What an educational weekend that was. If you thought you knew a lot about the CFL, you might have had your opinion changed in a number of small ways.
It’s likely you still know that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are pretty lousy and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Calgary Stampeders, B.C. Lions and Toronto Argos are still pretty good.
But did you think Montreal would be competitive in Regina? Did you think Edmonton would nearly steal one in Toronto? Or did you think Hamilton could crush anybody on the road? Even Winnipeg?
Meanwhile, the Argos are still the defending champion Argos, coasting along at 5-2 – some would say lucky to be there — as the rest of the East races to the bottom.
In Week 8 of the CFL, we saw Toronto, Hamilton, Saskatchewan and B.C. win; Henry Burris, Andrew Harris, Ricky Ray, Rico Murray, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, Mike Reilly, Darian Durant and Solomon Elimimian play well; and we watched in horror as a guy named Nieswander almost won in Saskatchewan even though he completed only 12 of 30 passes.
This weekend, you could hear that circus music playing as the Bombers kept firing (employees not touchdown passes), the Riders kept winning and the Argos were fortunate to hold on against an inspired Edmonton Eskimos outfit.
Here are the best lines of the week:
Mike Reilly, Edmonton Eskimos: 35-of-46 for 511 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Henry Burris, Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 22-of-36 for 333 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Darian Durant, Saskatchewan Roughriders: 18-of-32, 250 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions.
Ricky Ray, Toronto Argonauts: 30-of-35 for 413 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Zach Collaros, Toronto Argonauts: one completion on one attempt for 45 yards and a touchdown or Alexander Robinson, Toronto Argonauts: one reception, 45 yards and a touchdown.
Andrew Harris, B.C. Lions: 13 carries for 56 yards and three receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. 127 total yards of offence.
Fred Stamps, Edmonton Eskimos: six catches for 172 yards and a touchdown.
Solomon Elimimian, B.C. Lions: eight tackles.
Rico Murray, Hamilton Tiger-Cats: four tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble.
Marc-Olivier Brouilette, Montreal Alouettes: three tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles.
Odell Willis, Edmonton Eskimos: three tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles.
Here are the worst lines of the week:
Josh Nieswander, Montreal Alouettes: 12-for-30, 147 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Kory Sheets, Saskatchewan Roughriders: 19 carries for 74 yards and no touchdowns. First week this season that Sheets has not run for 100 yards.
Weldon Brown, Saskatchewan Roughriders: eight tackles (when a defensive back is making eight tackles in a game he’s not covering anybody).
Max Hall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers: (second half), eight-for-18 for 112 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Too bad there aren’t any stats for offensive linemen. Things like: missed blocks, fall downs, trips, holds and slips. Oh well, if you play quarterback in Winnipeg, you know you aren’t getting much help but if you play in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan, you know your Hawgs are always there. In the end, I guess that’s all that really matters.
This weekend, we saw terrific games in Regina, Vancouver and Toronto. The Argos 36-33 win over Edmonton was as good a football game as has been played in the CFL in the last decade. Edmonton’s incredible comeback attempt, outscoring Toronto 17-3 in the fourth quarter, was one for the ages. Next week, the Argos play host to the Stampeders and Edmonton plays host to Saskatchewan. They should both be great football games.
Meanwhile, on Planet Blue, the Bombers fell to 1-6 with a 37-18 home loss to Hamilton on Friday night, then finished off the weekend by firing offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. He was replaced by Marcel Bellefeuille, who was 27-35 as a head coach in Hamilton. Once again, the Bombers are hoping that the guy will make a good assistant.
The problem, of course, is that the Bombers O-line couldn’t block a cheerleader. That problem has not been sufficiently addressed in Winnipeg. So while it was easy for Crowton and head coach Tim Burke to blame quarterbacks Buck Pierce, Justin Goltz and, now, Max Hall for all the team’s offensive problems, the reality is this: If you only have 1.5 seconds to throw a pass, you aren’t going to complete many. Or remain vertical.
So the local media in Winnipeg does not have Crowton to kick around anymore, but they do have that porous offensive line.
One guesses the traveling circus that is currently playing at Investors Group Field won’t be leaving the train station anytime soon.
Oh yeah, and one last thing. I just loved the B.C. Lions new uniforms. Sure, they looked like a U.S. college team, but it’s nice to see something different in the CFL. Not sure when I want to see them again, but for a one-off, they were fun.
All in all, we learned plenty in Week 8 and three of the four games were well worth the price of admission.