Week 10 in the Canadian Football League had everything from Toronto re-establishing itself atop the East Division and Hamilton dropping down the order to Saskatchewan finding itself in the unaccustomed position of a mini-slump.
To start things off, it didn’t take long for the Redblacks (2-6) to slide back into the doldrums from which they emerged a week ago. Their 35-16 belting by the Argonauts (5-3) was hardly a surprise. And again, perhaps it had something to do with playing on a Wednesday night. What is the CFL thinking?
It wasn’t so much a red-hot Toronto offence that controlled proceedings, rather it was their defence and special teams. Together they put three of the Argos’ five touchdowns on the board.
“Defensively they’re practicing it and they’re trying to score all the time,” said head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “That was big time for those guys to get the game and kind of put it out of reach when we weren’t doing our part (offensively).”
Ottawa led 9-8 at halftime, but 27 unanswered points in the third quarter put Toronto in the driver’s seat. Ottawa’s rookie quarterback Caleb Evans threw three interceptions against a defence that is second in the league in interceptions with 10. Two of them on the night were pick-sixes.
Winnipeg (8-1) continued on their winning ways with another 30-3 thrashing of Edmonton (2-6) in front of more than 27,000 appreciative fans at IG Field Friday night, but it wasn’t all positive.
Despite the scoreline, the Blue Bombers’ offence didn’t fire on all cylinders, particularly in the second and third quarters, and even head coach Mike O’Shea made note of that saying some of the plays they normally make they just didn’t make in this game.
The highlight of the night’s action was probably the 150 yards and two touchdowns by running back Andrew Harris. However, the team’s kicking woes continued and are starting to become an issue. Winnipeg’s third kicker this season, Ali Mourtada was just one from four on the night on field goal attempts.
“It’s always important that all phases are trying to be clicking, but at the end of the day, as a defence, we’re not going to rely on offence or special teams to try to pick us up. We’re going to go do what we do no matter the situation,” said linebacker Adam Bighill.
The Saturday game pitted Saskatchewan (5-4) against Calgary (4-5) at Mosaic Stadium in Regina in a fixture the Roughriders were expected to win and win well. But it didn’t turn out that way.
The Stampeders eked out a 22-19 win via a 44-yard field goal by Rene Paredes with no time left on the clock. The game went pretty much score for score throughout the 60 minutes. It got off to an explosive start with the Stamps scoring on a 71-yard touchdown on the very first play of the game, but then things settled down.
It was Saskatchewan’s second straight loss, both to Calgary, and although they’re still second in the West Division standings, the result calls into question the Riders’ claims to be genuine contenders.
That took us to the Thanksgiving Day doubleheader and in the early game, although they gave it the old college try, the Redblacks (2-7) came up short yet again losing 20-16 to Montreal (4-4) at Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium.
Admittedly, Ottawa was on a short week but despite that, the Redblacks stayed in contention for the entire match. Indeed, they led by a point at the half and by 3 points in the fourth quarter. In the end, however, the Alouettes outdid them by two touchdowns to none. Montreal’s backup quarterback Matthew Shiltz led his team on the final drive to ensure the come-from-behind victory.
The game was actually more of a duel between kickers and punters and Ottawa kind of got the better of that one. Kicker Lewis Ward was on song booting four from four field goals, while Als’ kicker David Côté landed both of his attempts. The punting contest was equally tight with Ottawa’s Richie Leone putting boot to ball eight times, while Montreal’s Australian punter Joseph Zema hoofed it seven times.
The final game of the week saw Toronto (6-3) at Hamilton (4-5). It was the closest game of the lot and again kicking featured in the final 24-23 scoreline in the Argos’ favour.
A last-second field goal by Toronto’s Boris Bede sealed the deal, but to borrow an old cliché, the Tiger-Cats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Hamilton got out to an early 12-0 lead and was in front 12-5 at the main break and for all intents and purposes should really have gone on to win especially as they had home-field advantage in the hammer.
Late in the third quarter, the Ticats were still ahead by 8 points but couldn’t convert that cushion into a W. The Argonauts’ defence stymied Hamilton’s offence in the fourth quarter, and that combined with quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson stepping up to lead Toronto’s comeback was Hamilton’s undoing.
The result saw the Tiger-Cats slip to third in the East.