Riders 36 – Argos 10
All’s well that ends well. The Riders defeated the Jarious Jackson-led Argos on Thanksgiving Monday to move to 8-6 and back in the mix for a home playoff game. Well maybe “led” isn’t the correct term, more like Jackson-tolerated or Jackson endured.
I’m glad it ended well because the start of the game gave me some concern. Despite the first quarter featuring a huge opening return by West, a gift of a pass by Jackson that should have gone for 6, a fumble on the next drive and a near miss by Butler on a kickoff recovery, we were only up 13-10 late in the second quarter. Toronto was going out of its way to give us the game and we were letting them stick around.
Fortunately it was it this point that the Riders remembered they were a damn good football team and the Argos remembered that there is a reason that after almost a decade in the league, Jarious Jackson is still not viewed as starting material unless every other option is hurt. After that it was all Saskatchewan. And really it should have been. The Argos have a good D but ours is better. The Argos without Ray and Kackert have a terrible offense and ours is on top of its game. This is a game we should have won... and unlike a certain French team who played before us we actually didn’t choke.
Why did we not think to injure Durant’s hip flexor earlier? Apparently that’s what was holding him back. Ever since returning from that injury, Durant has been playing outstanding. He’s averaging 300 yards per game, completing 68% of his passes and has only turned the ball over once... all while not taking off and running one solitary time. He just seems dialed in... opposing defenses beware. Keep in mind that over the past 2 weeks, Durant has bested Rich Stubler and Chris Jones who are the top DC’s in the league. No reason to believe we won’t be able to keep this up against other teams.
As impressed as I am with Durant’s play, it’s not all on him. He’s getting help from the rest of his offense (help that simply wasn’t there earlier in the season). The O-line is giving him time in the pocket (on that Dressler TD, Durant had enough time to carve a turkey, eat it and take a nap). They have allowed only 2 sacks in the past 3 games. Also helping Durant is the fact that Bob Dyce has wisely decided to lean on the running of Korey Sheets (feed him the ball and good things will happen) and the receiving of Dressler (who has amassed 355 yds and 4 TDs over the past 3 games). Lastly, players not named Sheets or Dressler are stepping up to make plays. Brandon West showed the effort you’d expect from a guy getting another shot at playing time, Neal Hughes stepped up with a huge play and even the normally unpredictable Taj Smith decided to actually catch the ball when called upon (though I’m convinced that last one was mostly to spite me given the less than favourable things I have been saying about him... but if that’s what it takes for us to win I can take it). I have been harping on it all year but look how taking a few deep shots per game helps stretch the defense and make life easier underneath. Keep it up.
As for the defense, sure they were playing a QB that has no business starting but still they did their job. They only allowed 10 points, forced turnovers and kept one of the league’s top receivers in check. It could have been even worse for the Argos if our DBs could catch. Really, the Argos only ever had one drive all game other than that the only threat of scoring while the Argos O was on the field was Jackson throwing a TD to our DBs. Had Ray and Kackert both been in the game, it would have unfolded very differently but the way this defense is playing I don’t think the end result would have been any different.
That’s now 5 wins in our last 6 games, with our only loss coming in Montreal without Durant (and we were close in that one). We’ve gone from worrying about securing a playoff spot to worrying about securing a home playoff game (which is very attainable). In the true spirit of thanksgiving, the Riders gave us many reasons to be thankful.
Other random thoughts:
- It was nice of the Rogers Centre to make it “Dress in green” day at the stadium
- Seriously, how bad would attendance have been for that game if not for the Rider fans?
- I still don’t like the guy but hats off to Sandro for punting the ball well when called upon.
- For god sake stop throwing the out to McHenry!! It’s dangerous, he’s not a good receiver and even if by some fluke we complete it the benefit is minimal at best.
- When did Drew Willy become so inconsistent on short yardage? Better fix that up and soon.
- Was I the only one hoping that Picard would keep rumbling for big yards on that fumble recovery?
- Toronto yet again took well over 100 yards in penalties. If I was reffing a Toronto game, I would petition to be paid per penalty called.