If you don't think the CFL is entertaining, you obviously missed the Sunday night clash between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders.
While both teams only found the end zone once, the Bombers and Stamps traded jabs all night before the game was decided on the final play — a missed 52-yard field goal try by Calgary kicker Rene Paredes. The missed kick, and the heroics of rookie kicker Marc Liegghio, gave the Blue and Gold an 18-16 win and a 3-1 record and keep them in the hunt for the top spot in the Western Division with the undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders, who they face in their next two games. The result keeps the Stampeders at the bottom of the standings at 1-3 as they try to adjust to life without quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who's out with a broken leg.
The Bombers managed to send the 22,806 fans at IG Field home happy, but the team won't be all smiles when they watch the tape, as it was far from a perfect performance.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday night's contest:
Help is on the way, but catch the dang ball
The Bombers had a case of the dropsies on Sunday. Receiver Kenny Lawler, who caught everything in sight in training camp, has four drops in the last two weeks. His two drops against Calgary were drive killers and Drew Wolitarsky also had a crucial drop on second down that forced the Bombers to punt. Lawler still hauled in six passes for 94 yards, but if he wants people to continue singing his praises and tout him as one of the best receivers in the league, he needs to hang on to the ball.
Rasheed Bailey had a big night, topping 100 yards for the first time in his CFL career, thanks to a 50-yard catch and run that set up an Andrew Harris touchdown, but it was a so-so night for this unit. Wolitarsky finished without a catch, Darvin Adams had one catch for 14 yards, but first-year wideout Kelvin McKnight managed to contribute a bit as he made three catches for 22 yards.
The Bombers announced Monday their receiving corps will be getting a boost. The club has signed 33-year-old Naaman Roosevelt, a veteran of five CFL seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Roosevelt was with the Montreal Alouettes in training camp before getting released. It remains to be seen how much Roosevelt has left in the tank, but he played well in 2019 with 77 receptions for 946 yards and one touchdown in 18 games. Roosevelt is a two-time 1,000-yard receiver and was Saskatchewan's Most Outstanding Player in 2016 and a West Division all-star in 2017.
Roosevelt, who was signed prior to the Calgary game, is expected to join the Bombers on Friday, but it remains to be seen if he'll be in the lineup Sunday in Saskatchewan against his old team.
Liegghio's got a leg
It was a storybook debut for rookie Marc Liegghio at kicker. Filling in for an injured Tyler Crapigna, who's on the six-game injured list with a hamstring issue, Liegghio missed an extra point in the first quarter but responded by going a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, including a game-winning from 45 yards kick in the game's final minute. Head coach Mike O'Shea showed faith in Liegghio, sending him out for a 50-yard attempt after he had missed the convert and the 24-year-old out of Western University rewarded him for it. Liegghio didn't have any gimmes on the night as his other two field goals came from 42 and 37 yards.
Despite the Canadian kicker's heroics, the Bombers went out and got some insurance on Monday, signing American kicker Ali Mourtada. Mourtada played four seasons at Div. II Pace University and was recently in the Indoor Football League with the Massachusetts Pirates. He also had a private workout with the Cleveland Browns in 2017.
Harris looks like Harris
When the Bombers revealed Saturday that Harris was going to make his 2021 debut on the weekend, nobody really knew what to expect from the star running back.
He's never shown any signs of slowing down, but he's 34, coming off a calf injury that sidelined him since the beginning of camp, and hadn't played a down since the 2019 Grey Cup.
But Harris was no decoy on Sunday, nor did he show any signs of rust, as he carried the ball 17 times for 81 yards and scored a goal-line touchdown in the opening quarter. The Bombers wasted no time giving Harris the rock as he had five carries for 37 yards in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Stamps were able to mostly keep Harris in check from there, but still, his return provided a major boost to a run game that was as flat as the Prairies the previous two weeks against Toronto.
The Bombers will want to get Harris more involved in the air attack as he only had two catches for five yards against Calgary. Overall, it was a very encouraging performance from the league's rushing leader the past three seasons.
It didn't lead to many points on the board, but a 24-year-old rookie quarterback making only his second career start shouldn't be completing a Stampeders record of 17 straight passes against your defence. But that was the case on Sunday as Calgary's Jake Maier grabbed everyone's attention with his hot start. He had Calgary settling for too many field goals, but he didn't turn the ball over as he finished the night completing 30 of 39 passing attempts for 307 yards.
The young pivot has already earned the trust of head coach Dave Dickenson who left Maier in on a third-and-two from their own 23-yard line in the second quarter. Maier tossed a perfect ball to receiver Josh Huff for a 41-yard gain, but Bombers corner Mike Jones punched the ball out and linebacker Adam Bighill picked up the fumble.
The thought heading into the game was that the Bombers would try to get to Maier early and often to rattle his confidence, but in the end, the Blue and Gold's highly touted defensive line finished the game with zero sacks. To be fair, Calgary's game plan was to have Maier get rid of the ball as soon as possible and that's exactly what he did.
Stopping the run
It feels kinda silly to criticize a defence that only gave up 16 points, but hey, there's still room for improvement. In Weeks 2 and 3, Toronto had ball carriers rush for 100-plus yards against Winnipeg. It was one of the main talking points of the week leading up to the Stampeders game — the Bombers needed to be more physical to slow down the run. Calgary rushed for 81 yards, but it would've been more if they had given Ka'Deem Carey the carries he deserved. The former Chicago Bears running back was handed the ball only eight times, but he ended up totalling 66 yards, highlighted by a 17-yard touchdown run.
In their two upcoming dates with the Riders, the Bombers will not only have to worry about running back William Powell, but also quarterback Cody Fajardo, who leads all passers with 139 rushing yards. The two-headed rushing attack will be Winnipeg's toughest test yet.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.