Riders 55 – Eskimos 9
Ohh so that’s how good our starting line-up is… It’s been so long since I’ve seen them that I forgot (The best part is we are still missing last year’s leading receiver and the best centre in the CFL).
In the final regular season game at Mosaic, in front of 30,950 fans, the Edmonton Eskimos managed to blow more than the prairie wind… no small feat since it was gusting up to 80 km/h. For me, the TSN turning point in this one came in the first quarter when Mo Lloyd put such a vicious hit on Ricky Ray that he fumbled the ball (the first of 7 turnovers on the night), which was returned by Kitwana Jones for a touchdown. It was at that point that the game pretty much ended for the Eskimos as the Riders handed them their second worst loss in franchise history. From what I understand, Esks fans weren't as upset about the touchdown or even the possible helmet to helmet contact on Ray as they were that it wasn't Danny Maciocia getting leveled.
I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing… the fact that they lost by 46 or the fact that they’ve actually done worse in the past. After the game, Maciocia told the media that "We're just playing dumb right now. Collectively we're a bunch of dummies." I guess it took him the better part of 4 years to figure out what we’ve known all along.
The game featured a number of anomalies that Rider fans have not been accustomed to seeing. Our D-line got pressure on the QB and even managed to collapse the pocket; John Chick managed to go a whole game without being injured; and most surprisingly, Corey Grant scored a touchdown. This quote from Grant pretty much sums up how rare a TD is for him: “The coach is like, ‘Act like you’ve been there,’ but I haven’t been there before. It had been a while, so I didn’t know what to do.’’ I couldn’t have put it better myself Corey.
Full credit to our defense for an outstanding performance. Bolstered by the return of McKenzie and Chick they put up 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 defensive TDs and allowed 0 TDs. The key was the pressure generated by our front 4. I’m not surprised that Edmonton’s O-line had trouble with the pressure. I mean really… they couldn’t have been expecting it. I know I wasn’t. Hats off to the defense for making perennial all-star quarterback Ricky Ray look like Michael Bishop. While I’m on the subject, hats off to Edmonton’s defense for making perennial failure Michael Bishop look like Ricky Ray.
With our starters back in place, our offense seems to be rolling again. I like that we no longer have to rely on the long ball to move the chains. With possession receivers like Dominguez, Getzlaf (who continues to impress) and the returning Andy Fantuuuuuz we can once again use short to medium passes, complemented by solid running from Cates. Saturday was a good example of how effective that can be. How awesome was it seeing Fantuz back in there? You would hardly know it was his first game back with the catches he was making. He looks like his old self already and he will only get better the more he plays. For the first time in a long time, I thought the play calling was great, seems LaPolice is finally returning to his early season form.
FYI for those of you keeping track at home… we are still undefeated when Belton Johnson plays the whole game. #58 for MVP??
About the only negative to come out of this game surrounds our QB situation (go figure). For the 3rd week in a row, our starting QB threw enough interceptions to get himself pulled. While he wasn’t terrible, Stephen Jyles failed to establish himself as a bona fide starter. Like his predecessors, his downfall was his failure to protect the football. This led to Michael Bishop coming off the bench. Yes, we’ve now gone through the QB batting order and are back at the top of list. To be fair, Bishop played a good half, completing 90% of his passes including 2 TDs. It’s pretty clear that Bishop is now the chosen one going into the playoffs… though to be fair he wasn’t really chosen so much as he was given the spot by default. I will save my thoughts on our QB situation for my next post.
It was a statement victory for the Riders but there’s little time to savour it as we are just 3 sleeps away from doing it all again in Toronto.