Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Embarrassment In Edmonton

Riders 14 – Eskimos 17

The game started out exactly how we all expected. Riders built up a comfortable lead and managed to chase Ricky Ray from the game. But apparently the team only got as far as the end of the first quarter when they were game planning because the ensuing 45 minutes among the worst minutes of Rider football I’ve been subjected to recent memory. 47 scoreless minutes may be considered an exciting soccer game (well, not by me, but in general) but in football (aka a real sport) it is an embarrassment plain and simple.

It’s a sad state of affairs when your longest offensive play of a game comes in the first 5 minutes of the game… from your safety. But that’s exactly what happened when James Patrick picked off a pass from Ricky Ray that seemed to be intended for Lance Frazier and took it to the house. It was the first of 3 first INTs for Patrick (who is emerging as a star at the safety position) who played an outstanding game. Actually, I thought the defense as a whole played well. Other than some initial difficulty containing Zebranksy, they did their job. They allowed only 1 TD and the only reason that happened was because a blocked punt gave the Esks the ball on the 8 yard line. They did everything they could including chasing 2 Eskimo QBs from the game so my hats off to the defense on a solid performance.

Actually the way the game was unfolding was giving me flashbacks to the ’07 Grey Cup. The heavily favoured Riders struggling offensively. The hopes of the other team placed on an inexperienced QB from Boise. One lone DB single-handedly having to win the game for the Riders. Only difference was that I actually respected the hero DB this time instead of wanting to go slam my head against a wall repeatedly every time I heard who got the INT.

The rest of the team however, played like absolute garbage. While there were so many craptacular performances, I would like to focus on 3 in particular. The first craptacular performance is the most obvious… Darian Durant. Last year, Durant spent the bye week in the film room and it turned out to be the turning point of his season. This year he did the same but it seems to have had the complete opposite effect. He looked brutal out there. This has led me to wonder if someone accidentally switched the game film he was supposed to be studying with the Best of Nealon Greene circa 2005, Man In the Bush doing the charleston or possibly this

Double D was forcing throws, making poor reads/decisions and lacked the confidence and leadership he has become famous for.

The 2nd craptacular performance I would like to mention is Doug Berry. Now admittedly Durant’s poor execution may have made our offensive game plan look worse than it was but still, it was pretty bad. There were just so many glaring problems with our schemes. Edmonton’s run defense is brutal yet we were unable to take advantage. Cates had some early success but when the Esks adjusted and plugged up the middle we refused to change anything. We just kept running Cates up the middle into a pile of defenders. We made no attempt to bounce him outside. We also didn’t use Durant’s legs at all. It was mind boggling how we refused to attack their greatest weakness.

Also, the whole “Make our worst receiver the focal point of your passing attack in an attempt to make him feel like a big boy again” was just ridiculous. I’ll even put aside my blatant hated of Rodriguez for a minute (and the fact that he served up an easy INT)… fact remains pound for pound he is at best our 3rd best receiver (personally I’d rank him 5th behind Getzlaf and Clermont but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here). Even more infuriating than our over reliance on Rodriguez is the miss-guided ways we are using him. He is a tall receiver who is a natural WR since he can stretch the field and beat DBs for jump balls… at least that’s how a logical coach would do things. But Berry seems to have determined that 95% of Rodriguez’s routes should be quick screens and short crossers. Which makes complete sense since it allows him to use none of his physical attributes to his advantage. All Prechae really has going for him are his physical attributes (it’s certainly not his effort or ability to fight for the ball) but we refuse to use them to our advantage. Might as well just put Clermont out there and appease the masses if that’s all you are going to ask of your wideout.

The last craptacular performance I will mention is Jim Daley (a repeat offender in the field of craptacularness). Blocked punt – check. Non-existent return game – check. Blocking scheme that seems to involve our blockers pretending they are matadors and letting every opposing player get a free shot at our return guy – check. Remind me again why this guy is still employed. When pretty much every aspect of your special teams is terrible and a liability shouldn’t that be a sign that maybe the guy who coordinates it all is to blame? Sure our coverage on kicks is good but if that is what is considered acceptable for a special teams coordinator we might as well just give the job back to Alex Smith. He managed to field good coverage and poor returns without all the embossing failures that Daley brings to the table.

There is no way we should have lost that game. Edmonton didn’t play that well we just managed to suck more than they did. Hopefully getting humbled by a bottom dwelling team will serve as a wake-up call for this team. We have loads of talent and the potential to be an elite team but unless we start translating that into consistent performance in all 3 phases of the game we will never realize our potential.

The good news is that Labour Day is up next and the perfect cure for our current unhappiness is repeated insulting of our neighbours to the East… and all their uncle-daddy’s, sister-nieces and momma-goats.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Riders vs. Edmonton: Finally Some Football

It has now been 2 full weeks since the Riders last played. While I’m sure the players were grateful for the break, us fans were certainly not. For a football junkie such as myself, having to spend 2 Rider-less weeks is more excruciating than a Celine Dion/Justin Beiber marathon. I tried filling the void with pre-season NFL but that’s only good for about 6 plays. Then the starters call it a day and I steadily lose interest. I also tried filling the void with East Division CFL games… but again that only provided about 6 good plays.

Anywho, the long wait is finally over as the 5-2 Riders return to the field to take on the 1-6 Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium. Over 45,000 tickets have already been sold for this game. No doubt the increased demand for tickets is coming from Edmontonians who want to support their team and rally behind them… oh hell I can’t even type that with a straight face! Rider fans are yet again set to descend on an opposing team’s stadium and turn it into a home game for the green and white.

The massive ticket sales for Saturday’s game is about the only thing going right for the Eskimo organization at this point. They have only won 1 game this season, they fired their GM, the names being floated around for a replacement GM include Ed Hervey and Warren Moon (who have absolutely no experience as a GM), they fired 2 assistant coaches, they want to fire their head coach but can’t because the other coaches they employ are far too inept to replace him with (so by default they are forced to keep him), their top receiver is hurt, their franchise QB is just coming back from injury and their only decent defender has cancer according to some reports… oh, check that, he is reported to be a cancer, my bad (wish I had clued into that before sending him that card). And that is just is a list of what is going wrong off the field. On the field, there is a whole new list of concerns.

While people in Edmonton seemed to be shocked by the sudden collapse of their storied franchise, people outside the organization have seen this coming for years. The day the salary cap came into effect, Edmonton’s days at the top became numbered. While other GMs adapted well to the cap and made the necessary roster adjustments to remain competitive, Maciocia’s big plan was to pay Ricky Ray a lot of money and assume he could carry a roster full of inexpensive and talentless players to victory. This plan failed miserably because though Ray was good, when he had no O-Line, run game, Canadian talent, defense or competent coaching to support him, he just couldn’t carry the whole team. The problem was further compounded because rather than recruiting and drafting talented players to address their weaknesses, the Esks simply assumed that throwing a truckload of money at an all-star MLB would fix everything. Again, though Lloyd was good, to the shock of the Eskimos he was not able to single-handedly make their crappy defense awesome, turn their piss poor Canadian content into something of value or make their coaches less retarded.

But enough about the myriad of reasons that the Eskimos are screwed, let’s talk about the game.

Simply put there is a lot wrong with the Esks. They have committed a league high 24 turnovers compared to a league low 10 takeaways. They have scored the 2nd least points of anyone so far. They have allowed more points than anyone. They have atrocious run defense (allowing an average of 164 yds per game). They have the 2nd least sacks and they have an O-line that is only slightly better than BC’s which isn’t really a compliment. It’s kinda like being an Asian among eunuchs.

But despite all this, they still aren’t a team that can be taken lightly. They have Arkee Whitlock who I think is one of the best RBs in the league. Last time Ricky Ray used Fred Stamps to shred our secondary. Stamps may be hurt but Ray still has Jason Barnes (who I think is an underrated receiver) and Kelly Campbell who is very dangerous… at least those rare time where he’s not freelancing, being lazy or just mentally checked out of a game.

The Riders get many favourable match-ups in this contest. Our league leading rushing attack gets to face an embarrassingly bad run D. Our potent offensive attack gets to face a defense that gets scored on more often than a drunk girl with low self esteem. Our sack happy defense gets to face an O-line that must have some personal vendetta against Ricky Ray given the amount of time they let defenders through.

Defensively the keys to the game are stop the run and get pressure. I know we got shredded through the air last game but the key to beating the Esks is to make them one dimensional. If we can take Whitlock out of the equation it will allow our pass rushers to pin their ears back and attack the QB. Their O-line sucks and I’m convinced Ricky Ray is coming back too soon so if we can get a few good hits in on him, the passing game will quickly start to crumble. Ricky Ray loves the short passes… actually its pretty much all he can do anymore. Interesting stat for you: Ray is completing close to 70% of his passes but is 5th in passing yards and has less TDs than any QB who doesn’t wear an orange jersey. Ray is extremely risk averse. We need tight coverage on the short-medium routes which will force Ray to either make bad passes or hold the ball longer allowing our pass rush to get there.

Offensively, we need to exploit their inability to stop the run. We need to go to Cates early and often to chew up yards and move the chains. Durant’s ability to run will be a difference maker in this game as well. I see 1 rushing TD or 2 in store for him. Fresh off a week in the film room, Durant’s reads and decision making should be improved. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, the ground game should open things up for our receivers. Whichever crappy safety the Esks decide to start should be very exploitable.

The Esks can be dangerous but their O-line and their defense as a whole are just too big of a weakness to overcome against a talented team like the Riders. While I expect them to come out motivated to play and to play a decent game, bottom line is … Eskimos Suck! (which coincidentally is the title of a weird fetish movie that Man In The Bush just purchased off the internet…though I would have preferred if he had not shared that information with me).

Riders by 10.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: More Merchandising!

Normally my Monday post would talk about the CFL games this past weekend. But the Riders were on a bye week so there’s nothing to talk about for them. As for the 2 games that did occur, they weren’t really much to talk about. In case you missed them here’s a quick summary:

Calvillo got so hurt that they needed to wrap him in a medical blankie and wheel him to the hospital. Chris Leak came in an embarrassed himself by overusing the Gator Chomp celebration. Fortunately, the Bombers’ receivers managed to embarrass themselves far worse by forgetting that they were playing football and instead using some sort of weird volleyball-like technique when the ball came their way and Montreal cruised to an easy victory. The Argo/Ti-Cat game was a sorry excuse for a football game and was “highlighted” by the Argos offesne which was based entirely on the check down to Andre Durie; Barker not knowing the rules; and Lin-J Shell spiting on someone. All around not a banner week for the CFL. The only other notable thing was that in an effort to shore up their atrocious O-line the BC Lions have signed recently cut OL Joe McGrath. Then again this could just be a ploy by Wally to get a first round pick out of the Eskimos by trading McGrath back to Edmonton.

Anywho, since the on-field action wasn’t all that great I thought I’d take this opportunity to address an important off-field topic… merchandising. More specifically the ridiculous state of Rider merchandising.

Ever since the Grey Cup win in ’07, the Riders have been shattering records for merchandise sales. Rider gear is flying off the shelf as fast as they can stock it. At first it was the standard jerseys, hats and t-shirts but as demand for Rider gear increased so to did the diversity of the Rider product line. While I’m all for the proliferation of Rider gear across the country and the massive revenues it means for the team, I think things may be getting a bit crazy.

Hats and shirts are one thing but now there a Rider bathroom sets, hammers, breakfast cereal, things to cook Rider logos onto your freaking burgers and hotdogs, windshield washer fluid, lotions/shower gels. It’s gotten to the point where the marketing department is pretty much sticking a Rider logo on whatever pops into their head… but it’s working like a charm because people keep buying it. I am convinced that if Health Canada wants immunization rates to increase, all they would have to do is stick a Rider logo on their syringes and offer Rider Immunizations. I guarantee it would lead to unprecedented demand.

A quick walk through the Rider store will probably have you convinced that they’ve now got pretty much every Rider product imaginable available but that’s where you are wrong my friend.

In a Rider Prophet exclusive, here’s a look and upcoming Rider products that will soon be hitting store shelves.

Rider Brand Multivitamins

Rider Ravioli Crimper

Rider Pitchfork
Whether you are cleaning out the barns or joining an impromptu lynch mob. The Rider Pitchfork is a must for any Saskatchewan resident.

Roughrider Peanut Butter

Available in Smooth or… Chunky Adams

Gary Etcheverry Edition ImodiumImagine the commercial. “To stop runs of the field I use blitzes. To stop the runs off the field I use Imodium.”

Rider Home Pregnancy Test

Rider Yarmulke

For all the devout Hebrew Rider Fans out there.

Rider Communion Waffer

Because this blog can never contain too much blasphemy.

Rider Lettuce

What? … It’s green

Lady Rider Moustache Remover

What Rider items would you like to see?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rider Celebrity Look-alikes Goes Hip Hop

Regular readers will know how big of a fan of Frontlyne I was and how I have been petitioning for a new Frontlyne for a while now. Well based on how closely some of our players resemble rappers I think we might just have the personnel to make new Frontlyne a reality.

Take Prechae Rodriguez who looks eerily like Ol Dirty Bastard... god rest his soul (well maybe not god but you know)

He can be joined on stage by Dominique Dorsey aka P Diddy.

Completing the hip hop trio will be Willie Byrd, who can easily pass for Lil' Wayne

We could even bring back Denatay Heard to add some Mos Def to our New Frontlyne.

How about a musical collaboration that spans many genres? We can just invite Cary Koch to come rock out Bon Jovi style.

This last one has nothing to do with music (though I assume the celebrity featured was a mean rapper) but its just too funny not to include.

Nelson Martin and Ghandi

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Tuesday Afternoon Edition

My apologies for the lateness of this post. As Media Consultant so kindly pointed out (thanks jerk), the game was Thursday and here we are close to a week later and I’m only now getting around to writing about it. That’s bad even for me. I’d feel bad but as they say you get what you pay for. So unless anyone is prepared to step up with bags of money or the preferred non-descript briefcase full of non-sequential bills, lets just forget about my tardiness and move on.

Riders 37 – BC 13

Man oh man does BC suck. I mean I’ve seen teams suck before but they were they suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked… at least until Edmonton took to the field on Sunday and further lowered the bar.

As per usual it took our offense a while to start clicking but once it did they looked like the intimidating force we have been expecting. It’s amazing how much Durant having the energy to run the ball improves our offense. He didn’t put up the huge numbers we have become accustom to but he scored nothing but majors so I’ll take that over stats any day. His INT total continues to climb but at least they weren’t bad picks this time. The first one Getzlaf should have caught even though it was high and the 2nd was clearly a miscommunication between him and Dressler.

As expected our defense feasted on a bad O-line and an idiot QB. The one thing that amazed me about BC was their decision to stop running the ball in the second half. Robertson and Davis were shredding us along the ground and the Lions were very much in the game after the Davis TD but they inexplicably went away from the run at that point… no doubt due to the exceptional play of Jarious and the top notch pass protection he was being afforded. I’m not sure if Wally has just mentally checked out for the year or whether he’s actually going senile but for being the all-time winningest coach in CFL history he sure has been making some weird decisions of late.

How about Jerrell Freeman?! Sure it was against the worst pair of tackles in the league but you’ve got to be impressed with his showing. He managed to blow through the line like Lindsay Lohan blows through a line of coke. I thought Lance Frazier finally played a decent game (hopefully he can do that more often). James Patrick was solid as usual. I particularly like his determination to run his INT back for a TD even though he could just have easily gone down and effectively ended the game. Atta boy JP, way to pad those stats.

I knew BC’s O-line was bad and I knew they were poor blockers but I had no idea that they were in fact functionally retarded. As evidence of this look no further than Dean Valli who served up my favourite play from the entire game (and one that pretty much sums up BC’s season so far).

Faced with 2nd and long deep in their own end, the Lions astutely called a screen to Robertson. Ball was snapped, he swung out, O-lineman in tow… so far so good. It was at this point that things went terribly wrong. Dean Valli (you know the OL who was supposed to be blocking for Robertson) for reasons I can’t even fathom, decided to be a hero and catch the pass intended for Robertson. He then immediately realized his error and covertly handed the ball off to Robertson and tried to pretend like nothing happened. There are so many questions about that play. Why was Valli behind the RB he was supposed to be blocking for? When he clearly knew the call was a screen to the RB, how did he manage to screw it up? Why did an O-lineman even consider catching a ball? How did he manage to dress himself given his obvious mental deficiencies? Is there a Special Olympics sponsored football league that Valli can be sent to?

Other random thoughts on the game…

- I thought Dorsey ran well (despite the shortcomings of our blocking scheme).

- Shomari Williams is developing quite nicely.

- Rob Bagg is tough as nails!

- I have never in my life thought that anything Nik Lewis said had and value but he was right about the low tackling Lions. That’s all they do. I did love when Cates easily leaped over the low tackling DB for his 2nd TD though.

- Thanks to his black sleeves, Ryan Dinwiddie managed to sneak into the game without me noticing… at least until he attempted to pass the ball, then there was no mistaking him.

- BC sucks… did I mention that yet?

A convincing win over a weak division rival heading into the bye week is a great position to be in. We are headed into the bye week with no major injuries and provided the Szarka’s don’t decide to remodel again this week we should emerge without any. That means the team can use the bye week to rest their bumps and bruises can get rested up and revitalized for the next portion of the season.

Around the CFL…

By far my favourite story over the past few days has been the kicking drama in Winnipeg. First the finally decided to cut Alexis Serna (2 years too late but I digress) and sign Louis Sakoda. But Sakoda ended up being a last minute scratch leaving the Bombers scrambling for a kicker just before game time.

Following the game, the team took steps to ensure they would not be without a kicker again and invited pretty much any kicker who would field their calls to sign with them. What they ended up with a competition between a veritable whose who of rejected CFL kicker: Warren Keane (Eskimo draft bust who’s yet to accomplish anything of value), Ryan Elaschuk (training camp casualty of the Riders) and Justin Palardy (fresh off kicking himself out of a job in Hamilton). Honestly the only thing missing from this illustrious competition is Troy Westwood, the Wendy’s Kick for a Million guy, Alexis Serna disguised in a fake moustache and a horse. My money would be on the horse.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: So Very Lazy

As you can see I didn't manage to write a post today. I'd make an excuse but I'm even too lazy for that. Check back tomorrow to see if I've mustered up the energy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Riders vs. Lions: I Smell A Sick Day Coming On

Thursday the 4-2 Riders take on the 1-5 Lions in front of a sell-out crowd at Mosaic Stadium. Hopefully you are like me and have taken the liberty of taking Friday off work. Barring that you should either be laying the ground work for a sick day (a cough here, a sniffle there, subtle comments about your throat beginning to feel soar) or be working on one heck of an excuse as to why you will be absent from work. Now the Rider Prophet does not officially encourage abuse of sick leave or lying to your boss… but since you are probably going to do it anyway I would recommend going with one of the following… religious holiday (i.e. the 3rd day of Ramadan or International Left Handers Day), some sort of bowel or digestive problems (people tend not to ask many questions about that) or just tell them you could come to but you can’t seem to locate your pants so it would probably be in everyone’s best interests for you to stay home until you do.

Anywho, onto the game.

The Lions come into this game on a 5 game losing streak. They have not won since they beat the equally as inept Eskimos in week 1. Their losing streak started off with beat down at home by the Riders and their list of problems has seemed grow each week since.

Topping their list of problems is the fact that they have thusfar fielded a collection of failures at QB. They started off with a guy whose amazing athleticism and mobility was supposed to compensate for his idiocy… but he lost his mobility when he got hurt and was left with just his idiocy. So they tried going with a young prospect who was supposed to be the 2nd coming of Dave Dickenson… but he was more like the 2nd coming of Jimmy Kemp and was so comically inept that he was deemed to be a bigger failure than the idiot cripple he was supposed to replace. So now they have to resort to the same thing they do every year at about this time… Jarious Jackson. As I’ve said in the past, I consider Jackson to be only a slightly more intelligent Michael Bishop. He’s mobile, has a cannon for an arm but his intellectual capacity is only 3 steps above what is considered functionally retarded (hence why he is slightly more intelligent that Bishop).

Compounding their issues at QB is the fact that they are fielding a poor excuse for an O-line. They keep trying different combinations but the result is always the same… pass protection that is next to non existent (no one has given up more sacks) and a run game this is slipping further and further into oblivion (close to half of BC’s rushing yards came in the first game).

Not surprisingly a carousel of poor QBs and a sad excuse for an O-line has led to the least potent offense in the CFL. Seriously, people who play Dungeons and Dragons in their mom’s basement score more often than the Lions. But to Buono’s credit he is taking action to address his lack of a credible QB and terrible O-line… by cutting his second leading receiver (Derick Armstrong). Seems about right.

Despite all that is going wrong with BC, we can’t afford to take them lightly. They actually have fairly decent defense overall. They are the 3rd best against the pass and have allowed the 3rd least points. They feature ball hawks like the ever dangerous Korey Banks as well as Ryan Phillips and Dante Marsh. They lead the league in sacks… though their pass rush won’t likely be as powerful now that Aaron Hunt is on the 9-game. Their major weakness on D is stopping the run where they are 2nd worst in the league.

Key to the game offensively is limit mental errors. We have offensive weapons galore and talent to burn, we just haven’t been executing consistently. We should have walked all over the Als D last week but the combination of ill advised passes and key drops hurt us. BC has playmakers on D but we should be able to move the ball on them. Cates should have a big game and be the engine that drives our offense. Provided our O-line can buy him some time, a healthier Durant should be able to attack the BC secondary like that undercooked chicken attacked his intestines.

Defensively we need 2 things. 1 – pass rush. BC’s O-line is terrible so there is no excuse for not getting constant pressure and disrupting Jarious’ passes. 2 – Defend the pass. Jackson has a strong arm and good receivers (Simon, Arceneaux, other Jackson) which is somewhat unsettling given that we currently boast the worst pass defense in the league. The good news is that unlike the other QBs who have shredded our secondary (Calvillo, Ray, Glenn), Jackson is not now, nor has he ever been, known for his accuracy. If our coverage is tight we should see a pick or 2, particularly if Patrick is on his game. Robertson doesn’t really scare me except for the fact that he is a scoring machine on those rare occasions where Lulay fluked out and managed to get the ball into the redzone.

While switching Lulay for Jackson does improve the Lions, it’s not going to be enough to overcome the myriad of issues facing this team. The Riders make a bunch of bad mistakes in Montreal and still almost beat the league’s best team. The Lions are nowhere close to as good as the Alouettes so I expect a dominating performance from the Riders much like when they met in week 2. It won’t be a complete blow-out but…

Riders by 14.

Around the CFL…

The stadium debate in Hamilton is taking some very interesting turns. Faced with the mayor’s insistence on a location for a new proposed stadium that the Ti-Cats think is stupid, owner Bob Young has pulled out of the process completely meaning that unless something changes, the Ti-Cats will have nowhere to play once their lease at Ivor Wynne expires after next season. Rumours have since popped up that the Ti-Cats have a deal with Quebec City in the works. I would hate to see the Ti-Cats leave Hamilton, I mean Les Quebec Chat-Tigres just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Plus adding a beret to the cat on the logo would kind of eliminate all the toughness that used to be attributed to the team from Steeltown.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Just a quick reminder that if you are thinking about going to the Banjo Bowl this year you should talk to the guys at Major League Tours. Why go through all the trouble of making travel arrangements when these guys do it for you?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Très Proche

Riders 26 – Als 30

Friday’s loss to the Alouettes surprisingly didn’t induce the rage filled rantings that normally fill the Prophet household following a Rider loss. Part of that may have been the fact that I was drinking beer instead of rye like I usually do… I don’t know I’m not a doctor (though I have claimed to be one a time or two). But I think the main reason I wasn’t the angry ball of rage-ahol I normally am was that overall, I don’t we played all that bad. We went toe to toe with the best team in the CFL, on their turf, with a QB at less 100% and had a chance to win it despite spotting them a big lead early. Sure there was numerous bad decisions and boneheaded plays (seriously the pitch to Cates’ back that got picked was something to behold) but we showed that we are good enough to contend with the top team in the league and at the end of the day, I can live with that.

When the game opened with a 2 play, 89 yd TD play followed by a bad INT two plays later deep in our own end, I was mildly concerned. And by mildly concerned I mean I had visions of a blowout beginning to take shape. But to their credit, the Riders rallied and made a game of it. I mean when you look at it, we completely dominated the Als defensively in the second half. If it weren’t for the fact that we keep spotting them big leads I think we could have had 2 convincing wins over them this season.

For me the TSN turning point (that ironically was not TSN’s turning point) was the missed FG that was returned for a TD. That was a 10 point swing and if Congi makes that we win. A 42 yd FG should be very makeable (screw up spellcheck! It’s a word if I say it is). I like Congi but he needs to step up. He’s automatic inside the 40 but when he gets beyond that you’d swear Alexis Serna snuck his way onto our team. He’s already missed 4 from beyond 40, two of which have been returned for TDs. He needs to get better… and grow a moustache. I will not give up my Congi moustache campaign until he caves.

Another area we need to improve on is mixing up our play calls. I expected a more aggressive, passing based attack with Berry calling the shots but I think the pendulum swung too far that direction. I know we were playing catch-up early but even when the game was close we tried long passes almost exclusively. We only gave Cates 5 rushing attempts (despite the fact that on 2 of those 5 attempts he busted it for 15 yds) and rarely attempted any short to medium passes (especially in the red zone). I like being aggressive through the air but there needs to be some balance.

Some other random thoughts on the game:

- I think the Als retro jerseys are awesome. They look very dapper.

- Eddie Johnson’s moustache is outstanding! (Congi… take notes)

- Cates had a couple uncharacteristic brain farts. One was the penalty he took for hitting the Als defender (which ultimately led to the missed FG that cost us the game). He probably would have got away with the first swing but the second one sealed his fate. The other was that drop in the dying seconds of the game. That was heartbreaking.

- I thought our D-line (especially the interior) had a good showing. Shologan looked pretty impressive on a couple of his bull rushes.

- Defense stepped up big time in the second half… now if they could only do that in the first quarter, we’d be set.

- If that’s what Durant can do while dealing with bad intestines I think we’ll be fine.

- That said his decision to throw that ball that eventually led to his 2nd pick was a bad one. To be fair, even though it was a bad decision, Fantuz should have caught it.

- How gruesome was Calvillo’s finger when (in a move fitting for the venue) it tried to separate from the rest of his hand?

- How funny was it that shortly after the camera showed us Calvillo’s mangled finger, we get Sara Orlesky telling us that Calvillo has a suspected injured index finger? That’s some quality reporting Sara.

Despite the fact that we lost a game when we had the chance to win, I still think you have to look at the bigger picture. We are 4-2, only 1 game back of first, managed to split our season series with the best team in the league and played well in a losing effort. That all bodes very well for the rest of the season.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Riders vs. Alouettes: Je Te Plumerai

Friday the Riders are on the road for a battle of 4-1 teams in Montreal… or Frenchland as Rob Murphy refers to it… or the land of poutine, poor hygiene and surrender as some bigoted prophets refer to it.

The game will be a rematch of the epic double OT shootout in the season opener which featured more scoring than your average brothel (you know, so I’ve heard). They are the top 2 teams in scoring, passing yds and takeaways. While I don’t expect anything close to what we saw on Canada Day, these are 2 of the best teams in the league so you can expect a hard fought battle that will likely further reduce my life expectancy by a few years.

Since losing to us on opening day the Als have been on a tear, rattling off 4 straight wins and reestablishing themselves as the dominant force in the East, not that that is anything to brag about. They come into this game with a potent passing attack, a RB who suddenly remembered how not to suck last week and having committed a league low 5 turnovers. They also have the # 1 run defense and have allowed the 2nd least points. None of this is very surprising since the Als have been robotically good for many years.

Some things that I do find surprising about the Als is that they have the 2nd worst rushing attack, the 2nd most sacks allowed and are the most penalized team in the CFL. A poor ground game, a porous O-line and an undisciplined team are about as characteristic of Montreal as politeness and obeying traffic laws.

Given all the issues the Riders have been having this year (pass defense, special teams, red zone) it’s almost hard to believe we are talking about a 4-1 team. How easily we forget that overall this team is playing well and in some areas of the game playing extremely well.

One area is running the ball. Week in and week out Wes Cates is proving his detractors (including myself) wrong. He is running with authority, chewing up yards and most importantly putting up points (he leads the CFL with 5 TDs). The Cates we came to love in ’07 and ’08 is back. We are also stopping the run way better than we were last year. Now that might be a product of allowing teams to pass on us at will but I will get to that in a minute. Another positive thing was the improvement of our specials teams. This unit started out as an embarrassment and pretty much a ready made example of everything you can possibly do wrong on special teams. But I give our coaches full credit, they made some personnel changes and did what they needed to do to improve our greatest weakness. Now we have a unit that should actually be able to benefit us in this game.

Of course the match-up everyone is talking about is the league’s best and most accurate passer in Calvillo against the most porous secondary in the league. It’s as if someone gave our secondary rufies given how easy it seems to be to make a pass on them and eventually score. Alexander is out with a tender hammy (which sounds like a delicious name for a meal) and Leron Mitchell is nursing his annual knee injury so Tad Kornegay will get the start on corner. I actually think we will do fine with him there. He’s a talented player. And hell, short of physically misplacing his pants it’s not like he can do worse than Alexander did on opening day.

Offensively the key will be getting the passing game going. The Als have allowed the 3rd most passing yards in the CFL so its not like their secondary is that great. If Durant overcome his infected intestines and once again get on the same page as Dressler, Fantuz and Bagg (I’d say Rodriguez but my hatred of him is well documented) they should be able to move the ball all day. Our O-line will have another tough test as they will be the dangerous duo of Bowman and Stewart. Durant and his sensitive tummy need all the protection they can get.

Defensively it’s pretty obvious, stop something through the air… anything. This will be an extremely tough task as Calvillo is the best QB in the league and has a cast of dangerous receivers and a resurging Cobourne at his disposal. A big key to this would be getting Lance Frazier out of this funk he is in and get him back to being an elite DB as he has been in the past. Our D-line (or whomever Etch sends at the QB… LBs, DBs, Congi at nose tackle, Frennette on the end) will need to help out by disrupting Calvillo. The Als O-line has been struggling so it should be doable.

If you are a betting man, you would bet against the Riders. They are on the road against one of the best team in the league, their QB has digestive problems and they are sending the worst secondary against the best passer. Logic says take the Als.

But for some reason I have the feeling that this is one of those games that the Riders will step up and play like great football. I see a close fought battle featuring a ton of passing yards. In the end the Riders will come from behind to take the lead late and…

Riders by a missed Duval FG.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Banjo Bowl Trip

If anyone is thinking about going to the Banjo Bowl this year, here’s something you should consider.

The guys at Major League Tours are running a tour to Winnipeg for the Banjo Bowl weekend. The trip includes the bus trip, 1 night hotel accommodation and a ticket to the game. They also have a bunch of fabulous prizes to raffle off during the trip.

So if you are looking for a fun trip or are just too lazy to make your own arrangements (be honest) you should give them a call. The even poster is below or you can check out their website www.majorleaguetours.com

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rider Prophet Remembers Danny Maciocia

Over the weekend, the Edmonton Eskimos abruptly ended their 8 year relationship with Danny Maciocia by firing him. From decent offensive coordinator to comically inept head coach to borderline retarded general manager, the Rider Prophet has watched the progression of Maciocia’s career with great interest. Mainly because it provided such fantastic comic relief but also out of pure curiosity. Maciocia was a rarity in the sporting world in that his position in the organization seemed to increase proportional to the decrease in his performance. That kind of inverse correlation is unheard of.

And so as I remorsefully bid adieu to one of my perennial punch lines, let’s take found look back at some of my favourite Maciocia memories.

Top 8 Maciocia Memories

8 – Refusing To Run

For whatever reason, Maciocia had a huge aversion to running the football. The Esks almost always had the worst rushing attack in the league. The culmination was in Maciocia’s final game as head coach, the East Final in 2008. With a chance to play for the Grey Cup on the line, Maciocia’s Esks managed only 3 yards rushing. Outstanding!

7 – Secondary Concerns

In his time as coach, the Esks never had a decent secondary… but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Each year, Maciocia would go out and acquire the top DBs available (Omarr Morgan, Stanford Samuels, Jordan Younger), generally paying top $ for them. Despite their all-star status they would all end up having terrible years and get released to following offeason in favour of the next high priced DB whose career they planned to ruin.

6 – Pulling a Homer

Definition: To succeed despite idiocy.

In 2005, Maciocia was named Head Coach in Edmonton. He inherited a team that was so full of talent that even an idiot could have coached them to a Grey Cup win… and he did. As evidence of the Esks succeeding despite Maciocia’s idiocy, I submit this video of Maciocia dancing in celebration because he thought the game was over… it was not, there was still one play left.

5 – Drafting Genius

2007 was Maciocia’s first year as GM. One of his first official acts as GM was the draft. In a move that defied all logic and common sense, he proceeded to select a kicker (Warren Keane) with the 2nd overall selection. Keane went on to play 0 games for the Eskimos and was eventually cut. It remains one of the biggest wastes of a draft pick in recent memory.

4 – Final Play Meltdown

In terms of Rider memories of Maciocia, one will always stick out in my mind. In 2006, a game between the Riders and Esks came down to the final play of the game. All Maciocia and the Esks had to do was keep the Riders from driving 55 yds for TD to secure the win. This almost proved to be too difficult for them.

3 – Brokeback Maas

The one thing I always found oddest about Maciocia was his relationship with QB Jason Maas. It’s not uncommon for a strong bond to develop between a QB and his coach but Maciocia and Maas took it to a whole new level. A disturbing one. Take the following comments made by Maciocia while Maas was playing in Hamilton…

"I miss him. I care for him. I love him a lot. I try to talk to him only once a week. There's days where I think about him. I want to call and then I tell myself, 'No, I just talked to him yesterday. Just don't bother him.' "

That’s just downright creepy.

2 – Final Play Meltdown Part 2

'06 was a bad year for the Esks, in a game against the Bombers they had another late game meldown. Yet again it came down to the final play of the game and yet again all Maciocia and the Esks had to do was keep the Bombers from scoring a major. This time the task was even easier since the Bombers were 100 yards away from the goal line. This time however the task proved to be too difficult.

1 – Broken Record

Despite all that I’ve mentioned above, Maciocia will forever be remembered as the guy that broke the playoff streak.

Between 1972 and 2005 the Eskimos never missed the playoffs, setting a North American professional sports franchise record. It seemed like the streak would never end. I mean only 2 teams in the CFL don’t make the playoffs and at the time Hamilton was the laughingstock of the CFL so all the Esks had to do was be better than 1 team not named the Ti-Cats to keep the streak alive. But Maciocia wasn’t up to the task. Under his guidance the Esks missed the playoffs for the first time in 35 years, forever cementing his legacy as a loser in the City of Champions.

For some odd reason, for this historic failure, Maciocia was actually rewarded with a promotion to General Manager of the Eskimos.

And so we bid adieu to Danny Maciocia. Your contributions to the comedic content on this blog will be greatly missed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: 4 and 1

Riders 37 - Ti-Cats 24

Saturday the Riders got back in the win column with a victory over the visiting Ti-Cats. The game left me with fairly mixed emotions. Of course a victory against a talented roster (I firmly believe the Ti-Cats are a better team than their record would indicate) is exciting… especially when it leaves you with a 4-1 record. But the game featured such a mixture of great things and bad things.

The good things:
- Our O-line - after getting embarrassed in Calgary that put in a solid performance.

- Wes Cates - he is back to the powerful workhorse he was in ’07 and ’08. He is running very consistently, chewing up yards and moving the chains. Not to mention that amazing catch he made. We also continue to limit opponents’ rushing fairly effectively.

- Special Teams - I was most impressed with this group. Our kicking was outstanding. We were forced to put our chances for victory in the hands (or leg) or Luca Congi and he responded with a perfect outing. Eddie Johnson was very impressive also. He’s got some work to do on his placement but he showed that he has the booming leg we’ve been missing. That one punt he kicked didn’t look like it was ever going to drop (much like Man in the Bush’s left testicle). Lastly our return game actually looked good for once as opposed to the retarded group of lost souls stumbling around the field that we had become accustom to in the opening games.

- Andy Fantuz - When your face ends up on cereal box there’s a certain amount of pressure on you not to suck… Fantuz continues to live up to the hype. There’s good and then there’s cereal good. I just wish he’d take off that ridiculous wig.

- Luck was on our side. Bad hands on catches and snaps by Hamilton (as opposed to any great defensive play) led to 2 INTS and a blocked kick for us. I guess you have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. That said the hands Mullinder showed on his were pretty impressive.

The bad things:
- Ineptness on the goal line. We repeatedly made our way down to the goal line only to produce failure after failure and be forced into settling for FGs (and nothing at all in the case of that INT). You are not going to beat many teams with only FGs… well since we play in a division with Edmonton and BC we probably could but the point remains we need to find a way to score majors.

- Pass defense - actually pass defense might be the wrong term since that would actually imply stopping something. How about pass observance or pass allowance. I realize that Arland Bruce is one of the best in the game but at some point after the first 8 catches you think maybe we could have clued into their game plan and done something about it. Seriously what was the conversation among our secondary? “Hey I’ll take McDaniel. You take Bauman and you take Mann… he’s thrown to Bruce the last 10 times so odds are good he won’t be passing to him anymore today”

- This as been a recurring problem. Overall we seem to do okay but each week there seems to be one receiver we just can’t handle. Watkins in week 1, followed by Simon, Stamps, Bryant… all put up huge yards and all but Stamps scored multiple times. Its as if Etch is designing his pass D around American offensive formations.

Now I’d feel a lot worse about these things if it weren’t for the fact that we keep winning. I mean really, Etch can allow Bruce to break all the records he wants as long as we keep winning. That said I don’t victories will keep coming so easy if we don’t fix our porous pass D, especially if our offense continues to be hit and miss. Oh well for now we can enjoy the win and begin to work on our obvious areas of weakness ahead of a tough Friday road game.

Of course the big story around the league this week as the firing of Danny Maciocia in Edmonton. Now the move itself is hardly surprising since Maciocia has single handedly been responsible for the worst run in the history of the franchise. This move was about 4 years overdue. But the timing was a big surprising since they chose to fire him after a win. But I guess its fitting that after getting repeatedly promoted for losing, that Maciocia got fired for winning. I will have a special salute to Maciocia later in the week.

One name being floated around for the vacancy is of course Eric Tillman. Now that would be a great move for the Eskimos and bad news for the rest of the division. It would also completely throw the Argos’ succession plan out the window as they are currently waiting out the last year of Adam Rita’s contract so they can bring in Tillman when it expires. How funny would it be for the Argos to preemptively fire Rita and hire Tillman before the Esks get a chance?