Special teams sink Calgary Stampeders in loss to Winnipeg Bombers
WINNIPEG – Even on a short week and fighting through a difficult night for their special teams unit, the Calgary Stampeders were able to keep things close against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It wasn’t enough, though.
The Stampeders (5-3) just couldn’t overcome two punt return touchdowns from a CFL debutante and ended up falling out of first place in the West Division with a 26-24 loss to the Bombers (6-2).
There are a couple of different ways to look at what happened.
On the one hand, the Stampeders were coming in on five days’ rest and were playing a very strong Bombers team. That they managed to even have a shot at winning late in the fourth quarter was impressive.
But on the other hand, they’ll feel like Thursday night was a missed opportunity. Three big special teams plays were the difference and that hurts.
The opening couple of minutes couldn’t have gone much worse for the Stampeders, and it looked for a while like they were in for a very long night.
After a quick two and out on the Stamps’ first possession, the Bombers confidently marched downfield, leading to a Justin Medlock field goal to open the scoring. Not the end of the world, but it quickly got worse.
First, the Stamps had another two and out, and then Bombers kick returner Janarion Grant – playing in his first CFL game – returned a Rob Maver punt for a 76 yard touchdown.
Suddenly, it was 10-0.
To their credit, the Stampeders quickly stopped the bleeding.
On their very next drive, Arbuckle connected with Reggie Begelton for a 42-yard completion and then ran the ball into the end zone himself a couple plays later.
With the defence settling in, the Stampeders actually took the lead early in the second quarter when Arbuckle again ran the ball into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and a 14-10 lead.
After Medlock kicked another field goal – it can’t be emphasized enough how good a job the Stamps defence did keeping the Bombers out of the end zone – the Stamps special teams unit faltered again when Grant took off downfield for his second punt return touchdown of the game, this time for 83 yards.
Grant must have been feeling like maybe this whole CFL thing wasn’t so tough after all, because it was about as impressive a debut as a newcomer to the league has made in recent memory and put the Bombers up 20-14 going into halftime.
The Stamps had also lost Romar Morris to a leg injury, so by that point Terry Williams was acting as both the team’s primary kick returner and running back.
In the third quarter, though, neither team really seemed to find its feet and the game turned into the defensive battle many people had predicted it would be.
Medlock kicked another field goal, and Paredes responded with one of his own.
It was a tight, testy second half until another error on special teams by the Stampeders.
Williams had just fielded a punt and looked up to make his first move, only to collide with a speeding Abu Conteh. Williams fumbled the ball – he could hardly be blamed – and the Bombers’ Nick Hallett recovered on the Stamps’ 18-yard line.
Only a truly heroic effort from the Stamps defence kept the Bombers out of the endzone and the game within reach.
The Stamps offence responded with an impressive drive that ended with Eric Rogers fighting off multiple defenders to get into the end zone and suddenly the Stampeders were only down 26-24.
The Stamps would get one last shot, but an interception ended their night and the Stamps exited Winnipeg in second place in the West Division.