RIVALUS Featured Player – Grey Cup

Fans, we made it! The 2015 Grey Cup went down in Winnipeg and it provided all of the parity that this year’s post-season promised! Coming from a decisive, yet hard-fought victory over Calgary, the Edmonton Eskimos came into the Grey Cup as favourites (stemming from that 14-4 regular season). In the case of the Ottawa REDBLACKS, Hamilton offered a fair fight too, in fact if it were not for Greg Ellingson’s career-catch late in the 4th quarter, they might not have made the final. You see nobody wants to watch a blowout in the post-season. Ideally, the playoffs provide us with a chance to see best vs. best. When the best teams in the CFL make it to the Grey Cup Championship, it is then that us fans get rewarded. On Sunday, Ottawa and Edmonton left everything they had on the field, and we got to see the 2 best teams in the CFL go to battle. Here’s what went down, and who walked away with the very last RIVALUS Featured Player of the Week for 2015.

The REDBLACKS started their game in a way that hasn’t been seen consistently throughout 2015. Namely; they came out of the gates hot. Starting on their own 37-yard line, 2015’s MOP; Henry Burris, marched his offence down the field to put up the first major by way of a pass to Patrick Lavoie. Following that play, Ottawa kicked off to Edmonton which was ultimately taken back by Ottawa thanks to a fumble recovery contributed by Antoine Pruneau. Once again, Ottawa found the end zone as Burris hooked up with Ernest Jackson for the team’s second TD. Thanks to this early push, the REDBLACKS controlled the first quarter of play. That was until Mike Reilly entered the game.

You have to hand it to Ottawa, keeping Edmonton’s offence off of the field, and keeping the Eskimos top-rated defence tired, makes a lot of sense. The issue though, is that Edmonton is too good to be controlled for 4 quarters. At some point this 2015-iteration of the Eskimos always seems to take the game’s reigns and re-establish the pace at which both teams are forced to play. After weathering Ottawa’s early storm, it was the Eskies’ turn to answer.

In his first drive on the field Mike Reilly only needed 5 plays to put up Edmonton’s first TD of the game by way of a classic Reilly-Adarius Bowman connection. From then on out, this game became a tale of traded blows.

Illustratively, the game’s lead looked like this following the first quarter of play for Ottawa and Edmonton, respectively:

  • 13-10 (OTT-EDM)
  • 16-11
  • 16-17
  • 19-18
  • 20-18
  • 20-26

The REDBLACKS certainly found success in the air on Sunday, but where they found additional offensive victories came as a surprise to many. Ottawa was extremely efficient at rushing the ball against Edmonton. By game’s end, rookie tailback: William Powell, had rushed for 57 yards. What those 57 yards earned Powell though, was the respect from Edmonton’s defensive line. To that end, Burris was able to use Powell as a free check-down receiver for an additional 66 receiving yards.

Unfortunately for Ottawa though, Edmonton’s intensity only increased as the game’s clock counted down. Edmonton’s defensive line, laden with names like: Odell Willis, Almondo Sewell, Eddie Steele, and Willie Jefferson, kept Ottawa stagnant for the game’s second half. The 4 linemen employed classic-Chris Jones defensive tactics: mixing 4-6 man bull-rushes, with 3-man rushes (leaving the odd D-lineman out to drop into coverage). To that end, on a play where Sewell pulled up on his pass-rush, Edmonton was able to record their sole interception against Burris as Patrick Watkins brought down a deep ball.

With Edmonton’s defence answering the reliance placed on them, it was up to Mike Reilly and his deep offence to put some points up and keep Ottawa’s offence off of the field.

Enough with the anticipation. We know who the RIVALUS FEATURED PLAYER of the 2015 Grey Cup is, and so do you. It can only be the toughest man in the CFL 2 years… 3 years in a row: Mr. Mike Reilly (we paid attention Mike)! Credit whomever put together Edmonton’s offence, for a job well done. The Eskimos’ receiving corps played with their hearts on their sleeves. Adarius Bowman, Derel Walker, Shamawd Chambers, or Kenny Stafford: all of Edmonton’s receivers made some form of impact in this game. That’s the sign of a truly great team. Now consider that with those receivers on the field, Mike still found a way to use his two-feet to rush for a staggering 66 yards.

I can praise Reilly all day and night for the performance that he put on, but like he said in the bulk of his post-game interviews, the Grey Cup is not an individual accolade. In fact, even the statistical awards that seem so salient when analyzing a player’s worth are not truly individual awards. Football is a team game. Without an impenetrable offensive line (Tony Washington, Chris Greaves, Justin Sorensen, Matthew O’Donnell, D’Anthony Batiste), Mike wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in hell to make the plays that he did. Without the aforementioned studs in his receiving corps, Mike wouldn’t have found the success he did downfield against Ottawa. Without Akeem Shavers in the backfield taking licks on nearly every play, Mike would never have been able to break contain and rush for nearly 70 yards. Yes, Mike Reilly is the RIVALUS Featured Player of the 2015 Grey Cup. Yes, he deserves all of the praise in the world for putting together such an impressive performance. And yes, the Edmonton Eskimos were the best football team in the CFL this season.

 

I hope you enjoyed; one, some, or all of these articles! See you again next season! Until then, all I can say is #IsItJuneYet?

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