CALGARY — Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell says the Calgary Stampeders have imagined they're trailing, even when they're not, to produce their best football.
The Stampeders recovered from a third-quarter lull to down the visiting Ottawa Redblacks 48-23 on Saturday.
Calgary (10-1-1) extended their unbeaten streak this CFL season to 11 straight games. They haven't lost since their season-opener.
The Redblacks (5-5-1) gave up top spot in the East Division to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-6) with their fifth loss in their last seven games.
The Stampeders also claimed a playoff berth with the victory.
According to playoff scenarios crunched by the team, the lowest Calgary can finish this season is crossing over as the third playoff team in the East because Edmonton, Winnipeg, B.C., Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa can't get to 11 wins.
After four touchdowns in the first half — one from the defence — the Stampeders stalled in the third quarter Saturday.
The Redblacks chipped away at a 16-point halftime deficit and were within a possession of tying the game heading into the fourth.
But momentum swung back to the hosts with just under five minutes remaining, when DaVaris Daniels hauled in Mitchell's 10-yard pass with one hand on the ball and one toe in the end zone before landing out of bounds.
The touchdown stood upon review for Calgary to control the game again.
"When we are an aggressive football team, we are very, very hard to beat," Mitchell said. "When anybody relaxes and gets their mind thinking that 'it's OK because we're up', that's when things change.
"When a game is tight and we're down, there's nobody better. We need to make sure we understand that and play like that every single time. We have to find a way to not let that sputter happen as long as it did."
Mitchell's 353 passing yards surpassed a career 13,000. The only other quarterbacks to have reached that milestone at age 26 were Tracy Ham and Ricky Ray.
He went 23 for 35 in passing with touchdown throws to Daniels and Marquay McDaniel in front of an announced 26,529 at a warm, but overcast McMahon Stadium.
Jerome Messam, with a four-yard carry, and backup Andrew Buckley on one-yard quarterback sneak scored rushing touchdowns. Rene Paredes booted two field goals.
Calgary's defence also generated a pair of majors. Halfback Jamar Wall ran an interception back to score late in the first half. Ja'Gared Davis ran a fumble recovery 14 yards in for a touchdown with just under three minutes remaining.
Ottawa pivot Trevor Harris went 17 for 29 in passing for 289 yards. Ernest Jackson and Greg Ellingson had touchdown catches for the visitors. Chris Milo kicked a trio of field goals in a losing cause.
"We dug ourselves such a big hole in the first half," Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said. "We came out with some fight in the second half.
"The way I look at us right now is that we're good enough in spurts, we're good enough on offence, defence and special teams to play with them. But we have to do it more consistently for 60 minutes."
The Tiger-Cats leapfrogged Ottawa into first in their division with a 20-17 win over Montreal on Friday night.
Ottawa remains a point up on the Toronto Argonauts, who lost 46-29 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers earlier Saturday. The Redblacks are at home to Toronto (5-7) on Friday.
"There's a lot to play for coming up," Campbell said. "The East is going to be a big pile of teams close at the end of the season so our hat's in the ring there with everybody else."
Daniels was already turning heads in the league. The rookie receiver was a CFL player of the week after two touchdowns in an overtime win over Edmonton a week earlier.
His one-handed grab to score came at a critical point in Saturday's game.
"My hands are actually kind of small, so I don't anticipate making one-handed catches," Daniels said.
"We needed to make a play. We finally got a drive going after having four or five stall. We had to finish it off. Bo put it in a spot where only I could get it and we made it happen."
Calgary is at home to Winnipeg (8-4) on Saturday.