Tuesday 11 September 2012

10 Things I Learned... In Week 11

The race to playoffs has begun and we are starting to see the contenders separate from the pretenders (at least in the East). Montreal and Toronto look to be on a collision course for the East Final, while BC looks like they will win the West and face whichever team survives the death match that is ensuing between the Stamps, Eskimos and Riders. Should be an interesting second half of the season.

(1) Three teams sweep the back-to-backs
Often heard during the two weeks where the eight teams play back-to-back games is how hard it is for a team to sweep their opponent. This season, that didn't prove to be the case. The Argos, Stamps and Riders swept both games of the back-to-back, while BC and Montreal split theirs with the home team winning both times. So next year, when people say that a team cannot sweep, remember how three teams did it this season.

(2) Play of the Year
Not for its artistry, but for its result, the botched snap Hail Mary touchdown from Matt Nichols to to Corbin Sharun might end of being the bets play of the year. The Eskimos were attempting a field goal at the end of the first half and a bad snap forced Nichols to improvise. He hit Sharun, who did an excellent job of fighting for the end zone, for a touchdown. It ultimately didn't help Edmonton, but it was a great play to witness live.

(3) Ending of the Year
In the same game, the best ending to a CFL game might have taken place as well. Down by two with under 90 seconds left, the Eskimos drove the field, picking up a third-and-18-conversation along the way and set up Grant Shaw for the winning field goal from 42 yards out. Shaw clanked the kick off the upright and the Eskimos lost. The amazing confluence of events that set up that ending was nothing short of spectacular.

(4) Ricky Ray starting to get comfortable
While he still isn't perfect, it does look like Ricky Ray is beginning to get really comfortable in his new offense in Toronto. Ray looked crisp and sharp in back-to-back games against Hamilton, and despite a porous offensive line and less than stellar receiving corps, he is starting to play like the Ricky Ray that won two Grey Cups in Edmonton.

(5) Punt vs. Field Goal
One of the most debated decisions from the past week will be Tim Burke's choice to punt instead of kick a field goal in the dying moments of the Banjo Bowl. The problem wasn't so much with the decision as much as it was with the execution. If Mike Renaud pins the Riders deep instead of kicking it through the end zone, the Riders probably have too much space in too little time to drive for the winning field goal. Burke said later that he made the wrong call, but that's with knowing the result. If things had gone the way the Bombers had hoped, the decision would have been a smart one.

(6) Nik Lewis: Mr. Dependable
When it comes to receivers, the stats show that there is no one more dependable than Nik Lewis. Amazingly, Lewis, who is nearly 700 career catches and 10,000 career yards, has caught a pass in every game he has played in his CFL career. In that span, the streak has only been in jeopardy three times (meaning he had just one catch)" June 24, 2006 against Saskatchewan, September 29, 2007 against BC and September 1, 2008 against Edmonton. Lewis is a future Hall of Famer and it is pretty obvious why.

(7) Calvillo's streak ends
The consecutive 300-yard game streak came to an end, unsurprisingly, against the Lions. BC's defense might be the best in the league and Calvillo has not been great on the west coast throughout his career. Calvillo is still having an excellent season, he leads the league in passing yards, but the streak of 300-plus-yard games ends at eight.

(8) BC is Montreal's kryptonite
Montreal is probably pretty happy to see their game at BC in their rear-view mirror. BC has been a house of horrors for the Als. Since Marc Trestman took over in 2008, the Als have not won in BC Place and were only able to beat the Lions in 2010 when the team played at Empire Field. The last two losses have been blowouts, 38-10 this year and 43-1 last year, and haven't won at BC Place since 2000. If there is one place the Als do not perform well, it's BC.

(9) Willy gets first real action
An injury to Darian Durant forced Drew Willy to see some significant action in the Banjo Bowl and he looked decent. His numbers weren't spectacular, 17 for 23 for 188 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but he looked poised and calm in playing most of the game for Durant. It is way too early to make any sorts of judgments on Willy, but he is a young signal caller to keep an eye on.

(10) Players of the Week
The awards were pretty easy this week. Offensive player goes to Chad Kackert. Kackert had 239 total yards and three touchdowns against the Ti-Cats on Saturday. The guy carved up the Hamilton defense all afternoon.

Defensive player goes to Chris Thompson. Thompson had two end zone interceptions for the Eskimos. Thompson is one of those guys that can go unnoticed for a few games, but he is always capable of pulling off games like the one he had against Calgary on Friday night.

Demond Washington is special teams player of the week. Return a punt for a touchdown and you pretty much get this award. Return a punt for a touchdown when no other special teams player does anything else of note and you definitely win this award.

Top Canadian was Jon Cornish. A career best 185 rushing yards and one touchdown, on a beautiful 59-yard run at that, makes this a no brainer. After a somewhat slow start, Cornish is really starting to turn it on and now leads the league in rushing by a significant margin after 10 games.

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