CFL

Dunigan: Defence leads the way in Week 4 of CFL action

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Matt Dunigan
7/22/2014 12:52:58 PM
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How can you not write, talk and sing the praises of the dominant defences we witnessed during Week 4 of the 2014 season?

Here's a few statistical gems that jumped out from a week where the attention turned from great throws, catches and runs to bone-crushing hits, interceptions and stifling defensive play.

A total of nine touchdowns were scored during Week 4, as opposed to an average of just over 18 in the first three weeks of the season. Remember, one of those nine touchdowns was scored by the defence - that's when Odell Willis had a pick-six to open the scoring for the week. That was six minutes and 17 seconds into the first game of the week. From there, only eight offensive touchdowns for the rest of the week.

Thank goodness special teams and our kickers were on point for the most part of Week 4. In total, the legs of the CFL were 20 of 23 or 87 per cent on the week, but even that portion of the game was marred by a botched last-minute field goal attempt by Hamilton. Costly!

The defences were so strong in Week 4 that they lowered the average total scoring by 17.9 points per game, from 49.7 the first three weeks to 31.8 in Week 4.

What is going on and who's causing all these problems for the offences around the league?

Crazy fact of the week - Six of the nine teams in the CFL have new defensive coordinators and five of the nine have new offensive coordinators.

Typically, defences will start out hot and further ahead of the offences as training camp ends. The thinking here is that offensive play is more about timing, working in unison, and it takes longer to come together than the reaction-based defensive schemes.

I say hold on, partner. That's not what I'm seeing these days.

What I'm watching is more diversified defensive schemes that are every bit as difficult to perfect. Schemes that require as much, if not more, time to master all the necessary subtleties needed in order to be consistently successful.

I'm seeing defences that are not relying solely on reaction, but that are taking the upper hand and dictating to the offences.

This is the classic and constant game of chess that has been played out since the genesis of football.

Last week, the defence had the offence on its heels, stymied and confused. They had the offence in protect mode and retreating.

Offensively speaking, you cannot play this way and expect to succeed. The challenge is to flip the script and be aggressive and attack. You must put the defence on its heels and in a retreat mode.

Offences must be offensive and make defences be defensive! They must dictate to the defence the tempo of the game, impose their will, rhythm and flow as to how the game is going to be played. Easier said than done, yes, but especially when you are meshing new systems with young signal callers.

This past week, we saw some young quarterbacks on their heels, flustered and with their eyes not right. That's when the quarterbacks' eyes are not on their reads or indicators and going through their progressions. Their eyes are darting all over the place and not down field, but fixated on defenders in their face, closing ground and fast.

They're feeling pressure when it's not there, moving out of a perfectly fine throwing lane or pocket because they're not locked in. That's usually about the time when receivers are running free, down field, wide open while the quarterbacks are seeing ghosts, getting happy feet and not able to deliver the ball or make that throw that could stop the insanity and pressure altogether.

This week, the defensive pressure, ability to cover and schemes all played a huge part in causing this to happen. The defence dictated and overwhelmingly won Week 4's chess match.

The video tells the truth or, as they say, "The eye in the sky does not lie."

Veteran Kevin Glenn capitalized on a solid Montreal defence by attacking, staying focused and delivering while under pressure.

Ricky Ray had his chances down field. He missed once on a big play himself and on a couple other big play opportunities, he did not get the help needed on the other end.

Mike Reilly hung tough in the pocket and found the big play on a busted assignment in the Winnipeg secondary. Miraculously, on several occasions, the tough-as-nails quarterback did his impersonation of Houdini and escaped extreme pressure, piling up 96 yards rushing, making the difference in that ball game.

Other than that, Bo-Levi Mitchell, even in victory, was not sharp and missed on several plays. Remember the only offensive touchdown in that contest came on a reverse pass that went bad. Brad "Sinopoli Money" made something out of nothing and scored on a brilliant run for his first-ever CFL touchdown.

Henry Burris found a way to win, but, never found the end zone. He should have found the end zone at  least once, but that's another story. Henry kept his poise, under pressure, and delivered a big play in the end when the game was on the line. Toronto's defence did everything they could, holding Ottawa to six field goals! Congratulations to the Ottawa Redblacks for finding a way to win on a special night in the nation's capital.

The other quarterbacks have some work to do and, let's just say, they struggled against some great defensive performances that dominated Week 4.

Crazy stat of Week 4: the Eastern division is 0-9 on the road this season, including 0-8 on the road vs. Western teams!

Cord Parks (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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