Riders 25 – Stamps 30
Well 7 games into the season and we finally discovered what the key to our success so far was… Belton Johnson. When the likes of Flick, Fantuz, Chick and Dominguez went down to injury, the Riders barely missed a beat. But take away Belton (due to another broken fibula… are you freaking kidding me?!?!) and they suffer their first loss of the season. I was as shocked as anyone to discover the importance of #58.
Seriously though, the Riders undefeated streak was halted at 6 games by the visiting Stampeders. Now realistically, losing this game shouldn’t bother me too much. We were a severely injured team taking on a very talented Stamps team that was looking for revenge after only 4 days rest. But the loss does bother me… mainly because it was a very winnable game for us despite our injuries.
If we had done anything at all in the first 3 quarters we would have won. Unfortunately the combination of poor play calling and dropped balls led to 4 point in 3 quarters (1 off a punt single and 3 off a FG following an INT deep in Stampeder territory). Calgary neutralized Cates completely and our passing game was unable to compensate. With our offense struggling, our defense was forced to spend a lot of time on the field and Calgary was able to take advantage of their fatigue. Honestly, on that Rambo touchdown he was so open that he had time to sell Norwex back there. He was like “You want this spray bottle? How about this special cloth? Oh excuse me for a second I have to go catch this ball.”
At halftime it looked like not only would we lose the game but we would do so in embarrassing fashion. Fortunately the fans were once again treated to an exciting 4th quarter. A touchdown off a deflected pass, a blocked punt (by Renauld Williams, who is playing great football) for a TD and a nice catch by Dressler in tight coverage for a 3rd TD led many Rider faithful including myself to think we had a shot at a miracle comeback. And had it not been for Eddie Davis tripping on the game clinching first down we may very well have completed the comeback. Unfortunately our surge proved to be too little too late.
Everyone has been talking about the drops our receivers had. People are being particularly hard on Bowman. While I’m not happy about the drops that he and Dressler had, I’m not about to hang the loss on them. These guys are rookies. Very talented rookies, but rookies none the less. They have played a total of 7 (4 in Dressler’s case) CFL games so should it be a huge surprise that they aren’t quite ready to carry the team? Instead of criticizing our rookies maybe we should be criticizing our veterans. These are the guys who should be stepping up and being leaders on the field. I am very disappointed with Michael Palmer in particular. As a 6 year vet, we need Palmer to step up and be that steady possession receiver inside like Flick and Fantuz were. However, instead of stepping up, Palmer is making more rookie mistakes than our rookies… on a 2 point conversion attempt he runs his route short of the goal line, he fumbles the ball, he stalls drives by dropping key passes. Guess that’s what we get for acquiring someone from the Argonaut school of offense.
Now that I have that mini-rant out of my system, it’s time to take a deep breath and remember that things aren’t all that bad. We are still the top team in the CFL going into the bye week, and still have a 4 point cushion over 2nd place. With the state of the East division, we're likely only a win or two away from guaranteeing ourselves our 7th consecutive playoff appearance. And most importantly, we're not the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Doug Berry isn't our head coach.
What a story that has turned out to be! Many thought that the Bombers would be the team to beat in the East this year (if there is such a thing), but as it turns out, last year's Grey Cup also-rans have stumbled to a hilarious 1-6 record. Coach Berry has announced that Kevin Glenn, dethroned as the Bomber starting quarterback after the first four games of the season, will reclaim his position as starter over the struggling Ryan "I'd be a lot like Brett Favre if I didn't suck" Dinwiddie. This comes just weeks after Berry announced that Dinwiddie would be the starter for the foreseeable future. Then again, when the team's GM employs such tactics as consistently trading away any and all available draft picks and investing money in an aging, injured receiver that wants one more shot at a championship, maybe Berry doesn't deserve so much criticism - foresight doesn't quite seem to be 20/20 in Winnipeg, where the team seems to have the long-term planning of a fruit fly.
Finally, word out of BC is that Joe Smith may be on the trading block. Smith led the league in rushing last season but has fallen out of favour with Wally Buono this season after some very half-hearted performances. Toss in the strong play of Stephan Logan and all signs point to the end of the Smith era in BC. I honestly never thought I’d see the day when a former league leading rusher had his tenure with a team ended due to a love of gardening. I guess truth is stranger than fiction.