Riders 41 - Montreal 33
Wow! Another week, another exciting victory for the Riders. I'll admit things looked bleak for a minute there. We were down 33-25 with just over 3 minutes left and though I hadn't counted us out yet, I was beginning to get a sinking feeling in my stomach. But just when it seemed hope was fading, the Riders rattled off 16 unanswered points, in the most exciting 3 minutes of football I've seen in a long time.
While there were so many great individual efforts that led to the victory, there was one individual who deserves special mention. With time winding down and the Als leading, someone was going to have to step up if the Riders were going to win... and that man was Jason Armstead. More than any other player, his efforts fueled the Rider comeback. He started by kneeling on a kickoff despite being pinned deep in his own end. I haven't seen such a misguided decision since that time I glove slapped Colonel Sanders (granted Armstead had no coverage because Marc Trestman mysteriously sent out the onside kick recovery team but still Armstead could have gained 5 yards by simply falling forward). Upon returning to the bench, Trestman had some stern words for his mediocre return man. But Armstead wasn't finished, he proceeded to fumble the next kickoff, all but sealing Montreal's fate. After scraping himself off the turf and finding his way to the bench he was heard telling his coach "Taking the knee doesn't look so bad now, does it??" I find it ironic that Armstead managed to give the Riders better field position as an Aloutette then he did while he was still a Rider.
Darian Durant continued his strong play, passing for 3 TDs and rushing for another. Thank God, because after watching Hamilton embarrass themselves this week I was worried that he wasn't as good as Hamilton made him look. Fortunately, Durant looks to be the real deal and provides us with solid depth at QB. Special mention also goes out to Wes Cates and Neal Hughes who accounted for over half of our 475 offensive yards, the bulk of which was through the air. You know things are going good on offense when a receiving corp featuring Fantuz, Dominguez and Bowman has to compete with a RB and FB for receptions.
It wasn't all positives for the Riders though. We had some offensive struggles including 2 INTs to Reggie Hunt, a Wes Cates fumble that was overturned (though I think it was a fumble) and the worst offensive series I've ever seen. We managed to start on our own 5 and go penalty, penalty, incompletion, penalty, short pass, safety (or the Hamilton '03 special, as it's more widely known). Also, our 3rd quarter defense was about the worst I've seen in some time. I can forgive leaving receivers open because you are blitzing to get big pressure on the QB and I can also forgive getting minimal pressure because you are dropping into blanket coverage. It seemed for awhile though that Richie Hall subscribed to neither of those philosophies and instead opted for the lesser known "get no pressure and cover no one" defensive scheme. While the scheme managed to confuse me and those sitting around me, Anthony Calvillo and the Als offense seemed un-phased. Fortunately for the Riders, our D once again stepped up when it mattered most, forcing a couple big turnovers to swing momentum back in our direction.
Then end result was an exciting win and a CFL best 4-0 record. It's the first time we've started 4-0 since 1970. The victory came at a big cost though as defensive end John Chick went down early and it was later revealed that he sprained his MCL and will be out 4-6 weeks minimum. If you have any kind of memory, the phrase "out 4-6 with an MCL sprain" should concern you. The last time we heard it was regarding Dominguez. What they forgot to add to the end of that diagnosis was "Replace 4-6 with 8-10 and the word weeks with months". We wish Chick a speedy recovery. He is now the 5th Rider player to suffer a significant lower body injury this year, joining Marcus Crandell, Weston Dressler, DJ Flick and Leron Mitchell. If we keep up this pace, pretty soon the only place you'll find more people with bad legs than the Riders injured reserve will be on Brendan Taman's list of punting prospects.
I'm the Rider Prophet and those are my sentimonies.