Redemption was sweet for a pair of CFL veteran quarterbacks last week.
Now, Dane Evans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Vernon Adams Jr. of the B.C. Lions have to pick up where they left off.
After enduing rough campaigns for different reasons, Evans lit up the league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers last Saturday before Adams Jr. led the Lions to an overtime road win over the Calgary Stampeders in his first start with B.C.
Evans will look to keep the momentum going on Friday in Montreal against the Alouettes, the team that traded Adams Jr. to the Lions last month after deciding to go with Trevor Harris as their QB1. Adams, meanwhile, has a rematch against the Stampeders in Vancouver after things got testy post-game with police called in to separate some players.
Evans, who has thrown a league-high 13 interceptions in his first year as the Ticats’ undisputed No. 1 starter after the team opted to let Jeremiah Masoli go to Ottawa in free agency, has given plenty of praise to Ticats psychiatrist Dr. Carla Edwards in the past week.
“I felt like me again. I felt like me all last week. I feel like me right now,” Evans told reporters in Hamilton this week.
“I think a lot of that is coming from Dr. Edwards, me and her conversations. Kind of everything in my life that has been going on this year, getting to be the guy, having a kid (his first child, daughter Ivy, earlier this season). All that stuff is real-life stuff. When it’s all piled together, I just kind of lost myself trying to do everything for everyone like you should and I kind of forgot about me. I kind of got put on the backburner.
“Dr. Edwards has really helped me and I feel like I’m just having fun again, playing and being myself and being the best asset to this team that I can be.”
After not playing in three of the previous four games because of a shoulder injury, Evans completed 25-of-32 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns in a huge 48-31 upset over visiting Winnipeg.
It was a performance that resembled the 2019 version of Evans, who replaced Masoli mid-season after an injury and had eight 300-plus-yard passing games.
“He had that old Dane look in his eye,” Ticats receiver Steven Dunbar Jr. said.
“He made a scramble (on a big clock-killing drive in the fourth quarter), I think he got the first down and he got up, he was screaming, he was going crazy. I think I looked over to (receiver) Tim (White) and I was like now he’s got his swagger back. It was good to see him out there having fun.”
The Ticats (4-9) need another win in Montreal (5-7) to draw level on points with Alouettes for what is currently the last playoff spot in the league.
Adams Jr., meanwhile, lost his starting job early in Game 2 of the season – a quick hook from fighting-for-his-job coach Khari Jones, who was fired two games later. Current Alouettes GM/coach Danny Maciocia stayed with Harris, opening the door for the Lions to acquire the 2019 CFL East all-star after top QB Nathan Rourke went down with a foot injury in August.
The Lions’ fourth starting quarterback in as many games, Adams Jr. was 25-for-32 for 294 yards as B.C. beat the Stampeders 31-29 in OT to maintain second place in the West.
“It means so much, it means a lot,” Adams Jr. said afterward. “I’ve been through a lot, roller-coaster type of year. We had a great week of practice. The guys took me in. I had a bad practice on Day 1 and the guys still stayed with me.”
The Lions originally held Adams Jr.’s negotiation rights in 2016 before trading him to the Alouettes for a first-round pick. Six years later, the quarterback went the other direction in a trade between the teams with the return also a first-round selection.
Coach Rick Campbell liked Adams Jr.’s poise last Saturday.
“I was impressed with his steadiness,” he said. “It was a calming effect I think for our football team. As we went through the ebbs and flows of the game and the momentum swings, he was very steady, which is a good trait for quarterbacks to have because it brings a level of confidence and comfort to the team.”
The Lions will look for more of the same from Adams Jr. after a heated confrontation last week in Calgary.
Stampeders linebacker Cameron Judge was suspended one game for punching Lions receiver Lucky Whitehead after the contest. Judge wouldn’t reveal what Whitehead said to make him angry, while the Lions receiver told reporters in B.C. he felt the Stamps stalwart was guilty of “assault” but wouldn’t be asking police to investigate.
What we liked in Week 15
• The play of Ticats running back Wes Hills. While he was overshadowed by Evans and Co., the powerful Hills rushed for 58 yards on 10 carries in just his second game this year. He made sure the Ticats weren’t one-dimensional.
• Dalton Schoen’s continued greatness. The Blue Bombers receiver is going to be the rookie of the year. He had six catches for 158 yards against Hamilton.
What we didn’t like in Week 16
• The play of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. A loss to the last-place Edmonton Elks at home is a very troubling sign for the struggling Grey Cup hosts.
• More specifically, the Roughriders’ offensive line. Quarterback Cody Fajardo was sacked eight times. Saskatchewan quarterbacks have been sacked 59 times this season, 15 more than any other team.
Week 16 picks
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Montreal Alouettes (-2.5), Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT
A Ticats win makes the playoff race very interesting, while a Montreal triumph would give the Alouettes some breathing room. Als kicker David Cote hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired last month to give the home side a dramatic 29-28 win over Hamilton. PICK: Hamilton
Toronto Argonauts (-2.5) at Ottawa Redblacks, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT
Teams conclude a two-game series in Ottawa after each squad had a bye week. The Argos won 24-19 two weeks ago. The Redblacks are basically in must-win territory now. PICK: Toronto
Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Lions (-1), Saturday, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT
This one should be fun after last week’s drama. The Stamps will be hard-pressed to finish anywhere higher than third in the West without a win here, while the Lions would clinch a playoff berth with a victory. PICK: Calgary
2022 record: 30-28
Odds from FanDuel as of Thursday night.
1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-2, Last week: 1): Were not good on both sides of the ball in Hamilton, but can’t see it becoming a trend.
2. B.C. Lions (9-3, Last week: 4): Adams Jr. gives the Lions hope at quarterback with Rourke out.
3. Toronto Argonauts (7-5, Last week: 3): Can take a big step toward securing a home playoff game and potentially first in the East with a win in Ottawa.
4. Calgary Stampeders (8-5, Last week: 2): Fell just short at home in a huge game against the Lions. In danger of finishing third in the West, which might be the worst playoff spot in the league.
5. Montreal Alouettes (5-7, Last week: 6): Looking to finish a four-game homestand at 3-1 with a win over Hamilton.
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8, Last week: 5): The boobirds were out during last week’s loss to Edmonton. If there wasn’t a sense of urgency before, there is now.
7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-9, Last week: 8): Season back alive after win over Winnipeg, but their playoff hopes will be all but shot if the Ticats can’t beat Montreal.
8. Ottawa Redblacks (3-9, Last week: 7): Fell into East Division basement after the Ticats’ win. Desperately need to end 1-20 skid at home this week.
9. Edmonton Elks (4-10, Last week: 9): What a weird team. The Elks are 4-4 on the road and 0-6 in Edmonton, part of a league-record-tying 14-game losing streak at home dating back to 2019.