Riders 31 – Esks 23
Well it looks like the month off really helped the Riders as they ended the season on a high note knocking a desperate Eskimo team in front of a sold out crowd (now there’s a run on sentence that would make my high school English teacher shake his head in disappointment).
Admittedly the start of game did not do much the ease the fans’ many concerns coming into the game. Porter was running all over us, our offense kept stalling well short of the goal line and Warren Kean continued reminding us how comically inept Danny Maccioccia was. Late in the 2nd quarter, we were down 11 points. Though with the scoreboard not working properly, I may have just been confused and we could have been up 11 (I still don’t get how the entire scoreboard can work except the team names part). I’m sure at this many fans were busy placing their home-playoff tickets on Ebay and sharpening their pitchforks for the public lynching that would not doubt take place following a 5th straight loss.
But momentum took a massive swing in the Riders’ favour in the waning minutes of the first half. Offense started clicking and the defense dug in, as the Rider put up ten points in just over 2 minutes to cut the lead to one. It would be the start of 26 unanswered points for the Riders who took a strangle hold on the game in the 3rd quarter and never looked back. You had to love the Durant TD right before the half. Every single person in the stadium (including myself and the entire Esk D) assumed Cates would be getting the ball for a 1 yd plunge. Durant rolled out and faked the handoff. When he rounded the corner there was nobody between him and Moose Jaw. He might as well have just done the Charleston into the endzone for as much time as he had.
Durant had a great game. He looked calm and poised in the pocket, used his legs to buy time and gain yards effectively and spread the ball around the entire field. He had 6 receivers with at least 3 catches. That is the sign of a QB who is reading the field well. Most importantly we had zero turnovers. Its amazing how much easier it is to win games when you hang onto the ball. I was also happy with our play calling. It finally showed some diversity: swing passes, screens, quick hitters inside, actually giving the ball to Dressler on the reverse. Edmonton was kept off balance all night.
The stats don’t show too favourably on our defense but I don’t think they tell the entire story. Sure they did allow Daniel Porter to run all over us like a drunk Craig Mactavish behind the wheel and Fred Stamps turned in another big game but what did Edmonton have to show for all those yards? … A few FGs and 1 TD (as well as a 2nd TD in garbage time). In addition to keeping the Esks out of the endzone, they also forced 2 big turnovers as well as a safety (thanks in large part to an amazing punt by the Moustached Wonder Eddie Johnson). Was it pretty? No, but they got the job done and that’s all I really care about.
I thought Jerrell Freeman had another good game. Good things happen when he is on the field. Ryan Lucas looked good too. He’s not quite ready to be fulltime starter but with a little more work he could be. I thought we benefited from Kornegay and McKenzie being back in their normal spots. The much hyped Wright had a so so game for his first CFL action some good stuff, stuff mistakes, which was to be expected.
I’m actually still in shock that I have to write this next paragraph. I was assuming that I would just be able to copy and paste last week’s rant on the futility of our special teams change BC to Edmonton and be done. However, our special teams unit decided to shock the world and turn in a half decent performance. By no means was it spectacular or even great but it was free of return TDs, fumbles, blocked kicks and balls bouncing off their faces which for us is a resounding success, Grease-Mullen even had a decent return thrown in there. It’s sad when you are reduced to congratulating people for not embarrassing themselves but what can you do? Congratulations to our special teams on a job done.
Other random thoughts:
- Kudos to the Riders for taking the time to train that flock of Canada geese to fly in perfect formation of the filed during O Canada. While I love the snowbirds as much as the next guy, I think that may have been one of my favourite fly-bys ever.
- Maybe next time when they are picking contestants for that Golds Gym contest, they should ensure that the people they pick can actually spell Golds.
- You’ve got to like Cary Koch, he bides his time patiently all season on the PR and when his number finally gets called he plays like a starter game in and game out.
- Congrats to Andy on becoming the first Canadian receiver since Dave Sapunjis to lead the league in receiving. For years we have talked about how good he could be if he played a full season… now we know.
Overall I was impressed with the total team effort that the Riders turned in. They didn’t have to try but they showed killer instinct and knocked off a team fighting for their playoff lives. Confidence is back in the air and with the West-Semi only 6 days away it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
One last note…In what has shocked absolutely no one (except maybe Jesse Lumsden), Jesse Lumsden has suffered yet another season ending injury. He tore his ACL while attempting to make his tackle. About the only surprising thing about it was that this time it didn’t involve his paper mache shoulder and that it took longer that a quarter of football for it to occur. While it is a loss for the Stamps they will likely be fine without him. What remains to be seen is how this will impact the Canadian bobsledding team’s performance this season