Monday, January 10, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Catching Up

With the new year upon us, GMs are hard at work trying to whittle down their list of pending free agents, which is most team’s cases represent like 90% of their team. Most of the top end talent (or those with a competent agent) will wait until free agency to see their true value. But O’Day has managed to re-sign a few. So today we will take a look at the re-signings so far as well as what’s remaining on the potential free agent list.

Most of the re-signings so far have lacked the wow factor but quietly O’Day has been working to keep our Canadian depth in place. Most people probably couldn’t name our longsnapper but that’s because he does his job so well we take Jorgen Hus for granted. Kienan LaFrance is also not a top end guy but fills an important role on teams with the ability to step in a contribute on offense when needed. I was among our O-line’s biggest critics but I think maintaining some continuity there is important. Logan Ferland had a pretty solid year for someone who had never started a game outside of junior. I see him as someone with a very high ceiling as he gets more pro experience. Evan Johnson was somewhat of a disappointment in 2021… not bad, just average. But at just 27 its reasonable to expect him bounce back. Him and Ferland help keep the core of our OL young.

Had you told me a year ago that in a press release featuring the re-signing of Marshall and Teitz that Teitz would be one I was excited for I would have laughed at you. Keeping Teitz was important as he became a strong Canadian starter. You know my thoughts on Marshall, so I have very mixed feelings on that re-signing. I would have been fine letting him walk. But then you look at how he played in the playoffs and see a guy who still has the top end talent… even if we are starting to see it way less consistently. I hope we bring in some CBs to push him because if he’s starting in 2022 I want it to be because he earned the spot again, not just because of his past reputation. I’m genuinely puzzled why either us or Paul McRoberts would be interested in an extension. His role on our team has pretty much been absolute last resort but only if the only remaining option is fielding a scarecrow at WR. I like the guy and want to see him succeed but each season seems to be like Ground Hog's day for him.

So what’s left…

Obviously the big names we need back include: AC, Micah, Duke, Lauther, Purfoy and one of Dean or Lacey at MLB. There are also a few less heralded names on my list:

Charbel Dabire – You all know I’m a big fan of his and keeping a young Canadian DT certainly helps us.

Mike Edem – We definitely missed him at safety after he broke his wrist. I know he’s starting to get up there in age but he’s a versatile guy and as much as Purfioy can play anywhere, our secondary plays best with Edem at safety and Purifoy at HB.

Elie Bouka – Durability is his main issue. But when healthy he can play multiple spots in the secondary as a Canadian and make plays like he did in the playoffs.

Shaq Evans/Kyran Moore – Obviously a down year for Shaq but I really think the injury played a bigger role than he let on. A fully healthy Shaq is still a force to be reckoned with. As for Moore he quietly led the CFL in receptions prior to his injury. I know stupid swing passes inflated those numbers a bit but I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves for how good he is yet. If we want to rediscover our offense we need to keep our offensive playmakers, particularly the ones the QB actually trusts.

Justin McInnis/Mitch Picton – Lenius is off to the NFL and while Schaefer-Baker is obviously the future, we are going to need depth. Picton is a reliable token Canadian receiver you can line up on the wide-side. McInnis I think has a higher ceiling but hasn’t stayed on the field long enough to show it.

A dark horse name is Takoby Cofield. He opted to sit out 2021. If I am O’Day I would literally be begging him on my hands and knees to return.

Here’s a few names I would be perfectly ok with letting walk:

Brett Boyko – Other than his passport is there anything of value with him? The only scenario I want him on our team is as the 6th OL. He’s a serviceable injury replacement but the only people who want him starting again are opposing D-lineman.

William Powell – This is not a knock at Powell. Great guy. Has been a solid runner for us (those rare times we actually committed to the run). He will be 34 come next season. At some point we need to go younger there. You’ve seen that Morrow can be a playmaker. And if you can’t recruit an RB in the CFL, you don’t deserve to be a GM.

Isaac Harker – Another player I like as a person but he’s simply not progressing as a QB after 2 full years in the league. Might as well given some other QB prospects the chance as they at least may have a higher ceiling. I think we’ve seen Harker’s ceiling and only Weston Dressler would we able to stand under it.

Ed Gainey – A bit torn on this one. He exceeded my expectations in 2021 and played really good. But you always want to be 1 year too early in letting a guy go than 1 year too late. We would be solid with Purifoy and Webb and HB. So unless he’s coming dirt cheap, I sadly don’t see Gainey as a priority. If this is indeed the end of his Rider career, mad respect for all he accomplished here.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Surprises

Welcome to the new year. Normally I would express a hope that 2022 be a great year for all, but given how the last 2 years have went I think we would all just settle for 2022 being not a craptastic.

Before I turn my attention to the 2022 CFL season (free agency, drafting, etc...) I want to take on more look back at 2021. I want to take a look at players that surprised me by their performance in 2021, both good and bad. This is by no means an exhaustive list but a few notable ones that I thought worthy of mention.

Also note that this is a list of surprises. So a guy like Brett Boyko does not make the unpleasant surprise list because while it was certainly unpleasant, it was not a surprise, everyone but the Riders seemed to see it coming.

Pleasant Surprises

Micah Johnson – This may have been O’Day best move of the offseason and no one is talking about it or giving Micah near the hype he deserves. We got Micah cheap, mainly because most teams assumed his best days were behind him. Turns out, he’s still Micah. He was an absolute force along the D-line and I don’t think any other player on that line puts up near the stats they did without him there. I was not in the “Micah is done” camp but his performance certainly exceeded my expectations and let everyone know he’s still one of the best D-tackles in this league. And for all the talk of his durability, he only missed one game due to injury this season. I just hope the pay increase he deserves doesn’t put him out of our price range.

Ed Gainey – I was vocal about my belief that Gainey was done after 2019. I did not expect him back in 2021 and was pretty ok with that. So when he eventually re-signed I was very “meh” on it. But he ended up being a very reliable player in 2021. He’s certainly no longer peak Gainey from say 2018 but he once again proved he can still be a reliable cover guy playing one of the most difficult spots in the secondary.

AC Leonard – What people will remember about 2021 Leonard was his 3 game suspension. What people don’t seem to notice is that he put up 11 sacks. That’s impressive in a normal season. Leonard did it in 11 games! I long wondered whether he was good or just the product of playing alongside elite pass rushers like Jefferson and Hughes… turns out he’s legit good despite not being considered among the best pass rushers in the league for some reason.

Deon Lacey – I won’t lie, I was incredibly scared for our linebackers. It would have bad enough going from the trio of Judge/Elimimian/Moncrief to Larry Dean and 2 people with no starting experience. But then Dean was lost for the season due to an achilles injury. Without much fanfare, Lacey stepped in and was a major stabilizing force. The Riders were #2 against the run and Lacey just made plays.

Micah Teitz – Teitz was one of those 2 people with no starting experience I mentioned in the last paragraph. He had one career start coming into 2021 and through the first few games he looked like a guy with one previous start. But he just steadily kept improving over the year and became a key Canadian starter. Never expected him to be more than a career special teamer when we drafted him in 2018. And if that’s how he can play in his first year as a starter, I fully expect his ceiling is higher than we have seen yet.

Unpleasant Surprises

Cody Fajardo – I don’t want to dwell on this one but do feel I need to address it. Based on 2019, I think we all expected more out of Cody this season. Here’s the thing though, he had a good OL in 2019 and in 2021 had 5 guys who could only have been less effective if they had physically carried opposing pass rushers and deposited them on Fajardo. Give him a good line again and you’d be amazed how quickly he “improves”. I’ve heard others say this and I agree… I don’t think Fajardo is as good as we saw in 2019, or as bad as we saw in 2021. He’s somewhere in the middle and that still makes him a bona fide starting QB that I have faith in.

Evan Johnson – He wasn’t bad, just ok. But we fully expected a top tier lineman when we signed so “ok” was a disappointment. Obviously playing alongside a mildly competent tackle would help his performance, but his individual play was underwhelming. I’m fine with bringing him back, he is only 27 after all, but he needs to show more than he did in 2021.

Gary Johnson – This has nothing to do with talent or on field play. I was a big hyper of Johnson coming into the season. I thought he had a legit chance to start. And when he was on the field, he looked damn good. He led the team with 10 special teams tackles and looked good when he got reps on defense. Problem was he could not stay on the field. Here’s how his season went: played 2 games, missed 1, played 1, missed 6, played 2, missed 1, played 1, missed 2. Getting 10 special teams tackles in just 6 games certainly catches my eye but never being able to play in more than 2 consecutive games is an issue. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

13th Annual Rider Prophet Awards

After a one year hiatus we are back. That scheduling interruption now has this as the 13th Annual Awards… even though use of the term “annual” is used lightly since the first awards were in 2007. You do the math.

This year’s award winners get a gift basket containing a wide array of Hamilton Ti-Cat Grey Cup Champion merchandise. After losses in ’13, ’14, ’19 and ’21 we need to clear this stuff out somehow because even third world countries have too much of it and will no longer accept it.

Let’s get to the awards.

Best Player Name

I was really pulling for QB Luke Falk to make the Riders because I would have milked that for all it was worth. Sadly we were all denied that joy. So the winner goes to Stampeder receiver Luther Hakunavanhu. It’s actually not as hard to pronounce as it looks. But what makes it noteworthy is how professionally TSN handled pronouncing it. Now I, as an obscure blogger/dude who watches form my couch, have no issues pointing out that it sounds like Hakuna Matata. But the announcers paid to do this should probably attempt a shred of professionalism. Clearly they did not prep for Hakunavanhu to do anything relevant because when he made a big catch and it was time to say his name, they didn’t even really try and just went straight for Hukuna Matata. Not a good look when your level of professionalism is on the same level as a dude who recreationally wears a robe.

Previous Winners: Guillermo Villabos, Armegedon Draughns, Rakeem Cox, Akawasi Owusu-Ansah, Lirim Hajrullahu, SirVincent Rogers, Drew Willy, Bear Woods, Solomon Elimimian, Craphonso Thorpe, Charleston Hughes, Chijioke Onyenegecha


Quote of the Year

In a first for these awards, the Quote of the Year is not going to a player or a coach. It’s going to a referee. It was week 15 and the Elks were in town for a match-up with the Riders. In a shockingly rare occurrence, Craig Dickenson opted to use a timeout (in a not shocking turn of events it was a terrible time to use one, as it was on the first play of the second half.) Tom Vellesi alerted the world to this by announcing “Time out Saskatchewan…” but then, clearly forgetting his mic was still live he added “Fuck Them”.

 

Vellesi was indeed fined for this… something I think is ridiculous. I personally found it funny and welcome a world where refs openly curse at team. Lord knows the reverse has been happening since the beginning of time.

 

Previous Winners: Cody Fajardo, Dave Dickenson, Kavis Reed/Jacques Chapdelaine, Greg Quick, Solomon Elimimian, Ed Hervey, Joe Mack, Henry Burris, Eddie Johnson, Jason Clermont, Mike Abou-Mechrek x2

 

Play of the Year

October 30th was the date, it was late in the 4th quarter of a game between the Argos and Lions. The Argos were clinging to a 1 point lead. They blocked a potential game winning FG attempt taking over possession with 45 seconds left on the clock. Should have been an easy victory. What followed was one of the worst displays of coaching I have ever seen and I lived through the coaching careers of Mike Kelly, Kavis Reed and Danny Maccioccia.

 

Not realizing that BC still had both timeouts. The Argos go victory formation and kneel. BC calls a timeout with 38 seconds left. Now at this point you would think that Dinwiddie would have realized the error of his ways (things happen you forget about timeouts) but he calls a second kneel… knowing full well that it won’t end the game. Another timeout and suddenly the Argos have to punt from their own 9 yard line with 18 seconds left… without even attempting to run a real play.

 

To complete the stupidly cycle, BC got the ball back and marched to the 30 yard line… only to miss the FG forcing overtime with a single point. The Argos ended up winning in OT but I maintain that win should be revoked due to excess stupidity of coaching.

 

Botched Call of the Year

Let me preface this with saying that I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of the game. In the Banjo Bowl, a melee broke out after a Bomber TD. A lot of stuff was happening and 2 Riders ended up getting ejected (and deservedly so) but a ref had a front row seat to see Andrew Harris grab the facemask of a Rider defender and proceed to rip the helmet off him while tossing him to the ground. Not in the middle of a pile, not off to the side… directly in front of a referee. And yet, he did not get ejected. Apparently punching a guy in the helmet is a super dangerous play but forcibly removing someone’s protective gear while throwing them to the ground is super safe.  

 

The Commercial I Didn’t Get Sick of Seeing Even Though TSN Made Me Watch It 54,297 Times Award

Well I certainly did get sick of Steven Lee Olsen. I hope whatever TSN paid his was worth it because I think we’d all rather compliment Bo Levi Mitchell profusely than ever hear Olsen’s music played ever again.

It was a pretty lacklustre year for commercials, yet again but the one I did actually enjoy was the Tide commercial where Ice T and Stone Cold call Mark Mess-ey-eur. Its not a particularly great commercial other than the blatant mispronouncing of Messier but  I think it would be wild to time travel back to like 1998 and tell people that Ice T and Stone Cold Steve Austin would one day be promoting laundry detergent. You would have got stunnered/shanked for even suggesting it.

 

Most Insulted Sports Figure

I insulted a lot of people in the Rider organization this season. So competition for this award was fierce. Nick Marshall, Jason Maas, Fajardo, Dickenson, Blace Brown, Christian Campbell… there was plenty to critique.

But far and away a focus of pretty much every single post was how awful our O-line was… particularly our offensive tackles, who were quite frankly offensive. So I award this dubious honour to the trio of Offensive Tackles that did their best to pad the stats of opposing pass rushers. I have seen bad tackles in my time as a Rider fan, but I have never seen our entire line as awful as it was in 2021.

 

Previous Winners: John Ryan, Brandon Bridge, Steve McAdoo, The Riders Secondary, Any Rider QB not named Durant, Pat Neufeld, Chris Getzlaf, Ryan Dinwiddie, Jim Daley, Michael Bishop x 2, Marcel Bellefeuille

 

Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year

Rider fans love our villains. Henry Burris, Rob Murphy, John Cornish… hell we spent and inordinate amount of time yelling at Wally Buono to get off the field. Suffice to say our hatred list has a lifetime membership.

So it is with this year’s winner, who first appeared in the voting last season, and I see being a perennial nominee going forward. He beat out the obscenity yelling/fan fighting John Murphy and all around douchebag Brock Sunderland.

With 51% of the vote (20% more than the next closest) you the fans have overwhelmingly selected Andrew Harris as your Douche-Bag of the Year. It was ripping the helmet off our player that really secured it but I get the sense that we all feel his general levels of douchebaggery are naturally elevated… its about the only levels of his that are naturally elevated.

 

Previous Winners: Simoni Lawrence, Jason Maas x2, Cory Chamblin, Chris Jones, Jon Cornish x2, Henry Burris, Dwight Anderson, Mike Kelly, Jason Jimenez, Rob Murphy

Monday, December 13, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Voting Time

On one hand I want to feel sorry for Hamilton. I mean they lost back to back Grey Cups in ’13 and ’14. And then again in ’19 and ’21 at home to boot. As a Rider fan I know a thing or two about pain and I don’t wish that upon anyone. On the other hand Hamilton is directly responsible for Winnipeg winning not one but two Grey Cups… so that level of pain may be warranted. Honestly to hell with you, I hope it another 10 years and 4 Grey Cup losses before you win again. Yes, I’m that petty.

If nothing else it was a great end to a somewhat lackluster season. But hey, we should just be glad we got football after 2020.

The offseason may be upon us but that doesn’t mean the fun stops here. I’ll have coverage throughout the offseason to help fill your football void.

It starts next week with the annual Rider Prophet Awards. The most notorious of those awards is the always anticipated Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year Award. You can cast your vote below and on twitter for the person you feel deserves recognition for outstanding achievement in the field of Douchebaggery. Winner will be announced next Monday.

Your 2021 nominees are:

Management of the Elks – Elizondo, Sunderland, Presson… there was more awfulness emanating out of that organization than I can list in this small space both on and off the field. Terrible play, questionable roster decisions, “medical” exceptions for Covid shots, allegedly banning Joey Moss from the locker room, getting Eddie Steele fired for speaking out about the problems, the list goes on and on.

John Murphy – For getting into a postgame fight with fans and uttering some obscenities

Andrew Harris – He may not have gotten punished for ripping a guy’s helmet off but we can still punish him in the court of public opinion.

Other – Write in your chosen Douchebag in the comments

Vote now:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T59PMSK


Monday, December 6, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Fitting End

Riders 17 – Bombers 21

If nothing else you can say the Riders were consistent. Much like the rest of the season, Sunday saw us field a championship calibre defense and a rec league calibre offense. They made a hell of a game up it but ultimately were not going to beat a team as good as the Bombers with that many mistakes. You need to win at least 3 phases. One phase came to play, one phase was meh and at best a saw off with the Bombers and one phase... well if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Early on it seemed our best strategy was to let the Bomber get into the redzone and assume they would screw up. And the turnovers just kept coming. 6 of them against a team who turned the ball over less than anyone else this year. But with each successive turnover, one thing kept missing… points. Off those amazing 6 turnovers, we produced just 10 points. Put another way we average less than FG for each turnover. Can’t pass up that many opportunities against the top team in the West and expect to win. Defense did everything they could to keep us in.

Offense… well they were exactly what we’ve come to expect from the 2021 Riders… dysfunctional at all levels. O-line that can’t block… allowing 5 sacks. Play calling that boggles the mind. Some of our third and short plays included hand-off 5 yards deep when we needed 2 and bombing it deep (because you know the deep ball has really been our strength this year). Compound that with a QB who continues to make really bad reads. The one time we actually had the screen pass set up to work, he didn’t throw it. End of the half with zero seconds on the clock he throws a 12 yard pass (why?). And with all due respect to Mitch Picton (who I like), it is simply idiotic that with the game on the line he’s your primary/only read when he clearly was well covered. Literally any other receiver would have been a better look. Compound that with receivers making mistakes the few times Fajardo made a great play. Duke missed a guaranteed TD by mysteriously stopping running. Baker had a drop. The list goes on. You can’t point to any one person as the sole issue with our O. Everyone involved with that mess contributed and the result is a team that can’t score 20 points.

Not that I think it would have made a difference but good lord did Winnipeg get away with some blatant holds. I’m pretty sure even if they completely pulled off one of our defenders jerseys they still would have not thought it was holding. To be fair, I’m not convinced that Duke catch was actually a catch either. I will also once again call for college-style ejections for targeting. Somehow we still use video review to see if sneezing on a QB is roughing but can't use it to eject people for blatant head shots. 

Moral victories my ass. I’m proud of the effort the players and coaches put it because I do believe they poured their heart into it. And realistically within 32 yards of the Grey Cup is not bad for a team that had 5 blown achilles and half their Ol line leave weeks before the season. But in the words of Ricky Bobby, if you’re not first, you’re last. And losing because you simply aren’t good enough in one phase of your team does not make me feel any better.

Much like 2008 we squandered a great defense. O’Day has a year to get that utter lack of anything resembling an offense figured out if he wants to have a shot at the Cup here in 2022.   

Friday, December 3, 2021

Riders vs. Bombers: West Final 2021

It seems like we’ve been hearing for months how the Riders would have no chance of beating the Bombers if by some fluke we ever made it to the West Final. Certainly the results of our regular seasons meetings would support that theory. But here’s the thing… zero expectations means zero pressure. Last week all the pressure was on the Riders. Pressure to finally win a playoff game at new Mosaic, pressure on Fajardo and Dickenson to deliver their first playoff wins, pressure not disappoint the home town crowd. This week, all that pressure shifts off the Riders and onto the Bombers. They are expected to win (as they should be), so worst case scenario the Riders meet expectations and lose. Anything beyond a resounding defeat is just a bonus at this point. That lack of pressure on the Riders could be an important factor. But the Riders aren’t just coming for a participant ribbon. The CFL playoffs are littered with teams that were better on paper not being better in a playoff game. Remember that Marcus Crandell has as many Grey Cup wins as Ron Lancaster.

Look, the Bombers are damn good. There’s no arguing that point. Pick a stat: most wins, most points scored, least points allowed, most takeaways, least giveaways, least sacks allowed, lowest average fan IQ /teeth count, least penalized… the list goes on and on. So I agree that they come into this game the heavy favourite. But I stop short of buying the theory that the Riders have no chance. Yeah the final scores in our two previous games are not flattering but dig a bit deeper and you will find that in both games we kept it close in the first half. On Labour Day we were actually leading at half time (Micah Johnson did not play that game). At Banjo Bowl we were down just 3 points at half (in a game with no Leonard, Purifoy or Marshall and lost 4 more players to injury/ejection). So the issue is not ability, its longevity (I’m told that’s a perfectly normal issue that lots of people deal with).

So how do we go about engineering the massive upset? I was going to use an expression to describe looking for their weakness but I don’t think I can say the one about looking for that certain something in their armor and given how 2021 started, I don’t really want to say we need to find their Achilles heel.

Defensively, I think we have a few things going for us over the regular season. This will be the first time we face the Bombers with both Micah and Leonard in the line-up. Winnipeg has the best OL so we need all the firepower we can get up front. We also have much more stability in the secondary then the last time we met. LBs are a bit more interesting as Hendy went crying home, Dearborn is hurt and Tietz is nicked up. Key is obviously stopping the run first. Andrew Harris hasn’t played in close to 2 months and so you know he will be jacked up (probably on a supplement that some mystery assailant put in his water against his knowledge) to prove himself. Gotta limit that. D-line needs to at least make Collaros uncomfortable. Sacks will be hard to come by but if he has time and a clean pocket he’ll pick us apart. Bombers give up very few turnovers but I have a feeling we are going to need one or two of those if we want any chance in this one. Also, based on the fact that we know our offense won’t produce until the 4th quarter, we need to not let Winnipeg get up early. The longer we keep the game close, the more our odds of grinding one out go up. We are not built to come from behind and Winnipeg is very much built in all aspects to play with a lead.

Offensively, someone just tell Cody that it’s the fourth quarter all game. Fourth quarter Cody is deadly. First quarter Cody is responsible for my kids learning a lot of curse words. Let’s help him out though. Question, do we want Cody chucking it 40 times a game relying on Lauderdale and Boyko to stop Jefferson and Jeffcoat 40 times? Simplest way to avoid that is give another big workload to Powell. It will be tough slugging as Bighill is a formidable force but if we don’t run a lot, we’re in trouble. Also, the logic would say that Fajardo needs use his legs again but I’m guessing Richie Hall has heard of game film and will basically assign Bighill to scheme that away. There will be chances to run but there will be fewer than last week. May have success running Powell one way and Fajardo another and forcing Bighill to decide who has the ball. Maybe this is the week that we realize before the 3 minute warning that Duke is our best receiver and lean on him. Maybe. We are going to need to spread the ball around but if you have watched any film of our receivers since Duke arrived and come to the conclusion that other receivers deserve more targets then him well then you just might qualify for citizenship in Manitoba. Nothing good came of trying to get Evans going last game… but you gotta go back to him because we’re going to need all the help we can get for our lackluster offense to score points on the best defense in the league. I still believe Shaq has some big plays in him. Help our tackles anyway you can: run the ball, add extra blockers, dump offs to Dupuis, timing outs. Hell if they are going to be aggressive, why not throw a flea flicker at them? Who am I kidding, the 2021 Rider flea flicker would result in a swing pass somehow.

Lots of talk of the Bombers being rusty since they have been playing meaningless football since September. Probably some truth to that but I’m not counting on it too much. That said, we gotta hit ‘em in the mouth early. Not literally ala Shawn Lemon but we need to set the tone early that we can hang with them and not let the crowd to too riled up. An early score would be ideal but I will settle for the much more realistic trade early FGs and keep the score low.

Here’s how I see it. On paper our odds of victory are about on par with my chances of making through the game without rye. But pretty much every game this season we seem to end up in a situation where our odds of victory are slim. As despite all his faults this season, the one thing I will never do is doubt Fajardo’s ability to deliver a score when it matters most. So why not this Sunday?

Fully prepared to have my heart broken but against all logic…

Riders by a Lauther FG.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: First Playoff Win At New Mosaic

Riders 33 – Stamps 30 (OT)

If you had told me before the game that Fajardo would throw 4 picks and our only change a victory was if the most accurate kicker in the regular season missed 3 FGs in the game, I would have bet my first born child against the Riders. Certainly dodged a bullet on that one (don't tell my wife).

What did you honestly expect? That was the most on-brand way for the Riders to win. It was very consistent with what they showed in the regular season. Much like a discount hooker, they are almost ugly enough to induce vomiting but will get the job done in the end even if you don’t feel great about it afterwards.

Had we lost, that would have 100% been on Cody. Normally I’m very big on winning and losing as a team but man he sure tried to lose that game by himself. Picked a hell of time to play like dog crap. He just wasn’t making good reads. Clearly he committed to a play pre-snap and didn’t bother looking somewhere else when his primary read was not even close to open. The only exception was the INT on the long pass to Shaq, where Shaq was open but Cody threw it late and floated it. Fortunately Cody can run because that was about the only good thing he did in that game. Also, fortunately he managed to not suck for one TD drive late, mostly because he finally decided to feed Duke the ball. Why it took until the 4th to figure that plan out is beyond me. The few times Cody managed not to suck his receivers hung him out to dry. Shaefer-Baker should have had that TD, it was a well thrown ball. I did like how we actually stayed committed to Powell. Probably helped that passing the ball proved so problematic. O-line was a solid mediocre and by our standards that’s a massive step up.

Defensively was a mixed bag. I was pleasantly surprised with Marshall. He came out fired up and tried stirring stuff up at midfield pre-game and went on to play a very good game. He was dialed in. Gainey balled out and made Bo Levi his bitch. That second INT you could tell from the second it left Bo’s hands that it was going to be a pick. D-line was not as impactful as we have grown accustomed to but made some key plays late. Can’t say I expected our D to give up 30… though some of that is on the O for the repeated turnovers. Consider that off 4 INTs we allowed just 10 points off turnovers. Add 4 turnovers to that and the D actually played better than the stat line would say.

Special teams won us this game. I’ve been hyping Morrow all year and he finally delivered when it mattered most. One massive TD that counted. One that didn’t (the penalty was pretty minor but a penalty nonetheless). And while a so-called all-star kicker did his best to ensure a victory for the other team, our self proclaimed best kicker in the league actually lived up to his hype. I mean I could have done without the doink as that gave us all some PTSD. But he was clutch when we needed it. Also I definitely had PTSD when I saw flags on the game winning kick. Absolutely refused to get my hopes up until hearing the call. Special teams was the difference in this one. Ours was good, there’s was not.

There were times when I could have kissed our coaching staff. Starting the second half with the onside kick and then driving for a TD was massive. There were also times where they deserved to be kicked in the crotch. Look our offense was garbage and Morrow was good, everyone at the stadium could see it. But of the 5 times that Paredes actually hit an FG we only made them kickoff twice. Opting to leave the playmaker Morrow on the sidelines, in favour of more interceptions. Bad coaching calls. Also, I doubt it would have made a difference but at the end of the 4th we (once again) refused to take a timeout before the Paredes kick and left ourselves with just 37 seconds instead of 50+. When all we needed was an FG, you think you’d want a few more seconds. Did Dickenson join some strange religion where timeouts as considered a sin?

But all my criticisms account for nothing, because in spite of all that we did what we’ve done all year. Found a way to win. Believe I’m elated with the playoff win regardless of how much sucking we did in the process. I’m also elated to say that Calgary and Bo Levi managed to lose to a team that threw 4 INTs. Now that’s embarrassing. Also embarrassing is getting kicked out of a playoff game at halftime because you think punching a guy with a helmet is a good idea. That gave us momentum heading into half that we carried over in the 3rd quarter.

Not even going to start worrying about next week. Just enjoying the win. We are one win away from the Grey Cup… what more could you want? I distinctly remember the feeling leaving the stadium after the '18 and '19 playoff games. So regardless of how we got there, I'm damn sure going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.