Mon Nov 01 04:10pm EDT
Welcome to Monday's Point After, a feature we'll be running here at the start of every week. Here's your breakdown of all the best and worst moments from the past weekend's games. Score links go to video highlights of each game on the league's home page. If you've got suggestions for something you'd like to see covered here, get in touch with me by Twitter or e-mail.
Game of the Week: B.C. 23, Saskatchewan 17: B.C. continues their unprecedented four-week stretch of appearing in the game of the week, keeping their playoff hopes alive with a thrilling home win over Saskatchewan Sunday. Montreal-Toronto made a strong bid to take the game of the week slot thanks to the ridiculous ending, but that game ultimately didn't mean much. Edmonton-Winnipeg was also considered thanks to its implications, but it wasn't a great display of football for the most part. It's great that three of the four CFL games this weekend were legitimate contenders for this slot, though (Calgary 55, Hamilton 24 would only be considered if this was titled "Blowout of the Week").
The Roughriders put on a pretty good Halloween show for their fans who made the trip to Empire Field, featuring such horrifying acts as Darian Durant throwing three interceptions (two to Ryan Phillips, one of which is pictured above) and fumbling once and the embattled special teams conceding an 88-yard punt return touchdown to electrifying B.C. returner Yonus Davis. However, it's reading way too much into this to conclude that they're doomed heading into the postseason. Sure, they've lost four in a row, but they showed plenty of promise Sunday despite the lacklustre result. Durant threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns (despite only completing 56 per cent of his 43 passing attempts), Andy Fantuz and Cary Koch both had over 100 receiving yards, and the defence held B.C. to 23 points despite often starting in terrible field position thanks to all the turnovers.
Moreover, the Riders lost by one touchdown on the road against an absolutely desperate Lions team. When you consider that this B.C. squad beat West Division-leading Calgary on the road last week, this doesn't look so bad for Saskatchewan. They will be looking to get back into form this coming week when they host Edmonton in their regular-season finale, though, and that could bode poorly for the Eskimos' playoff hopes.
For B.C., this was a good showing but not an entirely convincing one. Despite forcing all those turnovers (including one shovel pass that Durant threw directly to defensive lineman Aaron Hunt), the Lions weren't able to take full advantage of them. They had two crucial fumbles of their own, and they might just have lost this game if a video review on Saskatchewan's late-game onside kick attempt had turned out differently. Still, there were positive signs for B.C.; quarterback Travis Lulay had another solid game with a hyper-efficient 21 for 29 (72 per cent) passing performance (for 204 yards and a touchdown without a turnover), running back Jamal Robertson was effective when called upon (57 yards on just eight carries) and the defensive and special-teams units had excellent days overall. The Lions still have a tough road to make the playoffs, as they'll have to win this week in Hamilton and hope Edmonton loses in Regina, but if they get in, they could do some damage, particularly in a first-round rematch with Saskatchewan.
Edmonton 16, Winnipeg 13: If the Lions' victory wasn't entirely convincing, the one their rivals for the final West Division playoff berth pulled off was even less impressive. At home Saturday night, with their playoff hopes perhaps on the line and before an impressive crowd of 32,192, the Eskimos needed overtime and several lucky breaks to dispatch a Winnipeg team that had nothing to play for, was mostly making headlines off the field, and was giving CFL rookie Joey Elliott his first start. Elliott played like a man with 16 previous CFL passes and eight prior completions under his belt, completing 15 of 29 passes for a measly 130 yards. He did show some promise, especially considering that he didn't turn the ball over, but that's not exactly an intimidating performance from the opposing quarterback.
In fact, Edmonton quarterback Jared Zabransky (again starting in place of the injured Ricky Ray) turned in by far the worst quarterbacking performance of this weekend, despite having substantially more CFL experience than Elliott and previously demonstrating promising results. Zabranksy only completed 14 of 29 passes (48 per cent), didn't throw a touchdown pass and tossed four interceptions (Jonathan Hefney is pictured at right making one of those picks). The Eskimos' eventual victory was far more in spite of him than because of him, and it came thanks to superb performances from running back Daniel Porter (16 carries, 102 yards and the game-clinching touchdown in overtime (thanks to an absolutely massive block from noted Xenith helmet advocate Patrick Kabongo) and kicker Derek Schiavone (three-for-three on field goals). Edmonton is still alive, and still in the driver's seat for the final western playoff berth, but they certainly didn't intimidate potential playoff opponents with this week's performance.
Montreal 37, Toronto 30: This was certainly the most entertaining game of the week from a pure on-field perspective, especially considering the aforementioned zany conclusion. In a rarity for an Argonauts game this year, it even featured a considerable amount of scoring.
This wasn't a particularly good offensive game for Toronto, though. Noted Jim Mora impersonator Cleo Lemon continued to offer ammunition to those of us who question just why he's still starting, completing only 13 of 23 passes for 167 yards and throwing two interceptions, one of which led directly to the winning touchdown (although he did have two touchdown passes as well). It's true that Lemon's receivers haven't been great either (and that final pick came off a tipped ball from Reggie McNeal, but Lemon's pass was far too high for him), but a large amount of the blame for Toronto's lacklustre passing game has to fall on his shoulders.
Curiously, the Argonauts only gave potential Most Outstanding Player candidate Cory Boyd eight carries, but Boyd still made the most of them, running for 68 yards and a touchdown. He was also the Argonauts' leading receiver for the second-straight week, picking up 79 yards on four catches. That reinforces just how bad Lemon was; if you subtract the passing stats he gained on short throws that Boyd proceeded to take downfield, he completed nine of 19 passes for 88 yards. Toronto has two of the most talented offensive players in the CFL between Boyd and kick returner/wide receiver extraordinaire Chad Owens (123 yards on four kick returns, 111 yards on four punts, a 70-yard punt return touchdown called back thanks to an illegal block and a 14-yard touchdown catch), but their passing-game issues severely limit what their offence accomplishes.
For the Alouettes, this was a nice bounce-back effort after last week's embarrassing 40-3 thumping by Hamilton. Reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Anthony Calvillo looked like the AC of old, completing 30 of 44 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and Avon Cobourne provided a solid spark in the ground game, rushing 15 times for 81 yards (with a fumble, though). Kerry Watkins had a heck of a return from injury, catching five passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, as did Damon Duval; despite only making three of five field goals on the day and missing the crucial one at the end of the game, he made an incredibly heads-up play to stay involved in what was going on instead of sulking, and his punt wound up leading to Dahrran Diedrick's game-winning touchdown. Still, narrowly beating Toronto on an improbable series of events isn't proof that the Alouettes are back in dominant form.
Calgary 55, Hamilton 24: For the second straight week, Hamilton was involved in the CFL's most lopsided game. After thumping Montreal 40-3 last week, they were on the other end of the blowout this time, though. McMahon Stadium isn't an easy road environment to pull out a win, as the Stampeders are now 7-2 at home this year, but if the 7-10 B.C. Lions can beat them there twice, you'd think the 9-8 Hamilton Tiger-Cats could at least turn in a decent showing. You would be wrong, though. Kevin Glenn delivered a quarterbacking performance (12 completions on 23 attempts for 88 yards, one touchdown, one interception) that might have been worse than Lemon's and wasn't far behind Zabransky's, and Quinton Porter (one for two for seven yards) and Adam Tafralis (six completions on 10 attempts for 43 yards) weren't much better in relief. Surprisingly, the Tiger-Cats' inconsistent ground game was in superb form; DeAndra Cobb only got five carries, but ran for 77 yards, and Marcus Thigpen took his five carries for 56 yards and a touchdown (although he fumbled once). The 24 points they conceded in the second quarter and their 34-10 halftime deficit meant they had to abandon the run pretty early, though.
For Calgary, this was an impressive performance after losing at home to B.C. last week. Henry Burris was incredibly efficient, completing 19 of 24 passes (79 per cent) for 292 yards and three touchdowns, and backup Drew Tate proved he can be more than just a short-yardage quarterback, completing eight of 10 passes for 93 yards in mop-up duty. The Stampeders' normally-strong tailback tandem of Joffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish was largely held in check (a combined 15 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown), but Jesse Lumsden looked impressive in his first game action since a season-ending injury early last season, carrying the ball four times in garbage time for 40 yards and a touchdown. Romby Bryant also had an outstanding receiving day, making five catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Those statistics come with the disclaimer that the result of this game didn't mean anything for either team, though, as Calgary already had first place in the West Division locked up heading into the weekend, and Hamilton had clinched second place in the East Friday thanks to Toronto's loss.