Danny Austin’s 10 Takeaways from the Stampeders’ loss to the Lions

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It could credibly be argued that the Calgary Stampeders were one play away from beating the B.C. Lions.

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One first down. One catch. One play that took a few more precious seconds off the clock and/or moved the Stamps into field goal territory.

That’s football, though.

You can go back and pick over every game and you’ll find plays that might have changed the outcome had they gone the other way.

Ultimately, the B.C. Lions executed when they needed to on Saturday night and the Stampeders’ offence simply couldn’t find a way to stay on the field long enough to preserve the 30-18 lead they built at halftime.

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The end result: a 41-40 victory for the Lions and a lot of frustrated faces around McMahon Stadium.

In three games this season against the teams that are ahead of them in the CFL’s West Division standings, the Stamps (5-3) have gone right down to the wire with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-1) twice and lost on a field goal in the dying second to the Lions (7-1).

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They’re close to winning those games, they’re just not finding ways to get over the finish line.

Here are 10 takeaways from Saturday night’s loss

LET’S START HERE 

I was a little taken aback by some of the post-game reaction to the game. Not by the breathless race to see who among the media could present themselves as the biggest possible Nathan Rourke fanboy, but by the anger about the way the contest went.

Shout-out to Deb Rule for finally going on Twitter and saying, essentially “that was pretty awesome.”

I get the disappointment from Stamps fans about the loss, but if we’re being real, that game was absolutely incredible from an entertainment perspective.

It was the highest-scoring game of the year and featured two very good teams duking it out.

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When you pair that with the Stamps’ last home contest, a 35-28 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it’s obvious that Calgary football fans are getting their money’s worth when they show up to McMahon Stadium this season.

The Stamps have had four home games. Every one of them has been decided by one score or less. The Stamps have also scored at least 28 points in all of those contests.

They’ve got work to do if they’re going to win the Grey Cup, but nobody can say this squad isn’t entertaining.

Stampeders running back Dedrick Mills runs the ball against the Lions on Saturday.
Stampeders running back Dedrick Mills runs the ball against the Lions on Saturday. Photo by Al Charest /Postmedia

THAT SECOND HALF

Here is how the second half went for the Stampeders’ offence, drive by drive: Field goal (7 plays). Punt (3 plays). Punt (4 plays). Fumble (1 play). Punt (6 plays). Punt (5 plays).

The unit only managed to score three points in that two-quarter stretch, while picking up only four first downs after the field goal that opened the half.

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A lot of the credit has to go to the Lions’ defence. They played awfully well in the second half and closed down on whoever had the ball with speed and precision.

But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that the Stamps’ offence struggled in the second half and it put the defence in a situation where they were on the field for far too long.

ESTABLISHING THE RUN 

Running the ball has been such a huge part of the Stampeders’ game plans this year, so it was a little surprising that they only ran the ball 11 times on Saturday, especially because they did manage to open up a decent lead.

Dedrick Mills did have a late third-quarter fumble and maybe that played its part, but he was otherwise averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

This is not meant to be questioning the play-calling. Head coach Dave Dickenson himself acknowledged the running game didn’t get going the way it normally has this season, and if Ka’Deem Carey can get back soon it’s scary to think about what a Carey-Mills combo might look like.

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NO IDEA 

It’s basically impossible for someone with my knowledge level of football to break down the Stamps’ defensive performance on Saturday night. I’m nowhere near a coach.

Nathan Rourke threw for 488 yards, but Nathan Rourke is a very good quarterback and he was given a lot of chances to throw the ball.

Having to cover Bryan Burnham, Dominique Rhymes and Lucky Whitehead is no easy task, especially when starting defensive backs Tre Roberson and Branden Dozier — who was sorely missed — and middle linebacker Jameer Thurman are unavailable.

The Stamps only allowed 45 rushing yards, which is obviously a positive.

The three-man defensive line that the Stamps used worked wonders early, although the Lions did seem to adjust to it as the game went on.

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But 41 points is a lot to allow. There’s no getting around that.

I’m just not entirely sure that blaming anyone in particular is productive or correct.

Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke takes off with the ball under pressure from Stampeders defensive lineman Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund on Saturday.
Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke takes off with the ball under pressure from Stampeders defensive lineman Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund on Saturday. Photo by Al Charest /Postmedia

TOUGH BREAK 

It felt like Jalen Philpot was having his breakout moment.

The Stamps’ first-round draft pick had a huge 75-yard kickoff return early in the game and added three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

It was the type of performance that makes you wonder just how good this kid can be.

His night was ended early by what appeared to be a hit to the head, though, and that definitely seemed to hurt the Stamps’ offence.

Shawn Bane also caught five passes for 64 yards but was fighting with cramps later in the game, while Richard Sindani did not return to the game in the second half. I’m not sure what the issue was there.

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That’s three of the Stamps’ five starting receivers who were dealing with injuries. That’s especially tough when you consider that Malik Henry, their top receiver this year, was also out of the lineup.

As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of anger pointed at the Stamps’ passing game after the game from fans on social media. Some of it was justified, but let’s remember that they were extremely shorthanded.

NOT REALLY DEBATABLE

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I said I needed to see Rourke beat either the Stamps or the Bombers before I was willing to name him the league’s frontrunner for Most Outstanding Player.

Truthfully, my opinion had changed even before Saturday evening, but his performance 100% solidified my view that he’s the league’s top guy right now.

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He completed 39-of-52 passes for 488 yards and threw two touchdowns while running in two himself. Yes, he threw two interceptions, but those were early and he bounced back.

There isn’t really anyone who is close to him in the race for MOP right now.

It wasn’t a one-man show for the Lions on Saturday night. Rourke’s receivers are amazing and their defence stepped up in a major way in the second half.

But that should take nothing away from the young man. He’s a superstar and the best player in the league right now.

THE PASS GAME

As I mentioned earlier, the Stamps’ passing game had to deal with some challenges on Saturday night.

But I understand the frustration with the way they played in the second half.

I’m going to use a cop-out here and just say that I think the issues are probably pretty complex but can also be solved. The Stamps showed improvements in the red zone and actually had two touchdown receptions.

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There’s talent there, but to the naked eye it does look like something’s just not clicking.

Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes celebrates with holder Cody Grace after making a field goal on Saturday.
Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes celebrates with holder Cody Grace after making a field goal on Saturday. Photo by Al Charest /Postmedia

HE’S GOT IT 

Peyton Logan did have a fumble on Saturday, so he didn’t pitch a perfect game.

But boy was he good.

The 23-year-old has taken on kick return duties like an absolute boss this season, giving the Stamps great field position and also scoring points.

This is the highest praise I can possibly give a returner, but he’s reminding me a little bit of Roy Finch when he’s out on the field.

On Saturday, Logan returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. It should have been the play that sealed the win for the Stamps.

It’s his second touchdown of the year, the other coming on a missed field goal return. He also had a return TD against the Bombers a few weeks ago that was called back for a hold.

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Logan’s making a real difference for the Stamps right now. He’s a game-changing talent.

THE GOAT 

I ran out of ways to highlight Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes’ excellence a long time ago. I’m pretty sure the beat reporter who came before my time had the same problem.

He’s just been so good for so long. So automatic.

He’s been as good as ever this season, maybe better.

His previous career high was a 52-yard field goal. He’s hit from 53 yards twice this season, including on Saturday when he also hit from 51 yards.

The fact fans were seriously debating whether the Stamps should have left themselves vulnerable to a big return and tried to use Paredes from even further out with about a minute left tells you just how confident they are in the future hall-of-famer.

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THE OTHER GOAT 

Since I started covering the Stampeders in 2016, Max Campbell has been working as a communications coordinator for the team. He’s there on the sidelines at every practice and in the press box at every game.

I’ve often made it my life goal to annoy him as much as possible. I complain about the timing of the delivery of the halftime pizza, I whine about the selection of in-game drinks and force him to walk across the field to unlock the door to the nicer washroom during practices.

I’m not sure I ever made him crack, though. He just kept smiling and telling me to “Ask Dave” whenever I threw a question at him he didn’t want to answer.

Anyway, Max is off to pursue a new opportunity. Saturday was his last game working with the Stamps and all of us in the little media contingent are going to miss him.

He’s the best dude, and I wanted to take the little space that’s afforded to me here to thank him for all he’s done. See you on the mountain, buddy.

daustin@postmedia.com 

www.twitter.com/DannyAustin_9 

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