CFL Blitz: Return TDs all the rage in CFL

Brandon Isaac of the Toronto Argos chases down Larry Taylor of the Stampeders in the first half of...

Brandon Isaac of the Toronto Argos chases down Larry Taylor of the Stampeders in the first half of action at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on July 7, 2012. (DAVE ABEL, QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:15 PM ET

CFL attendance is down a bit this season, but maybe the fans will return to watch the most exciting play in football.

In a trend that must be giving special teams co-ordinators fits, depending on what side of the ball they're on, punt- and kick-return touchdowns have become all the rage through three weeks of action.

Forget Twitter. Return touchdowns are what the kids are doing these days.

There have been a whopping seven return touchdowns in just 12 games this season. Last year there was a grand total of eight in 72 regular-season contests. There has already been one more missed field goal TD return (three) than there was all of last year (two).

The return is the most exciting play on the football field. They take forever to develop, but the anticipation of watching a returner hit the final hole makes it worth the wait. And if there are no penalty flags, it simply adds to the excitement -- especially if the home team is the one doing the scoring.

Calgary's Larry Taylor nearly set a CFL record two weeks ago against Toronto when he had 441 all-purpose yards, most of it via the return game. Hamilton's Chris Williams had two return touchdowns in Saturday's win over Toronto.

So why are there so many touchdowns this season?

Good question. If you can figure it out, I'm sure more than a few coaches would love to know.

There were nine in 2008, seven in 2009, and that number exploded to 19 in 2010 before dipping back down to eight last year. Now we're on pace to see 42 in 2012.

It's unlikely to get that high, of course, but it will no doubt play a factor in how games are coached. You think many field bosses are going to automatically try field goals between 45 and 50 yards, knowing that the return man has a good chance of taking a miss more than 100 yards to the house? They might be a little more gun shy.

On the other hand, special team coaches might be more willing to let their return man take the ball out of the end zone on punts and missed field goals. Considering how much cover teams are struggling so far, why not give it a shot?

Special teams are supposed to be better now that teams can dress three designated imports instead of two. The team's return man is often one of the DIs, although the other two are usually superb athletes who play on the return and cover teams for both kickoffs and punts.

So it appears they're doing a great job on the returns but not so much in the cover department.

No worries.

Special teams coaches might be losing their hair quicker, but more fans are rising from their seats.

And that's a good thing.

GLENN'S BAD HABITS COSTLY

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.

Why? Why? Why?

The Calgary Stampeders had that game won in Montreal last Thursday, but Kevin Glenn reverted to old bad habits in the final two minutes and it cost the Stamps the win against the Alouettes.

Glenn is now the starter in Calgary with Drew Tate opting for shoulder surgery that could keep him out for the season. Stamps fans are going to have to learn to take the good with the bad when it comes to KG.

When he's on, Glenn can do plenty of damage. He was the East Division's top player in 2007 with the Bombers and would have had a great shot at winning the Grey Cup had he not broken his arm in the East final.

But Glenn's mistakes are often ill-timed and totally preventable, which shouldn't be happening 12 years into his career.

Glenn threw a pass out into the flat last against the Als that Jerald Brown picked off and returned 33 yards for the winning points. Glenn has thrown that bad pass more than once in his career, so he obviously hasn't dropped it from his repertoire.

That wasn't his worst mistake, though.

The Stamps, trailing 33-32, got the ball back with 41 seconds left and got off a grand total of three plays. Three! Glenn's cool demeanour is a great attribute to have as a leader, but it's a killer in the final minute when you're down by one.

The Stamps got to Montreal's 51-yard line and needed to get only 10 yards farther to have a shot at the winning field goal. If Glenn had even a little bit of fire under his butt, they could've gotten there.

LULAY GRASPS TIME MANAGEMENT

On the other hand ...

Quarterback Travis Lulay of the B.C. Lions already has shown he has a better understanding of clock management than his counterpart, Kevin Glenn of the Calgary Stampeders.

A great example of this was in the final minute of the second quarter of B.C.'s game Saturday in Regina against the Roughriders.

The Lions, trailing 13-10, got the ball back on their own eight-yard line with 1:03 to go. Lulay and backup Mike Reilly rattled off eight plays during the next 54 seconds, or an average of one play every 6.75 seconds. Glenn averaged one play every 13.6 seconds in the final minute against the Montreal Alouettes.

Every second counts, and it's evident Lulay knows this.

Lulay showed urgency from the get-go. He snapped the ball as soon as the clock started, and he often found his receivers who were nearest the sideline. If they didn't get out of bounds, he made sure he was under centre as soon as the official blew his whistle to signal the start of the clock.

Lulay, with one quarterback sneak from Reilly, moved the Lions 80 yards in 54 seconds, setting up Paul McCallum's 30-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter, tying the game at 13-13.

It didn't lead to a victory for the Lions, who came up three points short in a well-played match against the Riders, but Lulay's game management was a thing of beauty.

It's just one more reason Lions fans should feel mighty comfortable with the redhead at the helm.

LATE HITS

It's been a rough week for quarterbacks. Calgary's Drew Tate opted for surgery on his dislocated left shoulder, which will keep him out for several months, while Winnipeg's Buck Pierce is gone for at least a month with a torn muscle and ligaments in his left foot. That led one CFL insider to wonder where teams will go to find an experienced quarterback if more pivots drop. There aren't many who have actually played games out there any more ... Last week the Eskimos reported receiver Adarius Bowman was done for the year with torn ligaments in his knee, but the next day they said that news was premature. He could be back before the end of the season ... Continuing with the injury theme, the Argos will be without kicker Noel Prefontaine for four to six months due to a hip injury that requires surgery. The injury could be career-ending ... This week's amazing stat is that the Roughriders have not turned the ball over once in their first three games. If you're wondering why they're 3-0, look no further ... Eric Tillman knows Steven Jyles well. Even though the Eskimos GM backtracked on his comments that, in retrospect, he wouldn't have made the Ricky Ray trade, it still was bad PR. The good news for Tillman is Jyles would never say anything negative about the situation. He will definitely be fired up to prove he can play, but he's the consummate team guy and won't ruffle feathers ... Seven CFL coaches no doubt had trouble sleeping on Monday night. That's the day Marc Trestman got a four-year contract extension to continue coaching the Alouettes.


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