Things are starting to take shape for the playoffs as Week 20 of the CFL season has come and gone. The Bombers came out with a huge win pushing the Eskimos out for position for the postseason, while the Riders keep their hopes of a first place finish alive. But at a costly price.

Week 20 Bye: 

Calgary (12-4)-21

Winnipeg (9-7)-29

The CFL season is winding down with only two weeks left and it couldn’t be fuller of playoff implications. Opening Week 20 was a matchup between the Calgary Stampeders and Winnipeg BlueBombers from Investors Group Field.

The Bombers have been hot as of late, winning four in a row before their bye. They looked to keep things rolling with both sides of the ball finding its way and rhythm. Should they win against the Stamps, Winnipeg would clinch a playoff spot while eliminating the Eskimos.

Calgary, on the other hand, has been the opposite of hot, and opposite of we normally expect from them. They’ve lost two in a row, once to BC and once to Saskatchewan and both were at home. They were on the brink of losing their grasp on first place, should they lose out and the Riders win their final game later in the week.

Calgary would get on the board first. After a 40-yard return for Romar Morris on the opening kickoff, Bo Levi Mitchell ran three plays before having to settle for a 43-yard Rene Paredes field goal and the 3-0 lead.

Just when it looked like Calgary would strike again with a touchdown they gave it back to Winnipeg. Mitchell hit Chris Matthews for a 10-yard gain to the Bomber 5-yard line, but while Matthews fought for extra yards while refusing to go down he would have the ball stripped and recovered by Winnipeg for the turnover.

Winnipeg tied the game in the second quarter. After a play where it looked like Matt Nichols would be sacked he flipped the ball to Andrew Harris while in the grasps of Stamps defenders. Harris took the ball 11 yards setting up an eventual 13-yard Justin Medlock field goal.

It was Medlock’s 40th field goal of the season for the 3-3 tie. It didn’t last long, however. Mitchell then hit Chris Matthews for a 65-yard bomb down the sideline setting Calgary up at the Winnipeg 10-yard line. It would lead to a 1-yard Nick Arbuckle sneak for the score and after a failed two-point attempt a 9-3 lead.

Things went from bad to worse for Winnipeg on the ensuing kickoff. Nic Demski took the kickoff up to the 27-yard line before he lost the ball. The Stamps recovered giving Mitchell possession at the Bomber 25-yard line.

The turnover led to a 31-yard Paredes field goal and the 12-3 lead. Winnipeg would add a 35-yard Medlock field goal for the 12-6 Calgary lead at the half. In the first half, Weston Dressler became only the 17th player in CFL history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards.

Things stayed relatively quiet through most of the third quarter until Winnipeg blew it wide open. Nichols found Darvin Adams for 11 yards then Demski for 19 before going back to Adams for a 50-yard TD bomb for the 13-12 lead.

A heavy fog continued to roll into the third quarter, but it didn’t stop Bo Levi Mitchell. He responded to the Bomber touchdown with one of his own. First, he found Lemar Durant for a 43-yard bomb.

Then after working down to the 1-yard line, the Stamps would be stopped on two straight runs. On 3rd and 1 Mitchell hit Markeith Ambles for the TD. After another failed 2-pt convert attempt Calgary took an 18-13 lead.

Three plays later the Bombers took the lead right back! Nichols hit Drew Wolitarsky for a 60-yard missile for the TD and after their own failed 2-pt convert attempt the 19-18 lead.

Winnipeg then took the ball right back on the next drive. Mitchell would dump a pass off to Don Jackson, but Adam Bighill would force a fumble on the tackle with it being recovered by Jackson Jeffcoat for Winnipeg.

Three plays later Chris Streveler would punch the ball in from 1 yard out for Winnipeg’s third TD of the quarter for the 26-18 lead. The Bomber D continued to do their job forcing a quick drive out of Calgary resulting in a punt. Nichols took the offense on a seven-play drive chewing up clock and ending in a 13-yard Medlock field goal for the two-possession lead at 29-18.

Calgary looked to get back into the game with four minutes left. First, the defense stopped the Bombers on a crucial 3rd and 1 for a turnover on downs. They took the ball down the field and on third down, Bo Levi Mitchell looked to hit Eric Rogers at the goal line for the TD but after hitting the ground the ball came loose.

It was ruled an incompletion despite Rogers looking to have broken the plane before the ball came loose, after review it was still ruled incomplete and a turnover. Winnipeg would take the ball and chew up the clock, with Calgary taking possession with eight seconds left. They would quickly add a field goal and attempt an onside kick. The kick was unsuccessful sealing the 29-21 Winnipeg victory.

The Bombers started out slow but were able to take control in the second half. The defense most impressively kept Calgary quiet through most of the game. The Stamps, however, do have a depleted receiving unit, but the nonetheless still an impressive showing by the Winnipeg D.

They held Calgary to 59 yards rushing, the second week in a row that Calgary rushed for under 60 yards. They were able to sack Mitchell twice and force turnovers that were key in the final victory. Matt Nichols threw for almost 400 yards while Andrew Harris was a force with a total of 130 yards from scrimmage, which is something they need to depend on heading into the playoffs.

With the victory, Winnipeg has officially clinched a playoff berth while eliminating the Eskimos from contention completely.

The Stampeders have now lost three in a row and continue to tailspin. They put themselves in jeopardy of losing first place with a Rider win and another loss of their own. Finishing anywhere outside of first place in the West is something this team hasn’t experienced since 2015.

With the Calgary offense continuing to struggle to find that elite explosiveness we’re used to seeing, the biggest shock continues to be the defense. They gave up over 500 yards of offense to the Bombers with 153 of that coming on the ground. It’s the second straight week they’ve given up over 400 total yards and this team looks less and less scary every week.

Player of the Game: Matt Nichols. Nichols went 24/33 for 358 yards and 2TD’s while orchestrating an offensive masterpiece in the second half. With 50- and 60-yard touchdown bombs and always seeming to make a play when needed, Nichols has his team ready for a playoff run.

 

Ottawa (9-7) -30

Hamilton (8-8)-13

A wet and windy day in the hammer surprisingly didn’t keep the scoring down in this game on Saturday as the REDBLACKS were looking to clinch the first seed in the Eastern Division with a win over the Tiger-Cats. Ottawa announced before the game that they’d be without the leagues leading rusher William Powell as he was listed as a healthy scratch, while the Tiger-Cats would be without CB Delvin Breaux.

After some good field position supplied by Ottawa’s special teams, the REDBLACKS would slowly work their way downfield before Trevor Harris would connect with Greg Ellingson. Ottawa would go for two-points as they’ve done frequently this season and convert to give themselves an 8-0 lead.

Hamilton would stick to the ground game in the second quarter as Alex Green would break out for 36-yards, doubling the total yards of the Tabbies up to this point, they’d be stopped by the REDBLACKS defense and would have to settle for a 14-yard field goal.

On the ensuing drive for the REDBLACKS they’d pull out a trick play, Dominique Davis who usually comes in for third down short yardage plays did exactly that but instead rolled out a found Greg Ellingson for a 75-yard TD to give the REDBLACKS a 15-4 lead.

After Hajrullahu’s punt traveled a measly 32-yards into the wind that would give the REDBLACKS extremely good field position, they’d find the end zone four play later as Harris would connect with Diontae Spencer for Ottawa’s third TD pass of the game, giving them a 21-4 lead after a Lewis Ward missed the conversion.

Hamilton would end the first half with a pair of field goal attempts that would both go through the uprights as Ottawa would take a 21-10 lead heading into halftime.
On the other side of the break, Hajrullahu would once again convert a 41-yard field goal attempt and bring the Tabbies within a score.

Brad Sinopoli would set the record for most receptions by a Canadian in a single season with his 113th catch of the year in the third quarter. Ottawa would keep the ball flying as Harris would surpass 5,000 yards on the season for the first time in his career with a 79-yard TD pass to Diontae Spencer.

A week after setting the professional football record for most consecutive field goals made, Lewis Ward would further extend his record making his 46th kick in a row, a 33-yard kick that extended the REDBLACKS lead to 30-13.

Any chance of a Tiger-Cats comeback was silenced when Jeremiah Masoli was intercepted in the end zone by Ottawa’s Sherrod Baltimore.

Masoli would end the game throwing one more away as the REDBLACKS would hold on for the win and clinch the first seed in the Eastern Division earning them a spot in the Eastern Final.

Ottawa clinched the first seed in the Eastern Division with this win and earned themselves a BYE right into the Eastern Final where they’ll meet the winner of Hamilton and the Western Division crossover, a game where I think they’ll beat whoever plays them. Ottawa is playing extremely well, however, Harris is hit or miss, they can win the Grey Cup, but they can also come out and get blown out in the Eastern Final. Both wouldn’t surprise me.

I still don’t trust Masoli. I think he’s a terrific player within the 20’s but for some reasons I don’t trust his red zone efficiency, I think Hamilton will get bounced by any team in the West as all the West teams are on a roll right now.

Player of the Game: Diontae Spencer, 4 catches, 116 yards, 2 TDs.

BC (9-7) -16

Saskatchewan (11-6)-35

Closing out the Saturday pack of games was a matchup between the BC Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders from New Mosaic Stadium. The Riders needed a win to keep their first-place hopes alive with a Stamps loss Friday night, while BC was battling Winnipeg for third place or a crossover position.

The Riders continue to stay hot while winning four of their last six games, the latest a 29-24 victory over Calgary in Week 19. They moved to within one game of the first place Stamps and needed a win to keep the possibility of finishing as the league’s best team alive.

The offense for the Green & White showed much more consistency in the win against Calgary with few mistakes and efficiency. They needed to keep that going while they kept their powerhouse defense rolling. They were in poised position on a roll heading into the playoffs.

BC was coming into Regina with a three-game winning streak, beating both Alberta teams in back-to-back weeks while clicking a playoff spot. The team has seemed rejuvenated with Travis Lulay back under center leading the team.

Every team in the West seems to be on a roll right now headed into the playoffs. BC needed a win over the Riders if they wanted to stay in the Western Division and push Winnipeg to the East. The biggest feat would be going up against the Riders dominant defense and the Mosaic crowd.

Saskatchewan scored first with a short BC punt on their opening drive and a no-yards penalty set up a 45-yard Brett Lauther field goal. The Rider defense continued to shut down the Lions as they added another field goal with under two minutes left in the opening quarter for the 6-0 lead.

The Riders D kept the dominance up with a huge turnover. Willie Jefferson tipped a Lulay pass up into the air with it being picked off by Toby Antigha. On the following drive, Zach Collaros took a nasty shot to the head from Odell Willis, which after a Chris Jones challenge turned into a roughing the passer penalty. The successful challenge gave the Riders a first down at the BC 14-yard line.

Two plays later Tre Mason took it in for the 7-yard TD run and the 13-0 lead. Collaros would finish the drive but after that went to the locker room for concussion protocol. BC took the ball and went on an eight-play drive from their own 29-yard line to the Saskatchewan 37.

Ty Long attempted a 40-yard field goal but pushed it wide left for just a single and the 13-1 score. On the Riders next drive, Brandon Bridge would come into the game for the injured Collaros.

On the ensuing drive, Saskatchewan would lose Tre Mason on what looked like a significant knee injury. They would then lose the ball with Cameron Marshall fumbling, giving BC the ball at the Saskatchewan 50-yard line. Fortunately for them, the turnover resulted in a two-and-out.

Bridge would move the ball with some big runs by Cameron Marshall and the quarterback himself. The drive would stall however resulting in a 37-yard Lauther field goal and the 16-1 lead. BC would add another single point for the 16-2 Rider lead at the half.

Louchiez Purifoy returned the second half kickoff for Saskatchewan but after the good return, he was stripped of the ball with BC recovering at the Rider 44-yard line.

On the next play, Lulay threw a 44-yard bomb to Bryan Burnham over…..you guessed it Purifoy for the TD and 16-9 score.

Purifoy then took the next kickoff and redeem himself, somewhat returning it to the Saskatchewan 52-yard line. Unfortunately, Bridge couldn’t get much going, having to punt after four plays.

After the Lions gave up a safety rather than punt out of their own end zone, their defense forced a Rider two-and-out. Josh Bartel pinned the Lions back at their own 10-yard line with the punt, and on the Lions’ first play Willie Jefferson stripped the ball from Lulay as he began to throw. Zack Evans recovered the ball and took it one yard for the TD and the 25-9 lead.

After both teams swapped drives BC took possession to open the fourth quarter. Two plays later Lulay threw one over the middle, overthrowing his receiver with the ball falling into the arms of Ed Gainey for the interception. Gainey returned it 42 yards for the pick-six extending the Rider lead to 32-9.

BC would opt to move the rest of the way with Jonathan Jennings under center. The Lions would add another touchdown while the Riders added a field goal before Saskatchewan chewed up the clock leading to a 35-16 Rider win.

The Riders hopes of finishing as the number one team in CFL stays alive with the lopsided victory. However, they lose two key pieces to their offense in the process. If Collaros has suffered a significant concussion it could see him missing impactful time. Add to that, the possible loss of Tre Mason and having two straight bye weeks could be something the Riders desperately need.

The Saskatchewan defense to no one’s surprise continues to dominate. They have now scored 11 defensive touchdowns tying a league record while setting a team one. The three turnovers were key in this one with two turning into points. The offense for Saskatchewan was carried by Cameron Marshall while looking anemic after losing Collaros.

BC showed next to nothing in this one. The defense was able to shut down the passing game, but they could not stop the run to save their lives, especially when the whole world knew the Riders were running the ball. They gave up 295 total yards with 199 of that coming on the ground as Saskatchewan thrashed them on the ground.

The offense for the Lions couldn’t move the ball and seemed like they were never out of their own zone. They had just 155 yards passing and an even worse 59 on the ground. Travis Lulay was never able to develop any rhythm or find any success as the Rider defense made his life difficult all night. The team now has one more week to fight for third place in the West.

Player of the Game: Cameron Marshall. Marshall carried the ball 19 times for 134 yards while eating up the clock and being something for Brandon Bridge to lean on late in the game. The defense for the Riders was playing at an all-star caliber

 

Toronto (4-12) – 10

Montreal (3-13)– 40

It’s Week 20 of the CFL and Johnny Manziel still doesn’t have a win. Will he change that in this game against the lowly Argonauts?

Both teams come into this game fighting for the first overall pick as both teams’ seasons ended a long time ago. The Alouettes scored first in this one as Manziel and Stanback drove the Alouettes down the field but were stalled on the six-yard line and would have to settle for a 13-yard field goal.

The Argos would get on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter as well as a 57-yard punt from Ronnie Pfeffer would sail into the end zone for the CFL’s finest rouge.

The Argos would take the lead with a 25-yard field goal from Drew Brown.
Montreal however, would score the first major of the game on the last play of the first quarter, Manziel would dump a pass off to Stanback, who then found some empty space and rumbled 42-yards into the end zone, giving the Alouettes a 10-4 lead.

Manziel and the Alouettes would get tricky with it in the second quarter as Manziel would lateral it off to Eugene Lewis who then quickly threw to a wide-open George Johnson for a 61-yard TD and a 20-4 lead.

They would kick another field goal to close out the half and head to the locker room with a 23-4 lead.

The Alouettes would start the second half and keep on carrying the momentum as they extended their lead four minutes into the second half with a 21-yard field goal. However, the Argonauts would finally respond with a major. James Franklin would cap off an eight-play, 91-yard drive with a TD pass to Armanti Edwards. Toronto’s two-point conversion failed as they would trail 26-10.

John Bowman, a lifelong Montreal Alouette was playing his final game in front of the home crowd, he capped off an amazing fourth quarter which started with a sack by recovering a Franklin fumble forced by Ryan Brown, in the end, zone for a defensive touchdown to give the Alouettes a 33-10 lead.

This game was all Montreal as they’d add another major to the board as Pipkin would find Stanback for a 10-yard catch-and-run TD, giving the Als a 40-10 lead, which they’d take home.

Even though Johnny Manziel got taken out of the game at halftime, because the Alouettes wanted to “evaluate Pipkin”, he was credited with his first CFL win, which would be his first professional win in years. There’s not much evaluation to go through with this game as it was two bottom feeding teams. Better luck next year Montreal.

Toronto looks bad, who would’ve thought that this team won the Grey Cup last year. They need to figure out their QB situation as the turmoil there was their main problem this season.

Player of the Game: William Stanback 9 carries, 60 yards. 2 catches, 52 yards, 2 TDs

 

CFL Week 20 Recap

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