Week 1 of the 2019 CFL season hinted that there may be a new top dog. And the evidence is Saturday evening in Calgary. Going into McMahon Stadium usually means leaving a loser, but the Ottawa Redblacks debunked that trend in unusual fashion.
Two other results stood out.
A business-like display by the Blue Bombers spoiled Mike Reilly’s B.C. Lions debut, and on opening night Simoni Lawrence’s headshot on Zach Collaros, who is now on the six-game injured list, has put the Riders in a scramble at quarterback.
CFL Week 1 Convincing Performances
Calgary Stampeders Loss vs. Ottawa
The Stamps should feel uneasy. Saturday night was supposed to be a lay-up for Calgary. A tune-up. But Calgary dropped their first home game before Labour Day since 2014 (28 straight wins) in brutal, foreign fashion, giving up 32 points.
Ottawa rushed for 125 yards with ease, and it would’ve been way more if not for some timely stops by Calgary late in the game. Mossis Madu had over 100 yards midway through the third quarter. Quite different from a defence that averaged a league-best 86.5 rushing yards against per game a year ago.
The Redblacks then outscored the Stampeders 11-0 in the fourth quarter when Calgary should’ve put the game away. Instead, they recorded one first down in a span of over 15 minutes in the second half.
Not to mention Calgary had this game handed to them. Ottawa’s Dom Davis threw four interceptions (and zero touchdowns!), including a pick-six. The run defence, stalling offence in crunch time and inability to capitalize on turnovers spells future trouble for Calgary.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Win at B.C.
Winnipeg is the popular Grey Cup pick this season because they didn’t make any drastic changes. They opened their season with a heavy test, going against Mike Reilly in his debut in Vancouver.
The Bombers started three new interior offensive linemen and were without one of their big fishes from free agency in Chris Matthews. His absence was a non-factor after Winnipeg put forth a balanced 170 rushing yards and 184 passing yards in a 10-point win.
Matt Nichols was efficient, accurate and didn’t turn the ball over — in fact no Bomber did.
The big takeaway was Winnipeg’s run game led by Andrew Harris. Harris looked explosive and got to the open field on nearly all of his 16 carries for 148 yards. The newbies on the Bombers offensive line deserve a lot of credit for overpowering B.C.’s front seven.
The Bombers had some early defensive issues — specifically Chandler Fenner and Brandon Alexander — but limited Reilly’s offence to six points in the second half.
If the Bombers can defeat Edmonton and get the better of Trevor Harris in Week 3, it’s safe to crown Winnipeg as the team to beat in the West Division.
Saskatchewan Roughriders Loss at Hamilton.
After a scary injury to Zach Collaros, it’s clear the Riders will carry over their 2018 identity. And by that I mean they have a great defence that can score but are without a true starting quarterback.
The difference this season is William Powell. Powell’s an all-star back and will be the primary source of offence in Saskatchewan’s old-school approach.
The Riders were one of two teams to rush 30-plus times in Week 1 and were the only team to pass the ball less than 58 per cent of their offensive plays, which resulted in a league-high 172 rushing yards.
Collaros’ injury is unfortunate and you wish him a speedy return, but I believe the Riders will be just as good if not better with Cody Fajardo or Isaac Harker behind centre. With Powell and company, they can focus on a run-heavy gameplan while having the defence to keep them in games, as the case in Week 1.
Bonus: Ottawa Redblacks and Edmonton Eskimos Wins
Ottawa shocked a lot of people on Saturday, proving they may not be bound for last in the East. Contrary, Dom Davis was lucky to throw only four picks and the outcome spoke more about Calgary. Ottawa will need Mossis Madu’s Week 1 effort week-in-week-out too.
Trevor Harris’ Eskimos debut was excellent, but Edmonton nearly blowing a double-digit lead to a relief quarterback would’ve been a disaster. Edmonton’s got weak areas on defence and will have to string together a few more wins to be viewed as a first-class team.
The Last Word
It’s only one week, but Week 1 of the CFL season showed a lot. Calgary’s taken a serious drop-off, Winnipeg looks like the team to beat and the Riders are who they were in 2018.
In lesser importance, Edmonton and Hamilton looked good in winning efforts, Montreal and B.C.’s losses aren’t the end of the world and there may be hope in Ottawa.
It’s tough to foresee all three games in Week 2, but don’t be surprised if both Week 1 losers even out their record, or if by Saturday afternoon three new teams clinch their first win of 2019.
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