If there was a theme for Week 14 of the Canadian Football League schedule, it was that the underdogs in each game all made valiant efforts only to fall short by the final whistle.
The B.C. Lions (4-8) were able to put behind a dismal first half, where they were limited to three points, by outscoring the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-5) 15-11 in the final two quarters in what ultimately ended with a 26-18 victory for Hamilton. Despite the Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-4) possessing a 19-3 lead in the fourth quarter, the Edmonton Elks (2-9) were able to claw their way back, falling just short, 19-17, by game's end.
The Ottawa Redblacks (2-11) looked as though they might earn a win against a team not from Edmonton, only to let a fourth-quarter lead slip in a 23-20 loss to the Toronto Argonauts (8-4). It was a similar story with the Montreal Alouettes (6-6), who gave the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-1) a run for their money through three quarters, before being outscored 10-0 in the final 15 minutes to complete a 31-21 final in favour of the Blue and Gold.
There is plenty to get to, both on and off the field, especially after this column went dark in Week 13 as I shifted gears to covering the Winnipeg Jets in California. That won't happen again this season, as it will be smooth sailing from here on out, until the Grey Cup is decided Dec. 12 in Hamilton.
So, sit back, relax and let's look back at the week that was in this the latest edition of CFL Rundown.
1) The CFL lost a larger-than-life figure this week with the passing of former Tiger-Cats great, defensive lineman Angelo Mosca, who died at the age of 84 following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. Mosca, a Canadian Football Hall of Famer that was remembered as much for winning five Grey Cups as he was for his sometimes-dirty play, was revered across the country for his ongoing love and support of CFL leading up to his final days. RIP.
2) I had written weeks ago following the signing of linebacker Derrick Moncrief by the Elks that the buzz around the league was that it wouldn't likely lead to other NFLers making their way north. Yeah, about that. Since Moncrief, we've seen the Roughriders ink receiver Duke Williams; the Calgary Stampeders add defensive back Tre Roberson and receiver Reggie Begelton; Toronto sign linebacker Nate Holley; and Winnipeg add kicker Sergio Castillo and defensive back Winston Rose.
3) For anyone holding out hope that maybe quarterback Chris Streveler might re-join the Bombers for another GC run, I direct you to Sunday's slate of NFL games. Streveler was activated to the Arizona Cardinals game day roster for the first in 2021, taking two snaps – one for a handoff; the other a two-yard run – in a 31-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
4) You know things aren't going well for you when you're excitedly announcing, as the Redblacks did this week, signings on special teams for the 2022 season. That said, seems kind of lucky to have kicker Lewis Ward, punter Richie Leone and dynamic returner DeVonte Dedmon all willing to stick with the organization after a tough season and potential to sign anywhere else.
5) The idle Stampeders raised some eyebrows following the release of receiver Josh Huff, who hasn't been lights out but had still registered more than 500 yards through the air. Postmedia's Danny Austin put any rumours to rest when he reported this decision had nothing to do with Huff's vaccination status (he's vaccinated) and everything to do with the addition of Begelton.
6) The Stampeders spent the week off on the bye and I'm curious how many went home or visited the U.S. to get their hands on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. There have been rumours circling around the league that Calgary has some high-profile talent still not vaccinated, and with the J and J vaccine requiring just one shot, with a two-week waiting period before being considered fully vaccinated, time is running out before the playoffs.
7) Lions QB Michael Reilly was visibly frustrated in his post-game talk with reporters, revealing that the headset microphones for B.C. were wonky the entire game. That's bush league for the CFL, and an unnecessary black eye in what was a crucial game for the Lions.
8) The Tiger-Cats have their QB in Jeremiah Masoli, who is averaging more than 300 passing yards since returning from injury five games ago, while also throwing eight touchdowns compared to no interceptions. With running back Don Jackson also proving to be a beast in the run game and Brandon Banks putting forth his best effort this week, Hamilton is finding its game at the right time.
9) The Tiger-Cats victory punched their ticket to the playoffs and also sealed a playoff berth for the Alouettes, while at the same time eliminating the Lions. The biggest takeaway from it all: there will be no crossover this season for the first time since 2015.
10) With the Elks losing to the Roughriders, it marked the first time in Edmonton's long history that they've gone winless at home (0-7) in a regular season.
11) It's been a weird year for the Roughriders, who, despite being 8-4, have many doubters on whether they're a dangerous team. Maybe it's that even though Saskatchewan has won three straight on the road, every one has been by a margin of five or less, and it has losing records to the Bombers (0-2) and Stampeders (1-2).
12) Or maybe it's because the Elks, playing with an unproven QB in Taylor Cornelius and without their best receivers Derel Walker and Greg Ellingson, as well as starting RB James Wilder Jr., were able to put up 205 passing yards on the Roughriders in the fourth quarter alone.
13) It's fair to ask where the Redblacks would be without the game-breaking ability of Dedmon. The 25-year-old registered his fifth return touchdown in just his 15th CFL game, beating the record formerly held by Gizmo Williams, who had five scores in his first 18 games. He's been a treat to watch, and a bright spot on an otherwise cloudy season for Ottawa.
14) Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice will be back next season, but it's hard to imagine for how long if he can't figure out the offence. On Saturday, 11 of his team's 14 drives travelled fewer than 20 yards and despite the defence creating four turnovers, including one on Toronto's eight-yard line, Ottawa could only muster a measly six points. It hasn't helped that they've dressed 13 different O-line combinations in as many games and have gone through quarterbacks almost as often.
15) Toronto and Hamilton meet at BMO Field on Friday in a game that will have major playoff implications, with a win by the Argonauts cementing first place in the East Division. A loss would put Hamilton in first place, giving them full control of their destiny in the final week of the regular season.
16) Watching Argonauts QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson and how inconsistent he is between starts, you have to believe they didn't think much of Nick Arbuckle.
19) The Alouettes look like a team that could be dangerous in the East come playoffs. With Trevor Harris now at QB, and RB William Stanback a nightmare for any defence, including the Bombers, I wouldn't count them out even with having to win twice on the road to make it to the GC.
20) It's becoming almost comical how good the Bombers defence is in the fourth quarter. For those keeping count, it's six points in 12 games. Just incredible.
21) The biggest takeaway from the Bombers this week is they exited Saturday's game without any notable injuries. I don't expect RB Andrew Harris to return until the playoffs, though I can't say the same about right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, who sounds like he might come back sometime over the next two games.
22) Finally, it's time for starter Zach Collaros to be closely monitored, with No. 2 quarterback Sean McGuire getting some notable time behind centre. The Bombers have a lot of stars they don't want to lose, but Collaros is far and away the most important piece to the puzzle of winning back-to-back Grey Cups.
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.