By all means, this Thursday’s match-up against the arch-rival Stamps should favour the Riders. We are undefeated, just beat arguably the best team in the league and are playing good in all facets of the game. The Stamps are on a 2 game losing streak and playing with a back-up QB (as well as missing a few other starters due to injury). But this, ladies and gentlemen (well probably more like lady and gentlemen given my readership) this is the definition of a trap game.
In that sense, I think this will be another massive test for our coaching staff. There is no reason we shouldn’t win this game but if the team takes the Stamps too lightly then losing becomes a very real possibility. After a highly hyped and intense game against the defending champs, the coaches need to keep the intensity up and keep the players focused on a short week. Based on what I have seen so far I’m confident they will do just that.
When Drew Tate first went down I truly felt that it actually improved the Stamps’ chances this season… well I thought that until I watched Kevin Glenn single handedly hand the last game to the Als on a platter. Still I stand by my assessment that Drew Tate wasn’t anything to get excited about and the drop off to Kevin Glenn is negligible. So I don’t subscribe to the “write off the opponent because the back-up is in” mentality… at least in this case.
Amazingly despite their poor record, the Stamps are the highest scoring team in the CFL. One might wonder how they managed to score so many points and still have a losing record. One reason is that their defensive efforts have rivaled most NBA teams. They have allowed an average of 36 points per game in their losses. The second reason is that they turn the ball over so often that it makes you wonder if Henry Burris is still playing for them. Their 10 turnovers are second only to the hapless Bombers. The only thing that comes loose more than the ball for the Calgary O is Cornish’s helmet.
Defensively, the Toronto Argonauts laid out the blueprint for beating the Stamps two weeks ago: eliminate Cornish. Stack the box, clog the lanes, make him a non-factor. When he is not chewing up the yards, the Stampeder offense struggles plain and simple. This will be a big test as we are currently allowing a league worst 8 yards per rush (though to be fair half the rushing yards we have given up came on the long Walker TD in game 1 and the long Lulay run in Game 3). If Cornish becomes a non-factor then all we really need to worry about is Nik Lewis (and I’m not just talking about fears of being pulled in by his gravitational pull). Pressure will really be on the front 7 in this one. Thus far our D has been the stingiest and given how they held their own against the Lions, a repeat performance should be in store.
One thing I would like to see continue is different players getting all our sacks. We have 9 sacks from 9 different people. All of our front 7 except for Brackenridge have one so he’s due. While we are at it let’s get guys like Butler, Hurl and even Woldu a little sack love. (note to self: come up with better term than “sack love”). Though, in order to keep up this pace, we will need to start giving guys like Milo and O’Sullivan some defensive snaps by Labour Day.
Offensively it might actually be time to unveil the portion of the playbook that involves attempts over 10 yards. Calgary has allowed a league high 10 passing plays over 30 yards… mainly because their safety is not very good. Add in a rookie on corner due to the injury to Keon Raymond and you have a favourable match-up for Durant. There will likely be increased pressure on the pass game since Calgary’s run D is the best in the league allowing a microscopic 54 yds per game. This will be a big test for Sheets and the O-line (glad Labatte is back in). Given how aggressive they are against the run I could see Neal Hughes on the tight-end leak out being effective. If we can keep avoiding turnovers as we have done all year, we should be great shape.
Unfortunately we will have to make due without Rob Bagg as he is out for the year with an ACL tear in his left knee (it was the right knee that kept him out last year). It’s heartbreaking news for a guy who worked so hard to get back in the line-up. I have always been a huge Bagg fan (note to self: come up with better term than “huge bagg fan”), I wish him all the best in his rehab. Not only is the Bagg news sad because we lose and quality and character player but it brings with it the unfortunate side effect of making Jordan Sisco a full-time starter (sometimes I think the world just does things to spite me).
Alright Sisco, I don’t like you and you don’t like me (at least I assume you don’t or wouldn’t if you knew who I was) but I guess I’m stuck hoping you do good. So in order for us to get through this just encourage Durant to look at other receiving options first, try and stay out of the way of the talented receivers and don’t do anything to further justify my hatred those few times where the ball mistakenly gets thrown in your direction.
(Actually the previous statements are mostly in jest since given how poor our import receivers have been playing so far, after Dressler/Getzlaf, Sisco actually becomes one of the better receiving options. Though that is more of a statement on the sad state of our receiving corps than it is an endorsement of Sisco)
Another strength of Calgary’s is the return game (i.e. Larry Taylor). Fortunately, given how well our coverage teams have been playing I’m not overly worried
Despite the loss of Bagg and this being a trap game, I still think this is a very winnable game. We’ve faced better defenses, better QBs, and better receivers and prevailed so while I don’t see this one being easy I do see us moving to 4-0.
Riders by a Getzlaf TD, he’s due for a big game against the Stamps.