Week 17 of the CFL has come and gone, and Happy Thanksgiving to all our Canadian readers out there!

Close games dominated this week in the CFL as every battle was a one-possession game. Calgary remains dominant…maybe? A close win over the Alouettes wasn’t expected, but the Stampeders delivered. Additionally, the Eskimos’ have officially fallen out of a playoff spot, a move that no one would have seen coming at the start of the season. Finally, can the Roughriders find a way to get the first place seed in the Western Division? A lot of questions were left to be answered heading into Week 18, but fear not! Ian and I are here with this week’s CFL recap!

Week 17 Bye: 

Winnipeg (7-7) – 40

Ottawa (8-5)  32

 

Week 17 of the CFL, Thanksgiving Weekend, kicked off Friday night in Ottawa with a clash between Ottawa and Winnipeg, two teams that both look destined to make the playoffs and are just jostling for seeding at this point.

After an opening drive Justin Medlock field goal that leads to an early lead for the Blue Bombers, the REDBLACKS took over on offense and showed why William Powell is the leagues leading rusher through the first 16 weeks of the season. Powell found a gap in the Bombers defense and took advantage of it with a huge 48-yard gain on the ground, two plays later Trevor Harris would connect with him on a wheel route from the 8-yard line and Powell would make no mistake and find the end zone giving the home squad an eventual 8-3 lead after a Brad Sinopoli two-point conversion.

It didn’t take long for Winnipeg to answer back as on the ensuing drive Matt Nichols would complete six of seven passes and march the Bombers down the field, eventually connecting with Darvin Adams for an 11-yard TD and giving the Bombers back the lead.

The rest of the half included a lot of field goals as both teams would struggle to find the end zone but would still move the ball well, we’d eventually go into the half with Justin Medlock kicking his fourth field goal of the half and giving the Bombers a 19-11 lead.

Winnipeg would get the ball after the half and move the ball downfield but would eventually be stopped by the REDBLACKS defense and settle for yet another field goal, Medlock’s fifth of the night extending the Bombers lead to 11 points.

Despite how well Medlock was doing in this game, he was outshined by his counterpart on Ottawa as rookie kicker Lewis Ward would respond with another field goal which tied the all-time record for consecutive field goals at 39.

After a fumble by Nic Demski that gave the REDBLACKS prime field position, Lewis Ward would then shatter the CFL record for consecutive field goals previously held by Rene Paredes with a 39-yard field goal that would be his 40th consecutive and the record breaker.

The fourth quarter saw the breakthrough when it came to majors as the Blue Bombers would get on the board, Matt Nichols’ would throw his second touchdown pass of the game, this time to Weston Dressler.

Another Medlock field goal would extend the Bomber lead to 15 in the fourth quarter, but the REDBLACKS weren’t down and out yet.

Harris came out and lead the offense down the field connecting on passes with both Brad Sinopoli and Julian Feoli-Gudino, the latter catching a touchdown pass from Harris for his first touchdown as a member of the REDBLACKS and bring the REDBLACKS within eight points with just over three minutes left on the clock.

After the REDBLACKS defense did their job and got the ball back from the Bombers, Harris wasn’t going to let the opportunity in front of himself slip as he’d connect with Greg Ellingson on a third-and-three with the game on the line, before Ellingson would once again find his number called, this time in the end zone from the 10-yard line bringing the REDBLACKS within two, where Ellingson would bring down the two-point conversion as well with 12 seconds left in the game and forced overtime.

The Bombers would lose the coin-toss and the REDBLACKS would elect to receive second, thus allowing the Bombers to set the pace and they did just that as Nichols would connect with Dressler for his second touchdown of the game before completing the two-point conversion to Darvin Adams, giving the Bombers an 8-point lead in overtime.

The REDBLACKS would nearly get into the end zone on their drive following the Bombers score but Adam Bighill would force a fumble out of Brad Sinopoli that the Bombers would recover and end the game.
Winnipeg got a much-needed win in this one as they continue to climb the Western Division standings in hopes of hosting a playoff game in November, they looked good in this one as they show once again why they can be one of the best teams in the league, dominant on both sides of the ball at times in this game.
Ottawa found their stride a little too late in this game, but they still find themselves sitting on top of the Eastern Division.

Player of the Game: Justin Medlock. 6/6 on field goals and truly helped keep the Bombers in front for the majority of this game.

Toronto (3-10) – 23

BC (6-7)   26

The second game of Thanksgiving Weekend in the CFL gave us another close game between the Lions and the Argonauts as the Lions needed a win to keep pace in the Western Division and crossover to the Eastern Division.
Unfortunately, this game started with an injury as on the opening drive Thompson would find SJ Green over the middle as Jordan Herdman laid the hammer on him, unfortunately ending Greens night basically before it even began. Shortly after that, Thompson would throw a deep ball down to Duron Carter who would slip on his route thus making an easy interception for Anthony Orange, his fifth on the season.

The Lions ensuing drive was beneficial for them as Jennings would start it off with a 40-yard bomb downfield to Bryan Burnham who would come down with the 50/50 ball like he’s done all year long. Jennings’ would then connect with Cory Watson on a 14-yard pass that capped a 5-play 73-yard drive giving the Lions a 6-0 lead after a failed convert.

The Lions kept the momentum going through, this time on the defensive side of the ball as they applied pressure to the Argos, backing them up inside their own 10-yard line eventually forcing the Argos to concede two points and the Lions would have an 8-0 lead.

The very next drive they’d once again keep the momentum going, this time with Jennings’ using his legs and creating space, they would have to settle for a field goal though as they’d now have an 11-0 lead.
The second quarter got underway with the Argonauts finding the scoreboard, through a field goal cutting the lead to 8.

On their next possession, Bethel-Thompson would be hit on his release by TJ Lee who popped the ball upright for Davon Coleman to come down with, that would be Bethel-Thompson’s second pick of the game, the first time he’s thrown multiple picks all year. The Lions would have to settle for a field goal despite the good field position and lead 14-3.

The Argonauts wouldn’t go silent into the night though as Brandon Burks would rip off a 69-yard run putting the Argos in good field position, that run would set up a Bethel-Thompson pass to Llevi Noel that he would walk in for a major cutting the lead to 14-10.

The next Lions’ drive would find points, as well as Ty Long, would nail a 50-yard field goal giving the Lions’ a 17-10 lead.

The next Argos possession would lead to another pick from the Lions’ defense, Davon Coleman would bring down his second ball of the game, setting up the Lions to get points before the half and they’d do just that with Ty Long kicking a 51-yard field goal giving the Lions a 20-10 lead.

The second half was much of the same for the Argonauts as once again Bethel-Thompson would throw to the wrong team, his fourth interception of the night and this one would end his night as James Franklin would come in to finish the rest of the game.

Ty Long would tag on two more field goals for the Lions eventually giving them a 26-10 lead before James Franklin would come into the game, he’d connect with Duron Carter giving Carter his first touchdown as an Argonaut, the Argos’ however, would fail the conversion and trail 26-16.

James Franklin would put together a drive with under two minutes to play, on a third down and twelve he’d connect with Myles White who would just barely get to the market, a few plays later White would find the end zone and after a six-play, 76-yard drive, we’d have ourselves a three points game. Unfortunately for the Argos’, it would be too little too late as they wouldn’t bring down the on-side attempt and the Lions would escape with a 26-23 win.

The Lions extended their home record to 6-1 and have now put themselves into a playoff position with an Eskimos’ loss this week, they’ll go into Calgary next week to face the league’s best Stampeders. Toronto’s season is all but over, they’ve announced that James Franklin will start Week 18 as they’ll host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Player of the Game: Ty Long. 6/7 FG’s as he’d put up 18 of 26 points for the Lions, including two 50+ yard field goals.

Calgary (11-2)-12

Montreal (3-11) -6

 

Kicking off the double-header of Thanksgiving Day games saw the Calgary Stampeders looking to secure CFL dominance with a win in Montreal against the Alouettes. The Stamps sat atop the West with an 11-2 record while the Als continue to live in the basement with just three wins on the year.

Calgary was coming off a commanding 38-16 win over the Argos with a depleted receiving unit. After already losing DaVaris Daniels, Eric Rogers and Kamar Jorden to long-term injuries, the Stamps also lost Reggie Begelton for the year in their Week 16 win.

With the Riders only two games behind them, Calgary was looking for a big win against what should have been an easier opponent. But despite having the better team, taking Montreal lightly was not an option as the playoff race tightens up.

Montreal had nothing to lose coming into this matchup with a heavy-weight foe. They almost snuck away with an upset over Saskatchewan in Week 16 before the Riders took control back late in that game. With their playoff hopes all but gone, putting a dash in the Stamps attempts to lock up the West was all they needed to play for.

Johnny Manziel looked to gain a bit more rhythm in the loss to the Riders and started to make some plays that fans of Johnny Football had become accustomed to. Putting together big plays through the air and on the ground, Manziel needed to start winning the locker room over and what better way to do it then with an all-star performance against the best team in the league?

The first half of this game was rather uneventful however, as neither team was able to really do anything other than trade punts and each an interception. Calgary put up a total of 141 yards while Montreal 214.

After Manziel found Eugene Lewis for a beautiful 52-yard catch from his own end zone the Als drive would stall ending in a punt. On their next drive Boris Bede kicked a 44-yard field goal with 2:43 left in the half for the 3-0 lead.

Montreal kept building up momentum before the end of the half. Manziel found Ernest Jackson for three straight completions one a beautiful 16-yard catch before hitting TJ Graham for a 25-yard strike along the sideline. With 1 second left on the clock Bede would kick a 41-yarder for the 6-0 halftime lead.

Calgary started to gain some energy to kick off the third quarter after Montreal took possession to start the second half. On 1st down from the Calgary 48-yard line Johnny Manziel would be sacked by Cordarro Law, forcing a fumble which was batted back to the Montreal 35-yard line where it was recovered by Calgary.

Fortunately for the Als the fumble would not cost them any points. On the second play after the turnover Bo Levi Mitchell would be picked off by Braden Dozier. After a few traded drives Calgary would take a Montreal punt back 81yards for the touchdown. However, they would also be called for an illegal block, eliminating the score.

On the ensuing drive Mitchell would again be picked off, this time by Dominique Ellis. Much like most of this game, Montreal would end up punting on the following drive. As the third quarter winded down and the fourth began Calgary would finally figure something out. They went on an 8-play drive highlighted by a 39-yard pass to Juwan Brescacin. The drive would end with a 6-yard TD run by Terry Williams for the 7-6 lead.

The Stamps would add a field goal and two singles in the fourth as the defence completely shut down Manziel and the Als offence forcing the 12-6 victory. This was a bizarre game and a hard one to analyze. Neither team was able to do anything offensively. The most shocking aspect of that is the dominance of the Stampeder offence so far this year in correlation to how bad Montreal’s defence has been.

Both teams had three turnovers with Mitchell throwing an uncharacteristic three interceptions and the Als losing the ball on a pick, a fumble and a turnover on downs. Neither team moved the ball for more than 340 yards with Mitchell only throwing for 199 and Manziel 240.

Calgary forced 6 sacks with Montreal getting to Mitchell 3 times on their own. This game, as much as I hate saying it was just a boring game on a Monday morning. Sure, there was good defence on both sides, but a lot of it was just sloppy football and seemed like we weren’t getting the best out of either side. Calgary moves to 12-2 atop the West while Montreal continues to plummet in last place at 3-12.

Player of the Game: Defence While the Stampeders won this game both defences dominated the other side of the ball. It’s impossible to point one specific performance in a game where there were none. I’ll throw this one to both defences with the amount of sack, interceptions and fumbles that forced on both sides.

 

Edmonton (7-7)-12

Saskatchewan (9-5) -19

 

Closing out the Holiday weekend list of games was a duel between the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders. While the Riders have been hot as of late moving into second place in the West they have been winning games closely. The Esks on the other hand have been slumping over the last month of the season.

The Riders D continues to be the story for their team. They’re the back bone in Riderville and the team’s success has heavily leaned on the defence continuing their dominance. Zach Collaros and the offence has been doing a god job at putting up efficient efforts. They just needed to stay away from mistakes especially against a hungry Eskimos team.

Sitting in fourth place in the West with a 7-7 record the Edmonton have found themselves in a bit of hot water late this year, something they aren’t used to. With the Bombers ahead of them in third place and the Lions creeping up behind them the Esks desperately needed a win in Regina.

Mike Reilly hasn’t been happy with his or the offence’s performances as of late. Coming off a disappointing 30-3 loss to Winnipeg in Week 16 Reilly and company were more than hungry for a big win against a Western rival. If their defence could force turnovers from Collaros and the Riders’ offence they would stand a great chance of coming out with the victory.

The Riders would strike first on their opening drive after forcing a two-and-out on the Esks. Collaros would drive down the field with some help from some Edmonton penalties and a string of first downs. The Green & White would cap off the 10-play drive with a 23-yard Brett Lauther field goal and the 3-0 lead.

The Esks would answer with a field goal of their own after Mike Reilly found Duke Williams for 30 yards down the sideline Sean Whyte would kick a 32-yarder for the 3-3 tie. After driving back down the field on their next drive Edmonton would kick another field goal, this time from 18 yards out for the 6-3 lead.

Edmonton’s defence would force another Rider punt on their next drive and started driving down the field again, getting into Saskatchewan territory. But on a Reilly pass to the sideline near the 10-yard line Ed Gainey came up with a huge interception and return giving the Riders starting field position at their own 54-yard line.

However, a holding and offsides penalty set up a 2nd and forever situation forcing a punt on 3rd down. Both teams kept trading punches. The Riders would tie with a 39-yard Lauther field goal for the 6-6 tie. Then Zach Collaros would be sacked from inside his own 20-yard line by Alex Bazzie. On the sack he would fumble the ball which was recovered by Adam Konar setting up another Sean Whyte kick and the 9-6 Esks lead.

Both defences stood tall through the first half with both teams generating a tonne of pressure and keeping both offences out of the end zone as Edmonton took the 9-6 lead into the half. Saskatchewan opened the second half with a decent drive capped off with a 43-yard Lauther field goal and a 9-9 tie.

Edmonton started to look like they may pull away in the third quarter. Following the Lauther field goal the Esks went on a 7-play drive from their own 35-yard line to the Saskatchewan 38. They took the 12-9 lead with a 45-yard Whyte field goal.

The Riders looked to tie the game going on a 7-play drive of their own on the ensuing drive setting up Lauther with a 46-yard attempt. The young rookie however would pull the kick to the left, keeping the three-point lead intact for Edmonton.

Just when Edmonton looked like they were going to carry that momentum by moving back down the field to the Saskatchewan 31-yard line, Reilly would be hit while throwing resulting in the pass being tipped into the air and intercepted by Nick Marshall. The pick would result in another great drive for the Riders allowing Lauther to redeem himself with another field goal attempt.

Unfortunately for the Green & White, Lauther would miss again, this time from 50 yards out giving possession back to Reilly and the Esks.

Saskatchewan just would not quit shooting themselves in the foot in the fourth quarter. After both teams exchanged drives they would start to march down the field again looking like they could get back into field goal range to tie. Collaros however, would throw a wobbler to the sideline ending up in the hands of Mercy Maston for the interception.

Two plays later Mike Reilly would make a mistake of his own. He would have a pass intercepted at the line of scrimmage by Willie Jefferson who took it 49 yards for his second pick-six of the year and the 16-12 Rider lead.

Jason Maas would challenge for roughing the passer on what looked like Zack Evans making contact with Mike Reilly’s facemask with his own, on a hit as Reilly was throwing the pass. The review allowed the play to stand keeping the points on the board for the Riders.

It was a play that very well could have been called as roughing the passer in today’s version of football. The contact was accidental and non-malicious but, in a game, where I see players who don’t play QB have contact made with their heads on a regular basis with no calls, I don’t see why this should have been a penalty.

Saskatchewan would add another field goal after Edmonton turned the ball over on downs. However, Mike Reilly gave his team a chance right to the last second of the game. On the last play of the game the MVP QB threw up a Hail Mary pass with it being completed for a 71-yard catch by Bryant Mitchell who was tackled 8 yards short of the end zone for the 19-12 Saskatchewan win.

This game much like the first Thanksgiving Day game was a showdown of the defences. The difference in this one was less sloppy play by both offences. Both teams suffered turnovers, but it was truly anyone’s game to run away with at any point.

For Saskatchewan it continues to be the same story. The defence runs this team. They gave up 335 yards of total offence, but they totalled 5 sacks on Mike Reilly and forced 3 interceptions. They kept the pressure up all game and kept Edmonton out of the end zone.

The offence for Saskatchewan can still be shaky with turnovers and mistakes but they keep doing enough to pull out victories. With that defence behind them they’re able to control the clock and put up points with field goals before striking late to seal the deal. This team right now is the scariest in the league.

Edmonton continues to move in the opposite direction as their Western rival Riders. They’ve now lost their last three and five of their last seven. Mike Reilly is doing everything he can but is truly missing his deep threat weapon in Derel Walker. The team was able to put up 113 yards on the ground but when you break it down it’s less impressive. 56 of those yards came from CJ Gable, the other 57 Mike Reilly.

The defence did their job in this one which was good to see for a unit that has struggled. Penalties continue to be a huge downfall for them as they took 5 for 55 yards. That number isn’t as high as it could be, but they made too many mental mistakes leading to flags cost them.

They now find themselves in last place in the West at 7-8 behind the 7-7 Lions and need to figure out how to bounce back now, with only three games left.

Player of the Game: Willie Jefferson. Jefferson tallied 5 tackles 1 sack and the infamous game-winning pick-six. It’s clear that Chris Jones is game planning for his athletic defensive end to engage with the o-lineman and then break out of the block to come up with interceptions. He continues to be a huge part of this dominating defence.

 

 

CFL Week 17 Recap

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