I would like to start today by compiling a list of people who deserve full credit for their effort on Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium:
1) The fans
2) Luca Congi
The fans were outstanding on Saturday night, particularly in the 4th quarter. Wally Buono commented before the game that if a team is prepared, fan noise doesn't make any difference at all. I wonder if he still felt the same way after his offensive line took back-to-back procedure calls on a key 4th quarter drive simply because they couldn't hear Jarious Jackson's cadence. Clearly the 13th man did everything they could to help the defense shut the Lions down in the dying minutes, and they should be commended for it.
As for Congi, the Rider kicker contributed a field goal and was good on all of his converts. While these may seem like basic plays, Luca deserves credit for making good on the basic play every time he was asked to. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about many of his teammates. In particular, I'm looking in Tristan Clovis' direction... which I guess gives me something in common with every offensive coordinator in this league that needs a big play at an opportune time.
When we got the Lions in 3rd and 10 with well under a minute left to play, I just knew the Riders had the game locked up. When Jackson dropped back and let the ball fly in the direction of Geroy Simon, I took one look at the trajectory of the ball and the position of our safety, and I was even more confident than I had been a moment earlier. Then I watched in dumbfounded amazement with 27,799 of my fellow victims as Clovis suddenly forgot everything he's ever known about football and the ball floated untouched into the waiting hands of one of the most dangerous receivers the league has seen in years. Seriously, Clovis, what were you doing back there? Stephen Hawking could have made a better adjustment to that ball!
Now, I'll be the first to admit I was shocked to see Jackson throw to Simon in desperation time since watching recent Lions games led me to believe that Jarious and Geroy had yet to be introduced to each other, but I mean come on! How does a team let #81 get that far behind them when the game is all but over? How does a team let ANYONE get that far behind them when the game is all but over? Some say we're missing the veteran leadership of Eddie Davis, but does it really take a wily veteran such as ED to say "Okay, we're up by 4 and they've got one play left. Don't let anything get behind you!"
Now, while I obviously place a great deal of the blame for this one on Clovis, he's unfortunately not the only one wearing the horns after that one. I have to give credit to the play of our special teams on Saturday night, as they absolutely lived up to their name - the long kickoff return and the blocked punt left no doubt in my mind that Alex Smith's troops were in fact "special". My only real question was how they got that many guys to Taylor Field on the short bus.
Now, here's where I'm going to disagree with an opinion that I have heard from many Rider "fans". Kerry Joseph. Yes, Joseph fumbled right before halftime in what could have been (but fortunately wasn't) a devastating break. Yes, Joseph overthrew a wide open Andy Fantuz late in the game in what would have been at the very least a drive-extending play that continued to eat away at the clock. Yes, Joseph had little success moving the ball late in the game, which gave the Lions repeated chances to chip away at our lead.
NO, Kerry Joseph was not the reason we lost that game! Seriously, anyone calling for Marcus Crandell to start next week on the basis that Joseph lost this game for us should seriously consider having their heads examined. 34 points should be enough to win any game against any team in the CFL on any day of the week. Period. Blaming Kerry Joseph for this loss is comparable to blaming Al Gore for Global Warming. No wait... Rider fans would never blame Al Gore for Global Warming, since that was probably Kerry's fault too.
Originally I was going to say "Blaming Kerry Joseph for this loss makes about as much sense as watching a fight between Scott Schultz, John Chick, Rob Murphy and Sherko Haji-Rasouli and then ejecting Cory Rodgers", but I don't want to go so far as to suggest any of my loyal readers have the intelligence of a CFL official. But while we're on the topic, what the hell was that? On one side you've got Murphy with a choke hold on Chick, on the other you've got Haji-Rasouli ripping off Scott Schultz' helmet and throwing it across the field, and neither of them are ejected from the game. I have to think though that the league will step in and suspend Sherko for his actions - which, if precedent has taught me anything, will give them roughly three weeks to locate a BC Lions season ticket holder who also happens to moonlight as a judge.
Elsewhere in the CFL...
Not only did the Calgary Stampeders manage to lose to the football powerhouse that is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but they also came out of the game with one less quarterback than they went in with. Old Smilin' Hank sure didn't seem to be smiling once that shoulder popped out. If you re-watch the game film, you can actually see the exact moment where Calgary's season ends. For those of you that don't have the keen eye of the Rider Prophet, I can tell you that it's roughly halfway between Henry sprawling out in a vain attempt to reach the endzone and Akili Smith trotting onto the field. Then you have Tom Higgins, who clearly demonstrated his subscription to the Adam Rita method of building a quarterback's confidence when he responded to the question "is Akili Smith ready to start?" with "No, but he's going to have to."
Many people have asked me today, "how did Toronto so easily handle the Winnipeg Blue Bombers yesterday?" The answer is quite simple: Kevin Glenn is playing hurt. For some, that may bring up the follow-up question "why is Kevin Glenn playing hurt?" The answer to that is simple too: the Bombers backup is a Dinwiddie, and I can't say much better for Brendan Taman, who I assume is responsible for handling that type of thing.
Montreal lost to Edmonton for the 2nd time in two weeks. I don't know what to do with that team anymore - first I thought Bellefuille was the problem, then I thought I'd come to the conclusion that it was Calvillo and Cahoon holding the Als back. But fortunately, I have a solution. I am, after all, a Rider fan. So I'll just blame Kerry.