’s defence is playing well enough to win.

Where’s the rush?

Running back Dedrick Mills carried the ball just five times in a game that was never more than 10 points out of reach, which doesn’t seem like enough. LeVante Bellamy got the ball twice, and Tommy Stevens had the ball just once.

The Alouettes stopped the Calgary rushing attack early on and the Stampeders rarely went back to it. It was odd to see the team abandon the run so thoroughly, though it marked the second straight week in which Mills has been relatively ignored as he toted the rock just six times against Ottawa.

This team is at its best when there is a balanced offensive attack but Calgary just didn’t go for it. The Stampeders managed 76 yards on the ground, though almost half were generated by quarterback Tommy Stevens when he got around the edge on a third-down plunge.

Lightning delay

Sunday’s game was delayed for about a half-hour after the first half due to lightning in the area, though neither team found a way to use the electricity to energize their offence.

The contest finished without any offensive touchdowns as the only major came via a pick-six from rookie Montreal defensive back Kabion Ento.

Paredes in paradise

Rene Paredes hit two field goals from 53 yards in the first half and finished the night a perfect six-for-six, accounting for all of Calgary’s points.

The veteran kicker just crossed the 2,000-point threshold and has now played in 200 CFL games, missing only one game in 2018. He’s clearly the team’s best player right now.

Thank goodness for small miracles

Now at 2-5 on the season, things are looking ugly for the Stampeders over the next few games unless they can eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them.

If not for Edmonton’s futility and Mason Fine proving to be less than that in Saskatchewan, Calgary’s playoff chances might be looking grim.

While the postseason isn’t out of reach for this team, though they’ve got to start beating some tough opponents. The club is a heavy underdog at home against the Toronto Argonauts next week, marking the first time in a long time that the Stamps are facing such a wide spread at McMahon Stadium.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Go Stamps Go Show Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.