Sunday was a totally different story. When leaving McMahon Stadium Sunday evening, I had a sense of how well the special teams had played. The Stampeders shut Rainey down as he didn't have any long returns. The Stampeders returner, Skye Dawson, was safe on all returns, and got what was there - even though he didn't break any either. The Stampeders' kickers were excellent. The Lions' kicker was very good. BC took more special teams penalties than the Stampeders. The Stampeders always seemed to have better field position than the Lions.
I also wondered how BC could get blown out by 26 points in a game were the offense was almost even (Stampeders had 6 more yards than BC) and the turnover battle was only one in favour of the Stampeders. So I broke down the special teams numbers.
Calgary dominated on the kickoff team as compared to BC's kickoff team. The Stampeders had five kickoffs which resulted in BC’s average start being on their 13 yard line after kickoff, return, and penalty yardage were all taken into consideration. By comparison, the Stampeders average start was on their 36 yard line. That is a huge difference.
Both punters punted the ball well. BC had an average of 49 yards/punt and Calgary had an average of 55/punt. This, however, only tells part of the story. On average, every time the Stampeders punted the ball, they pushed the ball 51 yards downfield. BC, by comparison, pushed the ball an average of 41 yards for every punt. This meant that every time the teams traded punts, the Lions had to earn a first down to offset the difference in punt production.
In order to get some numbers that summarize the impact the kicking game had on the entire game, I added up the effect of all of Calgary’s kicks (kickoffs, punts, and field goals) including kick/punt yardage, return yardage, and the impact of penalties. Calgary had 798 yards in 15 kicks/punts. BC had 457 yards in 12 kicks/punts. That is 341 yards more! That starts to explain the blowout score.
Some may want to reduce the Stampeders punting yardage because they punted into the end zone for singles twice, and end zone yardage is insignificant after the goal line. That would erase 26 yards off the Stampeder total, but still give them a lead of 315 yards.
Any way you look at it, the special teams unit for the Stampeders was a huge reason why they won this football game. It was an area where all experts agreed that the Lions held an edge, but it certainly didn’t play out that way – which is why they play the games.
If the Stampeders have cleaned up their greatest weakness, their chances of repeating as champions have certainly improved.