After a Week 8 slate of games that saw high level execution, limited turnovers and the emergence of Caleb Evans as the man in Ottawa. Things took a turn in Week 9 and reverted back to the trends set through the first third of the season with BC Lions’ Nathan Rourke tearing up the Edmonton Elks, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats slinging it all over the place and Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Zach Collaros finding a way to win, even on a difficult night.
As always we dive into the target charts to illustrate the week that was ahead of a couple rematches to kickoff week 10 when Montreal heads to IG Field in Winnipeg tonight and the Argos visit Hamilton Friday.
In a performance that was strikingly similar to a late season tilt between the Bombers and Alouettes in 2021, Trevor Harris and the Montreal Alouettes passing attack did their best to squeeze the rock, create turnovers defensively and manage the game to a victory.
However, a late push from Winnipeg would be too much and as Harris was forced to push the ball downfield the Bombers defensive backfield took advantage in the form of two late game interceptions.
Zach Collaros wasn’t his usual magical second down self for much of the Week 9 ballgame, and credit where it is due with Montreal finding ways to get pressure or take away his usual throwing lanes.
Despite the Als’ best efforts, come the fourth quarter Collaros made a couple out of this world throws, including a deep shot down the right sideline to Drew Wolitarsky that could not have been more picturesque if Collaros painted it by hand.
Looking at his chart I found the absence of any attempts 20-30 yards depth interesting and going 2-9 with 2 interceptions beyond 30-yards in the air puzzling for such an effective deep ball thrower.
Selfishly I spent the entire night on TSN willing Bo Levi Mitchell towards 143-yards passing so I could be the voice to call his move atop the all-time Stampeders passing yardage record.
It wasn’t meant to be as he came up five yards short in what can be best described as a befuddling performance that included another low completion rate to Kamar Jorden who is really having trouble as of late establishing what we all assumed would be an all-star level connection with Mitchell this season.
One week after setting a career high in completion percentage against the Toronto Argonauts and acquiring a road win, Caleb Evans came home and came crashing back to earth as many young quarterbacks do after a big week.
What really concerned me was the total disappearance of Evans’ fundamental footwork and the patience allowing the game to come to him that led his team to the Argos win.
I hope this isn’t the last we see of Evans, but he’s received so many opportunities over the past two years and has unfortunately put up a string of games that make you wonder if the next step will consistently ever come.
Many in fans Ottawa were calling for Arbuckle at half, but he entered late in the third quarter to receive his first real snaps in REDBLACKS threads. He ended as the game’s leading passer, picking apart what often felt like a prevent defence.
Once in the score zone and having to make the difficult throws through traffic the Stampeders defence feasted with two late game interceptions as the West Division continued their dominance over the East, even on the road.
Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Losing Bralon Addison and reintegrating Mike Jones after his release from Edmonton certainly played a role in this one, but Dane Evans did everything he could to re-create the short and intermediate excellence that won his team the East Final and sent the Ticats to the Grey Cup last November.
The challenge here clearly was a completion rate of one of 10 on attempts of 20 or more air yards and a late game interception on miscommunication between Evans and Jake Burt.
With Dane out on the one-game injured list, Matthew Shiltz gets his chance now to see what’s possible with the Ticats needing to get Tim White and Steven Dunbar Jr. rolling in a big way at home Friday against Toronto in their first rematch of the season.
It wasn’t a particularly outstanding performance from McLeod Bethel-Thompson, but he made a great touchdown throw to Cam Phillips on the move and shuffled around the pocket all night. Effectively keeping his throwing lanes open while pushing the ball slightly more vertical than Evans.
It’s worth noting after all the noise about Chad Kelly in the preseason and Kelly replacing Bethel-Thompson in garbage time week three against BC that Bethel-Thompson has taken every damn snap for the Argos. He refuses to come off the field and I respect the battle he is putting up to stay on the turf and find ways to contribute to the Argos success.
Turns out the Lions defence, even without Bo Lokombo on the field, was ferocious and beyond some chunk yardage to Derel Walker as the game was already out of reach, Cornelius never got into a flow in this game.
The Lion King returned once again, and to unimaginable levels of accuracy, anticipation and decision making. There is nothing I can write here that will validate his greatness further, just go to CFL.ca and watch the condensed highlights if you want to see what elite quarterback play looks like.