Special Delivery; CFL Special Teams Roundup - Week 17
From gutsy performances to impressive debuts, Week 17 was packed with memorable Special Teams moments. If you'd like to see the Special Teams Power Rankings for Week 17, they can be found here. Without further ado, let's take a look at some of the biggest Special Teams plays in this week's review;
Brett Lauther's Gritty Performance;
Fans across the league winced as they watched Brett Lauther attempt a tackle against BC Lions return man Terry Williams on a kickoff return. It appeared that Williams inadvertently stepped on Lauther's shoulder while striving for his first kickoff return touchdown of the season. However, this setback didn't deter Brett from completing the game, especially with a milestone in sight. His 200th field goal with the Roughriders was within reach, and the opportunity arose late in the second half, with only 58 seconds left on the clock. Lauther managed to endure the pain and successfully kicked a 48-yard field goal, bringing the score within one point. Later in the fourth quarter, Lauther's night improved even more when he was tasked with yet another onside kickoff. His high kick was recovered by the hands team, making it 2 out of 5 successful onside kickoffs for the Roughriders, leading the CFL at 3 out of 7. Let's hope his injury isn't serious and won't cause him to miss any games.
Joseph Zema's Game-Changing Play;
During a missed 46-yard field goal attempt by Montreal kicker David Côté, Joseph Zema made a significant impact on the game. Ottawa return man Brandin Dandridge appeared poised to score a missed field goal return touchdown when he encountered Zema in his path. Zema found himself knocked down but quickly rolled onto his back and kicked upward, making contact with the ball and forcing it out of Dandridge's grasp. Montreal then recovered the football, regaining possession!
Rene Paredes Dominates the Scoreboard
The Calgary Stampeders lost to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 22-15 this week. Rene Paredes was a standout performer, going 5 for 6 on field goals. What's 5 times 3? Fifteen. Paredes was responsible for all the points scored by the Stampeders, and he did it impressively. His first field goal came from 47 yards out, his longest of the night. Paredes followed this with three more field goals from 40+ yards, achieving a 4/5 success rate within that yardage range. Rene Paredes continues to demonstrate that he is one of the best kickers in the CFL, consistently keeping his team in the game.
James Letcher Jr.'s Stellar Debut;
With the news that star-returner Chandler Worthy was placed on the 6-game injured list, there were questions about who would step up for the Alouettes. They had not utilized another returner in any meaningful way until the announcement that James Letcher Jr. would take on the role of starting returner for both kickoffs and punts in the past weekend's game. Letcher emerged as a breakout star in the Alouettes' 32-15 victory over the Ottawa REDBLACKs. He recorded 2 kickoff returns for 69 yards, with his longest being a 50-yard return. Letcher Jr. also returned 6 punts for 105 yards, averaging 17.5 yards per return. His longest return of the night was a 30-yarder at the end of the first quarter. It appears that the Alouettes are in good hands as Worthy recovers.
Jeshrun Antwi's Daring Pooch Punt;
In this week's third Alouettes highlight, Montreal running back Jeshrun Antwi executed a remarkable special teams play. On a 2nd & 18 play in the first quarter, Antwi received a pass behind the line of scrimmage and performed a dribble kick—an attempt he had previously failed at earlier in the season against BC. This time, however, Antwi successfully caught the ball, kicked it a short distance past the line of scrimmage, and then quickly jumped on top of it for the recovery. While some individuals on social media expressed concerns about "rule abuse" and called for a rule change, Antwi responded by saying, "Everyone has an opinion. They're entitled to that. We don't worry about that. We called the play, we executed it, and the rest is history."
As always, there were several outstanding special teams players and plays this week deserving of recognition. Here are my Honourable Mentions for Week 17:
David Côté (MTL) struggled this week, making only 1 of his 4 field goal attempts. While I'm not advocating for his benching, with Jose Maltos on the practice squad, it raises questions about Côté's performance.
Sergio Castillo (WPG) was featured in a 30-minute exclusive interview by CFL Central.
Adam Korsak (SSK) had an exceptional night punting the ball, averaging 52.8 yards per punt on 6 attempts. Korsak pinned 3 punts inside the 20-yard line, with 2 of them staying inside the 10-yard line.
The BC Lions' coverage team had an impressive week, allowing an average of only 15.3 yards on 4 kickoff returns and just 6 yards on 4 punt returns.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats attempted a fake punt this week, snapping the ball directly to the upback. Unfortunately for them, the pass was blocked before crossing the line of scrimmage.
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