Stamps cruise to victory, after some rough waters late
The Calgary Stampeders are officially on a roll.
They came into Toronto on a three-game win streak, having completed a season sweep over the Eskimos and narrowly avoided a loss last week to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on a last-minute field goal block by Tre Roberson.
There were those in the CFL universe that thought this might be a stumbling block or even a dreaded “trap game” for the team that was headed into a bye week while missing their league-leading receiver Reggie Begleton and league-leading tackler Cory Greenwood.
All of that was in addition to a shuffle on the offensive line with the centre moving to left tackle and the left tackle moving to right tackle.
Yet the Stampeders did what they do better than any other team in the CFL: win anyway. No matter the injury, no matter the roster, the Stampeders win games and secured a playoff berth for the 15th consecutive season after the Lions beat the Redblacks on Saturday.
More importantly, they kept pace with both the Ticats — who beat the Eskimos on a late field goal that wasn’t blocked by Tre Roberson — and got two points up on the Bombers, who lost in Montreal.
Now for a few other things on a game that should have been better attended.
Dominant first half
The Stampeders did it on both sides of the ball in the first half, finishing the first two quarters with a 20-3 lead.
Defensively, the Stampeders were never on the field for more than three plays before turning the ball over or forcing a punt or field goal attempt.
The only points the Argos scored came on a field goal that followed a Bo Levi Mitchell interception that was collected on the Calgary nine-yard line.
Mitchell threw the ball for 346 yards on 33-of-48 pass attempts. This is tied for the second highest total of Bo Levi’s career, matching a Week 1 effort versus Ottawa in 2017. The most passes he has ever attempted also came in 2017, that time against Montreal in Week 4.
The airshow was likely brought on because Ka’Deem Carey went down in the first half to an unspecified injury.
Carey has battled injuries this season but has shown flashes of brilliance at times. If he is unable to heal up after the bye week, look for Don Jackson to return to the lineup. Jackson has been a healthy scratch for the last few games as the Stamps have had Ka’Deem carry the load.
Mitchell found Carey for his lone TD toss on the day. Mitchell also had a few balls dropped that could have potentially ended in the end zone through this game.
Mitchell also had two interceptions in this game, unusual against the Argos as he came into the game with a sparkling 25-3 career TD to INT ratio. Not that 26-5 is all that shabby, considering he has made 11 career regular season starts against the Argos and never lost.
With every passing week Mitchell looks to be rounding into shape following the injury which cost him seven games earlier this season. The bye week may come at a perfect time to rest and get ready for the stretch run.
Bo plays Oprah
You get a target, you get a target, you get a target!
Bo Levi Mitchell spread the ball around in this one, targeting 10 different receivers in the game. Despite a third of the attempts going to Eric Rogers who grabbed 8-of-17 for 119 yards, Bo was able to connect with eight other players on the offence including Hergy Mayala, Josh Huff, Aaron Peck, Colton Hunchak, all of whom collected at least four of the balls sent their way.
If Mitchell is able to scan the field like this, other teams may have trouble containing the passing attack, even with Begelton and Kamar Jorden still sidelined.
For his part, Rogers had a few slip through his hands in this one and could have had a monster night as a result.
No longer irrelevant
The joke about the last guy drafted in any given year in all sports is the label “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Colton Hunchak has certainly become relevant in this Stampeders offence after another five catches for 52 yards against the Argos.
Hunchak grew up in the Dave Dickenson Passing Academy here in Calgary and that influenced the Stampeders’ choice to draft him.
Dickenson said on draft night that he was familiar with what Hunchak has to offer and felt comfortable that he would fit into the system.
The 73rd overall pick now has 12 catches for 176 yards on the season. All but three of those yards have come in the last three games. He has only had one incompletion in that stretch as well.
Coming into the game, the Stampeders had not been really scaring anyone when it came to getting to the quarterback. That might change following this performance.
The Stamps’ defensive line got to McLeod Bethel-Thompson six times in this one raising their season total to 30.
Given the rash of injuries across the line, if the Stamps can add a powerful pass rush to this defence, there will likely be more interceptions to add to the already league-high 20 takeaways in the air.
Next up for the Stamps is a week off as they prepare for the time in the schedule that will likely decide who wins the West as the next three games are at home against Saskatchewan and a back-to-back against the Bombers before closing the year against B.C.
They are currently plus-27 head-to-head against Regina and will need to win both games against the Bombers to secure that season series.