Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week Two review (ending July 9, 2011)

Here in the Twelve Men bunker things aren't going so well in the fine art of pigskin predictions,  another weekend of surprises left our record thus far a rather tattered 2-6, owing in part to sudden power rankings of the Blue Bombers and Eskimos, two teams that along with Anthony Calvillo and his Alouettes have CFL fans taking note after week two.

We start off the review of the week that was with those Blue Bombers, who once again gave CFL fans cause to reassess, that after a 22 to 16 victory over the Toronto Argonauts, a score that actually kind of flatters the Argos.

When your local papers feature sports headlines with such declarations as Horror Show for Argos and Argonauts fumble and bumble way to loss, then you know that the night's efforts weren't particularly up to standard.

Turnovers were the key to the game, with the Argos committing five of the six on the night, the most damaging one coming late in the fourth quarter when it looked like despite themselves, the Argos were going to pull this one out of the fire.

Alas, these are the Argos, where fumbles have a history of wreaking havoc on the best laid of plans (you young folks should Google or seek out a You Tube explanation of the saga of Leon McQuay right now) and on cue, as though to put the exclamation mark on the night for the Double Blue a Chad Owens fumble on his own thirty five yard line sealed their fate for the night.

Not surprisingly, Argos head coach Don Barker isn't going to dwell too much on the negatives, vowing to put Friday nights downfall behind his team and concentrating on the next game, a trip to Montreal and the powerhouse Alouettes.

For the Bombers, it's the rarefied air of the top of the East standings that they are hanging around these days,  a rewarding turn around for the team and their fans that seem to be in a perpetually rebuilding phase.

One again Buck Pierce had a solid game, more importantly his offensive line and offensive backfield provided the kind of protection that helps to make him thrive in the CFL.  But it was the defensive that have had Bomber fans rising to their feet often in the first two weeks, The Bombers D accounted for key hits and plays through the game, shutting down the Argo attack.

It was a defensive struggle for the most part, highlighted by the volume of field goals by the Bombers, where Justin Palardy found the range on four of six, that led to the Bombers 22-16 victory.

The Bombers face another test this week as the Stampeders arrive in town on Thursday, a visit in the past that might have led to a bit of concern in River City, but in the early stages of this CFL season, in Winnipeg, for now any opponent it seems is on their radar and ripe for an upset.

Globe and Mail-- Bombers squeeze Lemon, Argos
Toronto Star-- Argonauts fumble and bumble way to loss
Toronto Sun-- Horror show for Argos
National Post-- Bombers improve to 2-0 with ugly win
Winnipeg Free Press-- Bombers down Argos 22-16
Winnipeg Sun-- Bombers win home opener, go 2-0 Bombers scuttle Argonauts to start season 2-0

Week Two provided the BC Lions with the opportunity to regain some of the Vancouver media market with their home opener for the 2011 season, a chance for the Lions to squeeze back into the spotlight after the Canucks spring and early summer Stanley Cup run.

However, with the Lions on the losing end of their first two games of the new season, the road back to the hearts and minds of Lions fans might be a little bumpy.

The second half of the Friday Night Football doubleheader, was a definite study in two separate halves of football,  a first half that was plodding, at times boring with little in the way of offense and more than enough mistakes to keep coaches viewing film for a full week. The score of 7-6 for the Stamps at half time, perhaps sending more than a few of the eastern fans off to bed.

It would be a decision that they might have regretted when learning of the sports scores in the morning, half number two was a complete turnaround, the kind of frantic CFL action that fans find so appealing of the Canadian game.

For the final thirty minutes at Empire Field the two teams traded scoring opportunities and near misses, back and forth up and down the field, the Stamps would score, the Lions would answer. A game that while still a little ugly owing to the volume of mistakes, dropped passes and poor coverage, still seemed wildly entertaining, right up to the final play.

The highlight for the Stamps was the successful debut of their fill in field goal kicker Rene Parades, the Concordia University star who booted a 50 yard three pointer for his first CFL field goal attempt and followed it a little later with late fourth quarter kick to give the Stamps an eight point lead.

Yet, the game wasn't finished yet, as Travis Lulay once again rewarded Wally Buono for his confidence by leading the Lions down the field for the game's final touchdown, pulling the Leos to within two points, however, the ending would not be a rewarding one for Lions fans, as Geroy Simon dropped the two point conversion attempt, as unlikely an ending as a Lions fan could imagine, leaving the Lions on the losing end of the 34-32 decision.

The Stamps will travel on to Winnipeg for week three, while things don't get any easier for the Lions who now face the undefeated Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.

Globe and Mail-- Stampeders hang on to beat Lions
Vancouver Province-- B. C. Lions fall to 0-2 in loss to Calgary Stampeders
Vancouver Sun-- Receivers really dropped the ball in Lions' second straight loss
Calgary Herald-- Stamps survive late scare to earn first win of season
Calgary Sun-- Stamps edge Lions

The first of Saturday's offerings from week two provided for a quarterbacking clinic from the CFL's Masters Instructor, Anthony Calvillo. In a rematch between last years Grey Cup finalists, the Alouettes more than handily took care of the Saskatchewan Roughriders by a score of 39 to 25.

The ever present sold out crowd at Mosaic Field might have had high expectations for this showdown, a good measuring stick for the Riders as they challenged the Grey Cup champs, but by the time that Calvillo was finished for the day, the Rider faithful probably had far more questions of their team than answers.

The Als quarterback who long ago secured his legend status in the CFL put on a remarkable display of play calling and delivered his Als to the end zone with five touchdown passes, a mark that drew him up even with Damon Allen for all time TD passes at 394 and provides him with the chance to set the record at home this week.

It was the kind of performance that coaches will use to show young quarterbacks the keys to success, from on field leadership (Calvillo never seems to get flustered no matter what) to the actual art of passing, where crisp, sharp passes arrive on time at their destination, leaving defenders wondering what exactly they have to do to catch a break.

The Riders valiantly tried to battle back, Darian Durant put together a few drives of note in the second half, but the ease in which the Alouettes took care of business on both offence and defence, revealed more than a few problems in the Riders camp, something that hasn't been a topic of concern over the last few  seasons.

Saturday however was all about Calvillo, his was a force that would not be denied as he and the Als showcased why the Als have been the dominant franchise in the CFL over the last ten years. Full value for their win in week two and full value for all the accolades that Anthony Calvillo has received this week.

He goes back to work this Friday when the Argos come to town, providing the setting for a much deserved celebration at home when TD number 395 is made, for the Riders it's time to start over again, the chance to record their first win of the season arrives on Saturday when Saskatchewan travels to Hamilton, a game that features two teams that need two points rather desperately this early in the season.

National Post-- Roughriders foundation looking creaky
Globe and Mail-- Anthony Calvillo ties CFL passing record in Als win over Riders Calvillo tosses five TDs as Als dump Riders
Calgary Sun-- Calvillo has career day in win against 'Riders

The final game of week two provided a result that indicates that this season may have more than a few surprises on the way for 2011.

When the pre season camps came to an end, it was thought that the Hamilton Tiger Cats were going to be a power from the east, while the Edmonton Eskimos faced a long season of rebuilding in the West.

And while that may very well be the way the story ends this season, two games in, it's about as opposite a situation as you can find.

Saturday's week two curtain call gave Eskimo fans cause to think that the rebuilding job may not take as long as everyone has told them, as the Esks took care of the visiting Ticats by a score of 28-10.

Much like week one, it was Ricky Ray who made the difference for the Esks, his poise in the pocket and  strong delivery moved the ball with authority for the Eskimos, who helped along by a struggling Ticat team found that the scoring would be relatively trouble free in front of the very damp but very happy home town crowd.

Rain made a mess of things through the game, including a stretch of the first quarter where the Cats probably had more fear of drowning rather than hitting, as torrents of rain pounded Commonwealth field,  the precipitation however was apparently a minor inconvenience for the Esks QB who completed 21 of 31 pass attempts, a few of them spectacular tosses.

In addition to Ray's success in the air, the Esks found their ground game might be moving along nicely as well, as former BC Lion Jerome Messam, making the most of his second chance in the CFL with the Esks, scored two touchdowns on the run.

On the Hamilton side of the ball, Kevin Glenn also had a record of 21 for 33 in the air, however, his receivers drops were far more damaging to the Cats efforts, negating scoring opportunities leaving the Cats frustrated at how such a promising training camp has quickly gone south, requiring some resets in their approach it would seem to get things back on track.

Hamilton's path to getting back on track won't be an easy one in week three, still seeking their first win of the season they now move on to a home date with Saskatchewan and a week three match up with the equally frustrated Riders, who like the Cats have yet to find their way into the win column so far this year. One or the other has a chance to get things going on Saturday, one or the other however is going to face some heavy observation from the home fans should things not go their way on the weekend.

The Eskimos on the other hand can add to their undefeated roll as they face the struggling BC Lions at Commonwealth on Saturday,  one team is brimming with confidence heading into week three, the other frustrated that this season, like last is not getting off to the kind of start that breeds success in the CFL.

Globe and Mail-- Eskimos wash away Tiger Cats
Edmonton Sun-- Esks rain down on Tabbies
Edmonton Journal-- Two and oh that feels good
Hamilton Spectator-- Ticats get hammered by Eskimos Eskimos rumble past Tiger-Cats

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