When the Edmonton Eskimos' defence memorably kicked a loose ball down the field to set up a touchdown (later overturned thanks to a foul) last week, the feeling was that those kinds of unconventional but perfectly legal plays might be worth using more often. Their provincial rivals apparently agreed, as the Calgary Stampeders called a wacky rugby-style kicking play of their own on the final play of Saturday's game against the Argonauts. Here's video of what happened:
This happened with Calgary down by a touchdown and no time left on the clock. On the preceding play, Toronto jumped offside and the Stampeders got a free play, so they tried a traditional Hail Mary. It almost paid off, with Bo Levi Mitchell launching the ball to the end zone and Anthony Parker hauling it in, but landing out of bounds. What they did here might have been even higher-percentage than a 50-yard-plus pass attempt, though. The Argonauts rushed four defensive linemen and dropped everyone else back towards the end zone to defend the Hail Mary, leaving Mitchell with an easy 18-yard pass to a wide-open Jabari Arthur underneath. Arthur hauled in the ball, took a couple of steps and then kicked it towards the end zone.
Under CFL rules (available here as a PDF, see section 5, page 38), any onside player (Arthur, or anyone behind him when he kicked it), can recover that ball without penalty, meaning it would be a touchdown. Jon Cornish (#9) is clearly onside when Arthur kicks the ball, and he has a chance to recover it. You can't quite tell from that video if Marquay McDaniel (#16, top of the screen) has passed Arthur by the time he kicked or not, but he also had a chance to recover the ball; if he'd grabbed it, there certainly would have been a review to see if he was onside, but it could have gone in the Stampeders' favour.
That's a moot point, though, as the Argos' Alonzo Lawrence was the one to fall on the ball in the end zone. Interestingly enough, that led to the Stampeders being awarded a single point for the rouge, making the final score 33-27. There was some discussion on Twitter of whether that single should have been nullified if McDaniel was offside, as that would make it a no-yards penalty. Barring a review and a ruling from the league, however, it counts for now.
Still, this was a brilliantly unconventional strategy from Calgary, and one that almost paid off. It wouldn't be surprising to see teams try this more often in place of Hail Marys, particularly when they're a long way from the end zone. It's not easy to do, as you have to have a receiver who's also a capable punter (Arthur did an excellent job of that here), and your other players trying to recover the ball have to time their runs perfectly to remain onside, but when executed well, this could potentially be a great last-play move. It almost paid off for the Stampeders Saturday, and it gave us a great only-in-the-CFL moment.