Monday, August 15, 2011

Week Seven Review (ending August 13)

Winnipeg at British Columbia

British Columbia got a 30-17 sample of what all this swaggerville talk is all about and by the end of the weekend wrap to season seven,  the Bombers had added another notch to the swagger belt, while the Lions were left to try and sort out just what it's going to take to get back on the winning track.

Saturday night provided the debut of Arland Bruce III in the Lions line up, and the fact he has only been a resident at the Lions Den for just over a week or so became quite clear, as he didn't have the kind of offensive performance that we've seen in the past, some miscues, a forced fumble and a few completions pretty well defined Bruce's day, though he wasn't alone as the Lions once again struggled to put points on the board, facing perhaps the CFL's most dominant defensive corps.

A key match up through the night offered up some fascinating play between Lions receiver Geroy Simon and the Bombers DB Jonathan Hefney and while Simon had some success on the night, the larger war was won by Hefney, who seemed to be in the right place at the right time on frequent occasions, knocking down Travis Lulay and then Jarious Jackson passes with ease.

The night didn't get off badly for the home side, Travis Lulay had early success leading an impressive drive down the field for the Leos, though by the third quarter all of his optimism would shift to frustration, the Lions starter showing an unfamiliar bit of anger during failed drives, in the end resulting in his night ending on the sidelines as the Lions turned to back up Jarious Jackson for a spark.

And while Jackson showed some positives, the game by then was far away into the win column for juggernaut Bombers,  a late game flurry of action and points by the Lions serving only to close the gap on the scoreboard, the gap in the competition long ceded to the Blue.

The Bombers once again showcased their league leading defensive squad, finding both Lulay and Jackson vulnerable to their charge, smothering rookie running backs and forcing fumbles, hurrying Lion receivers and finding success there as well.

Buck Pierce, back in the town that sent him adrift, was laser like in his performance, putting Bomber points on the board and staying the course through the full sixty minutes of play, as though to put a punctuation mark on his play and perhaps providing a message to Lions coach Wally Buono who let him go a few years back.

It was another domination event by the Bombers, who clearly now have provided CFL fans with ample evidence that their success is no fluke, preparation and determination seem to be paying huge dividends in River City these days, and while some suggest they should tone down on the whole swaggerville thing, at the moment and with their success, they seem full value for the moniker.

Vancouver Province-- Nice start ends in misery for B. C. Lions 
Vancouver Sun-- Blue Bombers pulverize the Lions
Winnipeg Sun-- Bombers show that Swaggerville strut
Winnipeg Free Press-- Blue Bombers improve to 6-1 for 1st time since 1984 with 30-17 win over Lions
Globe and Mail-- Blue Bombers shell listless Lions

Toronto at Hamilton

Perhaps a bit surprisingly considering the record of the Argos thus far in the season, the best game of the weekend past came out of Hamilton, where the visiting Argonauts gave the TiCats all they could handle, before finding themselves on the short end of the 27 to 32 final score.

The first half of the Saturday double header provided the Argonauts the opportunity to put on perhaps their best effort of the season, and yes that includes their week one victory over Calgary.  The Argos who have gone on a horrendous losing streak since that opening week victory, looked as though they were on the cusp of shaking that demon of consecutive losses, putting on a very impressive performance through the full sixty minutes of play.

The two teams traded off touchdowns and field goals through the game, Cleo Lemon finally seeming to find his stride for the Argos, while Kevin Glenn was equal to the play on behalf of the Tiger Cats.

It was the kind of battle that has made the Argos-Cats Labour Day match ups legendary, arriving a few weeks early this year owing to some strange scheduling on behalf of the CFL,  in the past the Labour Day Classic has been a definitive mark on the CFL schedule, whatever it takes next year to make it so again news to be taken care of, in a market where the CFL struggles to build momentum, losing the marketing cache of the Labour Day Classic is a blunder.

As though to reinforce that point, the two teams put on a game that seems to be one of the more impressive of battles between the long time rivals, it would have been the perfect marketing tool for this Labour Day but somehow seemed lost in the middle of an August schedule.

The loss, while no doubt heartbreaking for Jim Barker, offers up a glimmer of hope for his team that better days may be on the way, both defence and offence seemed to find another gear against the TiCats, its a momentum that they will no doubt hope to carry forward into this weekend when the Saskatchewan Roughiders arrive in town, two teams with similar records and equal amounts of desperation ready to be put on display.

Hamilton takes the two points gained at the expense of their rivals and positions themselves into the top of the east a few points behind the streaking Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Grey Cup champion Alouettes, yet with their success of the last few weeks the Cats seem to be serving notice that the East may be a three team race for first and not ceded to the two front runners of the first third of the season.

Toronto Sun-- The Usual suspect for Argos Ticats win Battle of Ontario classic
National Post-- Tiger-Cats outlast Argos in wild shootout
Hamilton Spectator-- Cats prevail to win a nail biter
Hamilton Spectator-- Not Labour Day. Still a Classic. Ticats win 37-32 over Argos

Calgary at Saskatchewan

The woes of the RiderNation continue to grow, as the hometown squad continues to struggle on the field, adding regularly to the loss column while frequently visiting the win column. Since the season began over the Canada Day weekend, the Riders have visited misery on every occasion but their week four visit to Montreal, where they upset the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes by a score of 27 to 24.

With the exception of that one victory, 2011 has so far been an exercise in frustration, if not out right bewilderment for both players, coaches and fans alike.

Friday night offered up much of the same, as the Riders put up a decent effort in the early going, only to fall behind the Stampeders on the way to a 45 to 35 loss, a final score that kind of flattered the Riders considering their second half work, which seemed to benefit more of a lapse on the part of the Stamps than any concentrated attack by the Green and White.

In fact the bulk of the Rider scoring in the second to pull within ten came with Ryan Dinwiddie at the helm, though to be fair to starter Darian Durant, much of Dinwiddie's success came from a Stampeders defence that had stopped blitzing and settled into more of  a prevent defence, offering up yardage to be gained and a few points, but really never seemed to be at risk of losing the game.

The success by Dinwiddie has of course offered up the thought that perhaps he should get the start this week in Toronto, though one doubts that will provide an answer to the many woes of the Riders at the moment.

Though a loss to the equally awful double blue, could perhaps herald more than a few changes, stretching far beyond who does or doesn't start at quarterback.

Calgary, is another story, their finding much success of late, having shaken off their struggles of the early going to gather in successive victories and a sudden climb to the top of the West Division, hanks to the Eskimos implosion of the last two weeks.

Calgary, while still not knocking us down with amazement, have started to resemble the machine we were promised heading into training camp, with the Riders and Lions providing little in the way of promise to make a charge, the West is clearly going to be a two team race in the end, with the Stamps probably more of the favourite over the results of the last two weeks of play, something for them to think over as they head into their bye week in the schedule.

The Stamps next see action on August 27 when the host the Alouettes, a much anticipated showdown that sets up the scene for the Stamps and their Labour Day weekend rivalry match with the Eskimos on September 5th.

Calgary Herald-- Stamps manhandle Riders 45-35
Calgary Sun-- Stamps enter bye on high note
Regina Leader Post-- Reeling Riders sad to watch
Globe and Mail-- Stamps roll over Roughriders
National Post--- Stampeders win wild west shootout

Edmonton at Montreal

The showdown of the early season didn't quite pan out as advertised on Thursday night, as the Montreal Alouetttes took care quite handily the challenge of the Edmonton Eskimos.

For the second week in a row, Ricky Ray found out that CFL defences have taken note of his return to prominence in the league and offered up their own particular welcome back, with frequent incursions into the Eskimo backfield, sacking and rushing Ray's plans to the detriment of the Eskimo attack.

On the other side of the Alouette agenda, Anthony Calvillo continued on pace towards the CFL record books knocking down another  two markers on the way to the Als convincing 27 to 4 victory. Calvillo added to the CFL history books as he surpassed the 70,000 passing mark and threw his 400th touchdown pass.

And yes, those markers are indicative as to how much Montreal dominated the play, shaking off any doubts that they were on the decline in the CFL East, rather, after a couple of setbacks in previous weeks, it would seem that the Alouettes are more than up to the challenge of chasing down the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Eastern title.

As for the Eskimos, more injuries will continue to rewrite their playbook, setbacks that only add to the burden that Kavis Reed faces now with Fred Stamps gone for at least a third of the season.

The key it would seem for the Esks moving forward will be a concentration on the defensive play, to keep opponents from building up too large a lead before the Eskimo offence can get untracked.

And more importantly for Ricky Ray especially, will be the need for his offensive line to provide more time for those offensive plans to come together, far to often over the last two weeks, Ray has been forced to rush throws or suffer the impact of the oncoming defenders, a situation that probably isn't particularly good for his longevity in an eighteen game season.

The Eskimo skid has provided an opening for their provincial rivals the Stampeders to catch up in the West Division standings and judging by the last two weeks of work by the Esks, one has to think that the Stamps are in the driver's seat moving forward into the fall.

National Post-- Milestone night for Alouettes Calvillo in romp over Eskimos Alouettes defence finally displays dominance
Edmonton Journal-- Losing Eskimos bear little resemblance to victorious version
Edmonton Journal-- Alouettes pound Eskimos 27-4
Globe and Mail-- Alouettes romp past Eskimos

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