Monday, November 14, 2016
ETCH'S & O'S: CFL SEMIFINALS RECAP
EAST DIV SEMIFINAL
EDMONTON 24 HAMILTON 21
It was kind of what I expected from those two teams. Hamilton came back and made it an incredible game at the end. Both games on Sunday were outstanding as far as going back and forth.
In the case of the Eastern Semifinal - kind of like last year's Grey Cup - Edmonton scored touchdowns on their first two posessions and looked like they were going to be unstoppable. But then they called it a day as far as scoring touchdowns were concerned.
Hamilton then ended up with a pair of touchdowns. There were a total of four offensive touchdowns scored in the game which is below average for production in the CFL because there's such a distinct disparity in the rules for offense against defense.
I thought Mike Reilly was everything. In the preview I neglected significant defensive contributors that Edmonton has like Almondo Sewell, Odell Willis, I've always had a great deal of respect for J.C. Sherritt and Deon Lacey is an outstanding contributor in all phases. He's a rare 230-lb missile coming downfield. His effort level is up there with the best in the league. They've got some real talent on defense, all of which were holdovers from last year's Grey Cup winning team.
But Edmonton had 51 defensive snaps in this game, as opposed to 55, which is below the norm. This is a by-product of running back John White who's fantastic. He was the star of the game and they controlled the ball all day.
If you cut these two Head Coaches open - Edmonton's Jason Maas and Hamilton's Kent Austin - they really don't want to run the ball. It's almost a bit of a manical thing where I believe they're disappointed when the run game is effective because they think everyone's anticipating they'll keep running it!
But running means control. And White was really spectacular at times and he has an incredible ability to stop on a dime, and then explode forward. It borders on remarkable.
In the end, it was Edmonton's ability to run the ball more consistently on offense but no defense in the CFL game is set up to fill in all the gaps like is required to fill in when the offenses are so inconsistent. That was the case again in this game.
I thought Zach Collaros had signs but he is just not at his peak and I don't think you've seen him at his peak in the 2016 season. Of course my narrative is that he's sans (former offensive coordinator) Tommy Condell and he misses him greatly.
The one significant concern or disagreement I had was that Edmonton kicked the field goal at the end. I think they should've kicked for a single. In other words, line up for a field goal but miss by design.
I'm sure the readers are going to ask why in the world you'd do that, but there was a greater chance of hitting the uprights with that wind knocking the ball around. Imagine if it had gone as a dead ball and no points! We'd be back to a tie game.
That's why strategically it doesn't matter what the kicker says, even if he has a $1000 bonus in his contract for field goals, so be it, but you should kick for a single.
As far as Mike Reilly goes, I have no idea what the extent of his injury is but that seemed to be a designed run play and the crowns of the helmets of both defenders hit him right on the wrist and on another part of his body. You rarely see spearing called in this league, but that's exactly what it was yet it wasn't called and there was no discussion by the TSN panel about it.
WEST DIV SEMIFINAL
B.C. 32 WINNIPEG 31
Working backwards, looking at the end of the game and Winnipeg Head Coach Mike O'Shea's decision to try a 61-yard field goal with 30-some seconds remaining instead of going for it on 3rd-and-4 around the B.C. 50-yard line, it was amazing that it was at such a break point.
It was 3rd-and-4 when that decision was made and if they'd gone for it and gained 4 1/2 yards, I think Medlock would be about 85% to make it from there. It was right there at that point in time and clearly had they gone for it and not made it, the game would've been over.
It's six of one and half a dozen of the other whether you go for it, or kick it like they did. With hindsight, it was short and not even close.
I'm not sure that I'm certain whether it was a good decision or a bad one by O'Shea and since it didn't work, it's easy to say now what they should've done.
What I thought was more critical in the game was near the end of the first half where BC scored a touchdown with over a minute remaining. Winnipeg scored field goals in each of the third and fourth quarters and BC scored at least two in the second half.
BC scored five touchdowns in that game and Winnipeg scored three. That was more production that Winnipeg generally gets from its offense and more than BC usually generates as well.
I thought the whole game was back and forth. Both games were great and I can't stress that enough. It was great for fans in terms of the excitement.
The big difference was the offenses were far more productive than they'd been mos of the year. They were close to 1,000 yards combined.
Most of the stats favoured the BC Lions, aside from the turnovers that Winnipeg got early.
Part of me was saying, "Wally you made hires at the outset of the year and almost suffered that fate at the end" but the better team won. The better team in both games won. That's a good thing moving forward for the league.
It was a valiant effort by Winnipeg that I wouldn't have predicted based on their last two games. They were not on a positive trajectory.
You've got to give it to Matt Nichols. He performed at a higher level than even in the regular season. This was a productive effort in passing and he had some great catches from #83, Dressler and Smith.
Dressler seems to be slowing a bit and I don't know if it's an accumulation of the injuries this year but there were times that guys ran him down on at least two plays that I don't think he would've been caught on in the past.
Again, they were doing some good things but both defenses yielded a lot on both sides.
This game reminded me that Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian are an outstanding pair of linebackers and they were just flying around.
Winnipeg's got good personnel, they continue to improve it, but I don't see them as being any better than Edmonton. If I had to pick to play a game tomorrow night, I'd go with Edmonton because of Mike Reilly.
Obviously it's an improved season for the Blue Bombers and the media in Winnipeg wants desperately for this regime to be successful so it's sounding like it's a slam dunk for GM Kyle Walters to be extended and he will shortly thereafter extend Mike O'Shea.
I still think they have a lot of things to cure, and I'm sure they'll attempt to undertake that in the off-season.
That's it for the semifinals!
I'll see ya when I see ya,