Bombers’ Liegghio on a short leash
Kicker’s performance one of the lowlights in a CFL week packed with highlights
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After lamenting a lack of action in Week 9 of the CFL schedule — a rather odd break from an exciting 2022 season to date — the league returned to must-watch TV over the weekend.
Week 10 didn’t disappoint, beginning with the Montreal Alouettes’ (3-6) stunning 20-17 victory over the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-1) to hand the back-to-back Grey Cup champions their first loss of the season. Then it was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-6) clawing their way back in the fourth quarter to defeat provincial rival Toronto Argonauts (4-4), 34-27, at Tim Hortons Field.
That set up Saturday’s double-header, which opened with the B.C. Lions (7-1) narrowly defeating the Calgary Stampeders, 41-40, at McMahon Stadium. Finally, the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-4), fresh off the bye, pulled away late to hand the Edmonton Elks (2-7) another loss, 34-23, at Commonwealth Stadium.
As is always the case, there’s plenty to get into — on and off the field — so let’s dive into the latest edition of the CFL Rundown.
1) I wrote at length about the Bombers first loss of the season in my day-after column, but there are a couple themes worth revisiting. It was a rough evening for kicker Marc Liegghio, who botched a last-second 32-yard field-goal attempt that would have sealed the win, and then hit the right upright on a 37-yarder in OT to cement the loss. I’ll leave it at this: Liegghio will likely get the benefit of the doubt — he was 18-for-20 on FGs prior to Friday — but his leash will be extremely short. So short that I’m not sure what he can do between now and playoffs to convince the coaching staff he can be trusted to come through in the clutch.
2) Anyone arguing the Bombers should have tried to punt the ball through the end zone is really leaning into the benefit of hindsight. As for launching a field goal as far as possible, so that if it missed it would still result in a game-winning single, I believe that’s what Liegghio was trying to do. The problem is that would have meant firing a 57-yarder and that’s just not in his range, shown by botching the kick in the worst way possible.
3) The Alouettes won the game because they won the battle in the trenches. The Bombers’ O-line was banged up and tired, and last week it was exposed, surrendering five sacks. But consider while quarterback Zach Collaros was running for his life much of the night, the Bombers still could have — and should have — prevailed.
4) When Dominique Davis scored his first QB sneak touchdown for the Alouettes, I wondered if he meant anything by firing the ball at the Bombers “W” logo emblazoned on the wall at the back of the end zone. That was all but confirmed after his second score as Davis, a former Bomber, made the questionable decision to jump into the stands, where he was met with a few shots to the helmet from some unimpressed fans.
5) The Ticats flipped the script last week. After multiple occasions this season of building up a big lead only to collapse down the stretch, it was Hamilton playing the role of the comeback kid. The Ticats outduelled the Argos 17-3 in the fourth quarter to earn a one-score victory. And they did it without starting QB Dane Evans and No. 1 receiver Bralon Addison.
6) It’s been difficult to get a read on the Argos, or any team in the East for that matter. Toronto currently leads the division at 4-4, with Hamilton and Montreal close behind at 3-6.
7) Running back Andrew Harris left the game late in the first quarter with a pectoral injury and wasn’t able to return. Reports now say he’ll be out much longer, with a return date of at least four-to-six weeks. That’s assuming it doesn’t require surgery, which would likely mean an end to his season. Harris had seen his production drop of late, with a combined 64 rushing yards in his previous two games. His health was among the Bombers’ biggest concerns when the team contemplated whether or not to re-sign the future Hall of Famer.
8) Speaking of blowing leads, the Stamps had a 12-point edge over the Lions heading into the second half before Nathan Rourke became Nathan Rourke. Calgary pivot Bo Levi Mitchell, who surpassed Henry Burris for the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards, described his team’s effort in the final two quarters as “f—king terrible,” which was edited out on the team’s website.
9) Rourke, who threw for 488 yards, marking his second straight game and third of the season that he’s eclipsed 400 passing yards, is the hands-down frontrunner for the league’s most outstanding player. He currently leads the CFL in passing yards (2,906) and passing TDs (23), and on Tuesday was named the league’s top performer for a third straight week.
10) B.C. is nipping at Winnipeg’s heels for first place in the West, and the win over the Stamps was a significant one. While the Lions trail the Bombers in their season series, they now lead Saskatchewan and Calgary 1-0, with each victory coming on the road. The Bombers and Lions play twice over the final three weeks of the season, in what could decide top spot in the Division.
11) I feel like I say this every week, but the Elks are an absolute mess. The loss to the Riders, who snapped a three-game losing skid, was Edmonton’s 12th straight defeat on home turf. The last time the Elks won at Commonwealth Stadium was back on Oct. 12, 2019.
12) This falls on GM/head coach Chris Jones. The Elks lack discipline and culture, and with several players coming in and out of the lineup each week, it’s no surprise this team remains a tire fire. I don’t see things turning around anytime soon, especially without a reliable QB to lean on.
13) The Riders also look to be in trouble. Returning to action following their first bye week of the season, Saskatchewan at one point actually trailed the lowly Elks in the fourth quarter. They would come to life down the stretch, scoring 12 unanswered points, including a late touchdown by Duke Williams (followed by a pretty funny celebration).
14) Riders QB Cody Fajardo salvaged what was a tough outing by delivering a TD pass to Williams and then scoring his second rushing TD of the game with under two minutes to play. Prior to that offensive burst, Fajardo had just over 70 passing yards, eventually ending the night with 130, including an interception. With injuries and inconsistency, that crossover spot seems destined to belong to Saskatchewan even though it’s only the midway mark of the season.
15) Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was honoured over the weekend with a football field named after him in his hometown of North Bay, Ont. O’Shea hates any individual recognition, but he’s a staunch supporter of his roots, and when I asked him about it he kept his response brief, though you could feel the pride and emotion. Congrats to Mike and all he’s accomplished with the Bombers. I have no doubt one day he’ll have a statue standing outside IG Field.
16) Pretty cool to see Chris Streveler get another shot in the NFL, this time with the New York Jets. And he made the most of his first preseason game, leading the Jets to a 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Streveler was called on in the fourth quarter, when he completed six of nine passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns, including a five-yard score to Calvin Jackson Jr. with 16 seconds left to secure the win. He also had two rushes for 31 yards. Jets head coach Robert Saleh was so impressed with Streveler’s effort that he singled him out after the game in his post-win address.
17) The CFL is losing one of its best sideline reporters as Sara Orlesky has accepted a job on the content team of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. That’s a massive blow to CFL on TSN coverage, with Orlesky having worked the sidelines since 2008. Few, if any, are as professional as Orlesky and I’ll miss seeing her around games.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 1:04 PM CDT: lines rephrased