Before I get that that monstrosity of a game, I’d like to start on a happier note. Yesterday marked the 4th Anniversary of the Rider Prophet and this blog.
We’ve defied the odds (as well as conventional wisdom, the judicial system and general good judgment) and lasted another trip around the sun. I always worry that one of these years things will start to fizzle out but the last 12 months have been very good. Some of the highlights include.
- Being featured a couple times in the National Post as part of their CFL Panel
- Another trip to the Grey Cup
- Becoming the country’s foremost CFL Fantasy expert (I’m also conveniently the only one) and producing the very first CFL Fantasy draft package
- And most importantly, being named Canada’s Top Sports Blog by the Canadian Blog Awards.
I’d like to thank each and every one of you readers for your support over the past 4 years. Without you I’d just be some weirdo in a robe typing aimlessly on the interweb… I mean that’s all still the case but a least people are reading it.
Traditionally it’s the linen and silk anniversary… that is why when Man in the Bush informed me he had a present for me, I refused to open it or even let him tell me what it was. I have enough disturbing mental images floating around my head as it is.
I wish the Riders could have given me a little better performance to kick of our 5th year of coverage but what can you do. Onto the game…
Riders 28 – Eskimos 42
The irony of the game for me was that going into the game, my biggest concern was our kicking game. It turned out that kicking was about the only thing we didn’t suck at.
Now I’m not in the apocalyptic, our season is over, fire everyone group… I’m a Rider fan I’ve lived through disappointing losses before we’ve recovered and it’ll for sure happen again. Remember Banjo Bowl last year? That was an even more embarrassing performance but we still ended up having a good season.
The evening started off really weird when a crazy hailstorm hit. For reasons that defy logic, it took people a really long time to figure out that the cheerleaders, camera men, miscellaneous others on the field should maybe seek cover rather than stand there and be pelted like they a BC player sitting on the visitors bench. I also think we should have at least used the hail to our advantage and sent the Esks out on to the field in the middle of it all. What? It’s called home field advantage.
I could rant for literally hours (and I’m sure I did) about everything that went wrong. But I will boil it down to a few key themes.
Pressure – We had about as much as a tire with a bunch of nails in it. Apparently Marshall and Hall have never heard that if you give Ricky Ray time to think he will carve you up like a Christmas turkey. Our front 4 couldn’t come within the same area code of Ricky Ray on their own (mainly because our ends were as effective an invisible traffic light) and rather than blitzing like mad to disrupt Ray we continued sending out useless front 4 most of the time. My hatred of Montez Murphy has been justified so a big “in your face” to all of you who bugged me about how good he looked in the preseason and how wrong I was about him.
Tackling – Appears to be a foreign concept to us. I understood why we were poor tacklers under Etch because he was all about attacking the ball and fighting for turnovers but that philosophy is gone and appears to have been replaced by Hall’s “tackle him like he has SARS and you want to avoid getting infected”.
John Eubanks – The guy got torched like a suspected medieval witch. If you were brave enough to re-watch the game I would bet that the majority of completed passes were to his side. He makes Omarr Morgan and James Johnson not seem so bad in retrospect. Not sure why we didn’t try moving Patrick to HB and Butler to safety or something but it was clear that Eubanks was out of his league. Chris McKenzie needs to get healthy ASAP!
Sean Lucas – Who are you and what have you done with the Sean Lucas who was an all-star in 2009?? You were mediocre at best last year and you stunk in game 1. You are being played and paid like a starter, either start performing or go find the bench.
Defense in general – In retrospect, is anyone really surprised that Ricky Ray managed to pick apart a Richie Hall defense? He always does. Remember back in 2008 when after literally decades in the league Richie still could not figure out how to defend the Esk crossing pattern? I’m convinced that the main reason Richie took the HC job in Edmonton was so that he wouldn’t have to face Ricky Ray anymore.
Offense struggled and Durant was handing out turnovers like he worked the bakery aisle at Costco but they showed enough to at least give me hope. They will take a while to gel as a unit but it will come. The one thing this loss highlighted for me that is concerning is our lack of depth. We have long prided ourselves on our depth. We’re used to having Anton McKenzies, Cary Kochs and Jerrell Freemans waiting in the wings. But this year I just don’t think we have that kind of talent among our back-ups. With Hawkins out our D-Line was useless. With McKenzie out our secondary went to crap. That’s just 2 players and the majority of our defense is rendered ineffective and doesn’t factor in not having Freeman, Kornegay, Koch and Bagg. Sure our starting line-up looks good but so far our bench hasn’t done anything to give me confidence in our ability to win in spite of injury.
Oh well, as I said at the start, despite the laundry list of concerns, I’m still optimistic about the season. We‘ve got some work to do but with some of our defensive starters back and some more time for the offense to gel I think we’ll see a different team… I’m just not overly confident that it will happen when we face the Als on Saturday.