*Note: I was going to post an explanation of what Roman numerals were in case any Manitobans were reading since that is clearly well beyond what is covered in their education system. Then I realized that since Manitoban school systems only teach the first 6 letters of the alphabet they wouldn’t recognize VII as letters either. So instead I’ll just go with something a bit more in line with their intellectual capacities to keep them entertained….
Sunday the 6-3 Riders take on the 2-7 Bombers in the Banjo Bowl. Many Rider fans will be making the trip to Winnipeg for the annual Labour Day rematch and the Banjo Bowl is pretty much the only conceivable reason why anyone would willingly travel to Winnipeg.
This will be the 7th annual Banjo Bowl with both sides having won 3 games a piece, and the Riders winning the last 2 (in both cases due to the play of Michael Bishop).
We came into Labour Day heavily favoured but struggled our way to a narrow victory. There were some things we did consistently well, some successes we can build on, some things glaring weaknesses that need to be improved and some things that I have just come to accept we will be futile at.
Things We Do Well
Defense as a whole – They have been playing great football for a number of games now. Hopefully James Patrick is healthy enough to play because he is a real leader in that secondary. It would be nice to get a bit more pressure on the QB given their porous OL but overall I’m very happy with our defense of late… well with the exception of Omarr Morgan, who, unless he learns to tackle again, will find his way back on to my hatred list.
Kick Coverage – the combination of Eddie Johnson being simply outstanding on his kicks and some great downfield coverage from Jones, Stewart, Patrick and Freeman has led to very limited returns by our opponents.
Successes We Can Build On
Red Zone– after hitting rock bottom a while back, our success in red zone has grown by leaps and bounds. Cates has a nose for the endzone when he gets close and has been getting some great blocking.
Fantuuuz – This guy should be our go to guy when we need a 1st down. He is too talented not to be a focal point of our O but has disappeared of late. Not sure how you forget who he is, his face is on cereal box for pete sakes. Last game we seemed to discover him again and it led to good things. He got 5 looks last game (only one of them before the 4th quarter). They ended up in gains of 33, 8, 13 10 and the 5th look was nearly a TD. Hopefully this will lead to Berry and Durant looking 83’s way a lot more.
Sustained Drives – the 4th quarter drive Durant put together for a TD was a thing of beauty. It was a great mix of runs and medium passes that chewed up the field quickly and effectively. We have gotten away from this type of methodical attack so with any luck that drive will be the first of many just like it.
Pass Protection – Our line gave Durant absolutely zero time to do anything. I know Winnipeg has a very talented font 4 but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to block successfully at least occasionally. Our tackles in particular need to step up their play since they managed to make Charles Thomas look like he would be an improvement at times. Doug Berry should also make an attempt to help them out from time to time. Here’s a genius idea: if you notice that your line can’t block the defenders why not stop calling plays that take a while to develop and instead throw some quick hitters at them or screens to take some of the pressure off your OL. You need to adapt your play calls to what the defense is doing not just keep calling the same plays in the blind hope that one of these times it just might work.
Things That I Have Just Come To Accept We Will Be Futile At
Return Game – I’m to the point with our return game that I’ll just go ahead and assume our returns will be terrible. Quite frankly I’d be satisfied if Dorsey caught the ball, fell forward and we didn’t take any holding penalties. Seems crazy to pay a guy 6 figures to turtle but it’s a monumental improvement over paying him 6 figures to fumble or lose yards. Jim Daley is an idiot and Dorsey is such a monumental failure that it would have been better to use the money we are paying him to try and resurrect the corpse of Chris Farley… it would have about the same net affect on our return game but at least we’d be entertained.
I expect another very close game. Jyles is a better QB than most give him credit for and despite their record the Bombers have a fair bit of talent on their roster so we are in for a fight. That said at the end of the day we are a 6-3 team and they are a 2-7 team that has lost 5 straight. Simply put we are a better team.
Riders by a Darian Durant rushing TD.