We have now reached the midway point of the 2012 CFL season and things are starting to become clearer. It looks like BC and Montreal are on a collision course for Toronto, while the Argos, Eskimos and Stampeders look like the most likely teams to crash that party. Saskatchewan halted their five-game slide by crushing the Blue Bombers, while Hamilton lost their fourth in a row. Winnipeg, well, not much can be said about them. The parity that was alive and well during the first month of the season looks to have gone away.
(1) Labour Day Classics lived up to their name
The two games played on Labour Day were classics in every sense of the word. The Argos won on a field goal with less than a minute left and Calgary scored the game-winning touchdown with under 90 seconds to play. Those two games rank up there with the best we've seen this season and they had everyone on the edge of their seat for the full 60 minutes. For those in attendance and those who watched on television, they were treated to a pair of classic CFL contests.
(2) Horse collar rule needs amending
After the call in the BC-Montreal game, I think it is time to revisit the horse collar rule. Cauchy Muamba was called for a horse collar tackle on Eric Deslauiers when Muamba grabbed the shoulder area of the jersey, not the collar or inside the neck of the pads, and pulled him down. That's not a horse collar tackle, that's a tackle. If that is going to be the call, then why not make it illegal to grab the jersey when you are behind a player? I didn't like it when the call was made and I still don't like it today.
(3) Illegal participation: what's the point?
In the Toronto-Hamilton game it looked like illegal participation was going to be called on an Argo player (I can't remember which one) for losing his helmet and continuing to chase down field. The Argo helmet was laying at midfield and the player walked 30-40 yards back to pick it up. Clearly he lost it and then continued to play, which is against the rules. The flag was thrown, but it was picked up. I don't understand why. I think the rule is a silly one because it goes against a player's instincts, but it is the rule so it should be called.
(4) Chris Williams is simply amazing
If there was only one player I would pay money to see it would be Chris Williams. In just his second season in the league, Williams has already broken the record for most kick return touchdowns in a season with six and has become the only player in CFL history to return a punt for a touchdown in three straight games. Considering all the great returners that have played in the CFL in the past, that is truly an amazing feat. I can't wait to see what he has in store for the remaining nine games of the season.
(5) Winnipeg has hit rock bottom
I thought things were bad enough in Winnipeg... and then played in Regina. I was once watched as the Tiger-Cats lost 48-0 to the Argos in Toronto, but the listless effort (and that's being nice) that the Bombers gave in their game against the Roughriders was something else entirely. They look like they have completely given up. They fumbled two consecutive kickoffs, which is nearly impossible to do at any level of football, let alone at the professional one. This came after Bomber GM Joe Mack made former head coach Paul LaPolice the scapegoat for all the Bombers' problems. Looks like the problems went much deeper than the head coach.
(6) Paris Jackson may have made the catch of the year
Every year there are a handful of amazing catches (think Clarence Denmark last year), but this season's best catch may have come in Montreal. Lion receiver Paris Jackson hauled in a pass after he tipped it and fell to the turf. He caught the ball while on his back. It was an amazing display of concentration from the little-used veteran, but that showed just what type of player Jackson used to be. For my money, it is the catch of the year.
(7) Cornish's hit was a good football play
There was a lot of talk during the Edmonton-Calgary game that the block by Jon Cornish on Almondo Sewell might be met with discipline from the league office. TSN replayed the hit over and over again, and I didn't see anything that would warrant Cornish being fined. It was nothing more than a devastating block and a nice football play.
(8) Never count out Arland Bruce
Quiet for most of the season, Arland Bruce became the go-to guy for the BC Lions against Montreal when Geroy Simon left the game with an injury. Those that questioned whether Bruce still had it were given their answer. Those games might not be every week occurrences now, but the future Hall of Famer can still come through when his team needs him.
(9) Rematch weekend is important
For the teams that lost on Labour Day weekend – BC, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Edmonton –the rematches this week are hugely important. No team wants to be swept in back-to-back games by the same opponent. For BC, they need to beat the Als to regain the edge in what is a potential Grey Cup preview; Winnipeg cannot drop to 2-8 and must rebound from that humiliating 52-0 loss; the Ti-Cats need a win to get back into the race in the East and to quiet the growing number of critics that are starting to surface; and Edmonton does not want to drop two to Calgary and loss their grip on second place in the West. We will learn a lot about the four losing teams from this past weekend in the upcoming rematches.
(10) Players of the Week
There were quite a few offensive players who had great weeks – Ricky Ray, Chad Owens, Anthony Calvillo, Arland Bruce – but when you score three touchdowns you get the award, which is exactly what Brandon Whitaker did against the BC Lions.
Defensive player could have went to a couple of players, and I really wanted to give it to Saskatchewan's Tyron Brackenridge, but Almondo Sewell played such an excellent game for the Eskimos that it was impossible to ignore. He had a sack and three tackles, one being on a key second-and-one stop of Bo Levi Mitchell. Sewell had a dominant game for the Eskimos and deserves the award.
I had Brackenridge pencilled in for top special teams player, but then Chris Williams did what Chris Williams always does. Another punt return for a touchdown, this one breaking the single-season record for total kick returns touchdowns and Williams once again gets the award.
Canadian of the week is Jon Cornish. Cornish rushed for 71 yards, caught four passes for 23 yards and a touchdown. No other Canadian player came close to Cornish in Week 10 and his selection was a slam dunk.