If the Calgary Stampeders are going to make noise in the 2023 CFL playoffs, they’ll have to do so using their ground game.
Simply put, success for the underdog Stampeders runs through running backs Ka’Deem Carey, Peyton Logan, Dedrick Mills and the offensive line in front of them.
Good thing, they’re all getting healthy.
“I feel like it’s been too sporadic with the injuries,” said Logan a few days ahead of the team’s playoff foray Saturday against the host BC Lions in Vancouver (4:30 p.m. MT, TSN, QR Calgary FM). “Because Ka’Deem went down for a little bit and I went down, and we had some other issues going on.
“Of course, you can’t do nothing without the offensive line,” continued the diminutive running back. “They had injuries, as well. And like us, they’re coming back healthy at the great time of the season — at the end of the season, toward a playoff push and toward a Grey Cup push. So with us all being healthy, we should have a great chance.
“The running game should be immaculate.”
Without it being even just strong, the chances of the six-win Stamps pulling the upset over the 12-win Lions in the CFL’s West Division semifinal become a lot longer.
The Stamps need only look back two weeks to find the value of their ground-and-pound attack.
That was when they shuffled into Vancouver in desperate need of a win to help secure a post-season berth — and they did just that in stunning fashion, scoring a 41-16 no-doubter behind a run game that amassed nearly 200 yards. In fact, the Stampeders chewed up more along the ground than through the air, ending with 193 rushing yards and 123 passing.
“Pretty good,” said Stampeders GM/head coach Dave Dickenson, when asked how to sum up the rushing performance after that victory. “We went with some bigger-people packages — what we would call heavy packages or just an extra offensive lineman with a fullback. And BC brought in their big people, too, so it was man-on-man. And our running backs ran well.
“To me, it was one of our better games. We did win the line of scrimmage. It was back-and-forth, but that’s the sort of game we have to have in the playoffs.”
Logan had 105 yards on eight carries for a whopping 13.1 yards-per-carry average.
Rock star Carey was also strong on the evening with 88 yards on 15 totes.
“Logan looked good … Ka’Deem looked good, too,” Dickenson said. “We’ve got a good running-back room. That’s kind of status quo when the offensive line is doing some good things.
“The one thing is we want to be balanced,” continued the coach. “We didn’t feel like our pass game was too bad, except we had a few drops early, and that hurt us. And then we certainly made some plays, as well. Let’s be balanced. Let’s find ways to get some first downs and score touchdowns.”
In last week’s regular-season capper — a 36-13 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Logan and Mills combined for another 100-plus rushing-yard day for the Stamps. While top back Carey took a load off to rest up his banged-up body ahead of the playoffs, Logan had 22 yards on four carries and Mills went off for 88 on eight hauls.
“My confidence is all the time high,” said Logan, who returned to the lineup a few weeks back from a hamstring injury. “I feel healthy. I’ve been out for a minute, but now that I’m back, I’ve got fresh legs and I’m feeling good about myself.
“The toughest part was not playing football — that’s probably it. Other than that, the rehab was fine, me being injured was fine — because I’ve had longer injuries. It was just me not being able to play — me not being able to help the team — that was tough.”
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Logan’s now stepped up to finish the regular season with 169 yards on 17 carries, while teammates Mills and Carey have rocked the rock for 802 and 476, respectively.
So all three backs have teams thinking out loud about how dangerous the Stamps’ run game can be.
“Twelve guys gotta stop the run, period,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell told reporters. “When they attach people to the box, we’ve got to attach people to the box. We need to be able to stop the run any time. But it becomes a totally different deal if we’re down a couple of touchdowns and they’re just going to flat-out run the ball.
“So obviously our defence needs to stop the run, but our whole football team can play complementary football and put ourselves in a position to help stop that.”
In two of their three wins running past the 100-yard mark as a team, the Stamps had more yards along the ground than through the air.
“In our group, we feel like we have to make the team go through us,” added Logan. “That’s how we carry ourselves as running backs. So if we’re not playing good, we feel like we’re letting the team down as a whole, so we always try and go out there and do our best and give our most.
“But you can always get better. Best is yet to come.”
DB Jonathan Moxey was limited in his participation during Tuesday’s Stamps practice at McMahon Stadium. “He should be fine,” Dickenson said. “I wouldn’t expect anything major.” DB Brandon Dozier (calf) is back practising and ready to play. “We’re doing OK (health-wise). I’m excited — the guys are working hard,” continued the coach. “We’ll have a good group out there ready to compete.” … Word is the Lions are planning to open up seats in the upper deck of BC Place for the semifinal with an expected attendance of more than 33,000 fans … WR Markeith Ambles has landed with the Blue Bombers after being cut by the Stampeders in early October. The 31-year-old Ambles, who has played five CFL seasons with the Stamps and the Toronto Argonauts, was added to the Bombers practice roster Monday. With the Red and White this year, Ambles hauled in 15 passes for 193 yards in four games this season after being released in August by the Argos, with whom he missed two months due to an ankle injury.