Week 15 of the Canadian Football League wrapped up Monday afternoon with five teams confirmed for a postseason berth; now all that awaits is who will get the bye.
With Winnipeg’s win over Hamilton they secured their playoff berth, a first since 2008. B.C. and Edmonton won their games and will join Calgary in the Western division while Montreal will join Winnipeg.
Subsequently, with Toronto’s loss Monday to Montreal, they have been eliminated from any playoff opportunities. It is now between Saskatchewan and Hamilton for the sixth and final spot, with Hamilton the likely odd-favourite to make it.
The week started with Winnipeg visiting Hamilton at Ivor Wynne Stadium and with Winnipeg already winning their previous two games this season, the tie-breaker was non-essential; however, a win would keep them on pace with Montreal for first in the East.
Buck Pierce got the start once again after sitting last week against Montreal and played one of his best games with the Blue and Gold, a collective effort from all parties concerned.
The offensive line did their job keeping him upright and for the most part, protected in the pocket to make plays while opening holes for Chris Garrett to run for 131 yards, Winnipeg’s first 100-yard game.
Two receivers each received over 100 yards, with Greg Carr at 101 while newcomer Clarence Denmark finished the day 110.
The defense contained Kevin Glenn and made sure to make his night as painful as possible, limiting Glenn to just 109 yards of offense before being pulled in the second half.
Winnipeg was able to hold Hamilton to basically zero points for the first 14 minutes and 59 seconds of the first half before a Justin Medlock field goal gave them their first points to end the quarter.
To make matters worse for Hamilton, Buck Pierce found Greg Carr in the third for a 59-yard catch and run and Kevin Glenn was picked off by Brandon Stewart who returned it to the house to make it 26-3.
This was Winnipeg’s first complete game that saw all phases of the game come together; when this team executes, watch out.
Saturday night saw B.C. hosting the Calgary Stampeders, which turned into a quality night of entertainment from both teams.
B.C. started the season at 0-5 but have since gone on a six-game win streak before Saturday night, and with that win they are in a tie for first place at 8-6.
Travis Lulay was efficient in passing the ball, getting 252 yards and throwing two touchdowns. His footwork late in the fourth allowed him to find receiver Arland Bruce to get the first down and move B.C. into field goal range for Paul McCallum.
Before the night kicker Paul McCallum made his last 27 field goals and was looking to break the all-time record of 28 straight. McCallum made his mark and then broke it, adding on three more kicks to move the streak to 30 before missing his next kick.
With the game on the line and after a miss not long before, McCallum was given the opportunity to win the game for his club on a 53-yard field goal. He would make it.
For the Calgary Stampeders, their defense needed all but a stop to win the game after Paul McCallum’s field goal miss allowed Larry Taylor to return the ball to the house, putting them up by one point.
Henry Burris struggled early, fumbling the ball twice, one of which the B.C. defenders recovered and used to put up their first set of points. He would finish the day at 15 of 19 for 193-yards.
Jon Cornish would be held in check and contained for most of the game, only rushing for 49 yards and one touchdown.
The day that everyone was hoping would come arrived Monday as quarterback Anthony Calvillo brought his team to another win but more importantly passed Damon Allen as the all-time leading passer in football history, finishing the day at 72,428 yards.
Jamel Richardson was the receiver who caught the historic touchdown pass, running it 50 yards for the major to end the third quarter.
Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Damon Allen and Chris Berman all paid their tributes to Anthony Calvillo on his special day.
With this game, Anthony Calvillo also passed 4,000 passing yards on the season, his tenth straight.
For Toronto, this was a win or go home game as a loss would eliminate them from the playoffs and force them to wait another offseason for a chance towards a Grey Cup.
For quarterback Steven Jyles, this was his shot to lead his team after the defense continued to hold Montreal to field goals in the first half.
Toronto got off to a strong start after Chad Owens returned a punt to the house while Noel Prefontaine added a field goal to lead 10-3 after the first quarter.
From the second quarter and forward it was all Montreal, holding Toronto to three field goals. Steven Jyles was unable to sustain any real drives after finishing the day with 223 yards and an 80.9 rating, his best since returning.
With the season over for Toronto, their only real goal is to build chemistry but more importantly get ready to make several changes this offseason as they look towards 2012.
The final game of the week put the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the road to face the Edmonton Eskimos.
Saskatchewan was 2-2 heading into the day with Ken Miller as their head coach but quarterback Darian Durant was unable to start on a bum foot and so Ryan Dinwiddie got his third start of his career.
Dinwiddie was unable to move the ball effectively, turning it over three times in the first half and finished the day with 8-of-15 attempts for 83 yards.
Darian Durant didn’t fare much better coming in for relief throwing for 62 yards on 7-of-24 passing.
Donovan Alexander continued to be a problem for the Saskatchewan offense, picking off Dinwiddie at the Edmonton 29-yard line. He would finish up with another pick following a deep pass from Dinwiddie.
One of the telling stats for the Saskatchewan Roughriders is their offense’s inability to score points and their defense’s failure at stopping teams from scoring.
Through the last three games the Roughriders have been outscored 99-9, losing at an average of 33-3.
While the Roughriders have not mathematically been eliminated from the playoffs, they have made it harder on themselves at this point and may have their next loss as their finishing point.
Edmonton on the other hand is continuing to rise after faltering from their 5-0 start. Running back Jerome Messam continued to involve himself with the offense as he rushed for 118 yards and one touchdown.
Ricky Ray will need to be precise and on-target in the coming weeks as Edmonton will need to work hard if they want a shot at the bye in the postseason.
Offensive Player of the Week: Anthony Calvillo
Not only has Anthony Calvillo gone through a lot over the years, fighting cancer as well as watching his wife fight cancer, but to date you’d be hard-pressed to find such a man as kind and gentle as Calvillo. Throwing for over 72,000 yards in his 18-year career, many wonder just when will Calvillo hang the cleats up.
Defensive Player of the Week: Donovan Alexander
Although the Eskimos offense was unable to put a lot of points on the board after the turnovers, Donovan Alexander did his part to ensure that Saskatchewan didn’t either. With his two interceptions and three tackles, the Eskimos were able to hold off the Roughriders.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Paul McCallum
Paul McCallum entered the week on a field goal streak of 27 straight. With McCallum needing one more to tie and another to pass Dave Ridgway for the record, he would make three straight to set the new record at 30. None was bigger than his 53-yard field goal to win the game.