CALGARY — They may have trailed for 39 minutes, but the Calgary Stampeders righted the ship and eventually put it in cruise control en route to a 39-26 win over the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday at McMahon Stadium.
It was a historic afternoon for two Stampeders, as quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and receiver Kamar Jorden set career highs with 452 pass yards and 249 receiving yards respectively.
While Calgary’s offence roared to life in the second half, it was the Stampeder defence — in the absence of coordinator DeVone Claybrooks, who continues to deal with a medical issue — that stole the show.
Defensive end Ja’Gared Davis had a pair of close-range interceptions, including a statement pick-six in the closing stages, to put an exclamation mark on Calgary’s dominant defensive performance.
Star Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris was limited to 13 yards on seven carries, while quarterback Matt Nichols was held largely in check in a two-interception performance.
The Bombers went into the bag of tricks on their opening offensive possession, as backup quarterback Chris Streveler — in for a 2nd-and-inches sneak — dropped back and lobbed a deep pass to Ryan Lankford for a 65-yard touchdown. Justin Medlock nailed the convert and the visitors led 7-0.
Calgary cut into the lead six minutes later, when a 61-yard pickup on a Mitchell completion to Lemar Durant set up a 17-yard Rene Paredes field goal.
The Stamps then sacrificed two points on a safety, as they were unable to recover from a booming Justin Medlock punt which hemmed them against their goal line.
Momentum swung further in Winnipeg’s direction late in the first quarter, when Kamar Jorden fumbled the football after an initial catch; Taylor Loffler recovered for the Bombers, who would translate the turnover into a 39-yard Medlock field goal and push the lead to 12-3.
Mitchell and the Stamps broke into the end zone at 7:19 of the second quarter, capping a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown dart to DaVaris Daniels; the two-point convert attempt fell incomplete, and the Winnipeg lead stood at three.
Medlock continued his ‘Mr. Automatic’ routine later in the second quarter, splitting the uprights from 45 yards out to make it 15-9; Paredes responded with a 42-yard boot of his own, and the lead stood at 15-12 at the half.
Davis gave the Stamps an opportunity to score late in the half, snagging an interception hot potato-style to give his offence decent field position, but Paredes missed a 45-yard field goal attempt on the final play of quarter two.
Defence was the story for much of the third quarter, with neither team generating much offensively until Mitchell and the Stamps jolted to life late in the third quarter.
A 52-yard connection to Jorden brought the crowd to life, and set up a 25-yard Mitchell float pass to an unmarked Marken Michel in the end zone; the ensuing Paredes convert gave the Stamps a 19-15 lead, their first of the afternoon.
Paredes then extended Calgary’s lead to seven points with a 24-yard chip shot of a field goal at 9:21 of the fourth quarter.
While the Stampeder offence was springing to life, it was the defence that made a statement: Two plays after the field goal, Micah Johnson flung Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols to the turf for a sack, 10-yard loss and forced two-and-out.
Later, with the Bomber offence facing a 3rd-and-1 situation in the red zone with two minutes left, a crucial procedure penalty on the offensive line forced Winnipeg to settle for a 23-yard field goal.
The day’s dynamic duo — Mitchell and Jorden — then sealed the victory on the very next play from scrimmage with an electric 68-yard touchdown connection. The subsequent Paredes convert pushed the lead to 14.
Calgary’s momentum snowballed, as the aforementioned Davis notched a big-man touchdown via pick-six on a fluttering Nichols pass. Another successful Paredes convert extended the Stamps lead to 39-18.
Nichols found Darvin Adams late in the day for a consolation touchdown, and Kienan LaFrance sprinted in the two-point convert to make the final score more respectable.
The win moved the Stamps to 8-1 on the season, and restored the team’s four-point lead atop the West Division; Calgary will now buckle down to prepare for next week’s Labour Day classic (3 p.m. ET) at home against Edmonton (6-4).
Ja’Gared Davis and the rest of the Stampeder defence sent a message to the rest of the West Division: This is still a first-place outfit, regardless of last week’s result in Regina.
The loss dropped Winnipeg to 5-5. Mike O’Shea’s group will now face a difficult trek across the prairies to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-4) in the Banjo Bowl next Sunday (3 p.m. ET).