You can’t blame the Calgary Stampeders or Winnipeg Blue Bombers for playing things safe.
The result of Friday’s game at McMahon Stadium was quite literally meaningless, so why show your cards a week before the CFL playoffs?
For the first half, it looked like it would be the type of game we’ve seen so many times at the end of the year.
But in the second half, something changed and the fans who were shivering in the stands at McMahon Stadium actually got a pretty good show — from the Bombers, at least.
The Bombers exploded for 24 points in the third and fourth quarters, eventually cruising to a 36-13 win in cold-weather conditions.
It might have meant absolutely nothing in the standings, but it meant something to the Stamps.
“The competitor in you, it still pisses you off,” said Stamps quarterback Jake Maier. “But at the end of the day, we’re in the dance now. Everything that’s happened to this point has been nothing more than a learning experience — good and bad — and you just flush it and move on.”
The Bombers did a nice job moving the ball through the air at times, even with QB Zach Collaros sidelined. Backup Dru Brown completed 13-of-17 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns.
You can’t really say the same about the Stamps, but both Dedrick Mills and Peyton Logan ran the ball pretty effectively. At this point, it seems pretty obvious that if the Stampeders are going to have any success in the playoffs, it’s probably going to come on the ground.
Maier completed 6-of-15 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, while Tommy Stevens completed 2-of-4 passes for nine yards.
Not great, but not the end of the world.
What other conclusions can you draw from a game like this, though? That’s not even a criticism. By its very nature, this was not a game where taking risks and trying to win was incentivized in any meaningful way.
The Bombers had already wrapped-up first-place in the West Division.
The Stamps had already taken care of business and gotten the six wins they needed to sneak into the playoffs in third place in the CFL’s West Division. They’re travelling to Vancouver next weekend to face the BC Lions in the West Division Semi-Final.
Nobody was going up in the standings, and nobody was going down.
There are bigger games ahead, so the Stamps and the Bombers did the smart thing and tried to stay healthy and avoided tipping their hands. The Bombers just executed on their plays .The Stamps did not.
If the alternative was a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat battle where star players risked getting hurt, what fan would want that?
It’s probably not great for the CFL that the exact same calculation is going to be made by the six teams playing in all six games this weekend and that absolutely nothing is at-stake, but here we are.
What else does anyone who missed Friday’s game need to know?
The Stamps’ Adarius Taylor had a nice forced fumble that he recovered on his own on a short-yardage play. Teammate and receiver Cole Tucker had arguably his best game as a pro, coming down with 53 receiving yards and a touchdown. And Red and White linebacker Micah Awe was credited with 13 tackles and set a new single-season Stampeders record with 131.
So, yeah, there were some good things.
But at this point, nothing matters other than winning in Vancouver next weekend and keeping the season alive.
“We got out-played and out-coached,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “Hopefully our guys are ready to work and get another shot at them. The main thing for us is we’ve got to show up — even tomorrow. Watch the tape, put the work in, and — hopefully — get the result when we’re in B.C.”