It’s super weird to be doing a post about a Riders/Stamps playoffs game and not have my predictions based on Burris choking. I mean for years it was like clockwork but now Burris has moved on to Hamilton... where he continues choking but has now gotten so efficient at it that he doesn’t even need the postseason anymore.
Sunday the 8-10 Riders travel to Calgary for what will essentially be a home game against the 12-6 Stamps. The winner moves on to BC, the season is over for the loser. The teams come into this meeting going in opposite directions. The Stamps won their last 4, we mailed it in and lost our last 4.
The big story headed into this game is of course the decision to start Drew Tate over Kevin Glenn (I guess winning 10 games and throwing 25 TDs doesn’t get you what is used to). I think Glenn is by far the safer option while Tate is a high risk, high reward guy. He could shoot out the lights but he could just as likely shoot his own team in the leg. I mean we are talking about a guy who doesn’t even have 7 career starts and who was quite frankly awful last year in his only ever playoff game. Hufnagel thinks the guy will be a star but given how little Tate has proved I’m starting to think that based on how bad Burris was last year it wouldn’t have mattered if Cee Lo Green was their back-up they would have been named the starter this year by default.
Defensively I see three keys to the game. The first is so obvious that even a CFL referee couldn’t miss it if it hit Durant in the head... stop Cornish. He’s the league’s top rusher and the West nominee for MOP. He is at the heart of everything the Stamps do offensively. We showed last time we faced them that if you shut down Cornish, the Stamps are very beatable. We also showed that if you shut down Cornish he will take of his pants in disgust (probably not advisable this time unless he wants frost bite). In a cold weather game against the top RB in the league you better be prepared to play the run all day.
The second is tackle... something we are just awful at (seriously I’ve seen better tackles in my touch football league). I think that’s one of the reasons Macho Harris is expected to get the start on corner. Having Kromah in the mix will help too. Tackling is important to stop Cornish but also Lewis. If you look, Lewis rarely catches passes very deep. He’s a short possessions receiver with the ability to gain crazy YAC yards (mainly because the laws of momentum dictate that once a guy that big gets going, it would take something weighing equivalent to fully loaded semi to stop him). If we make sure tackles, Lewis won’t be near as dangerous and it will force Tate to try and put together long drives.
#3 will be doable only if the first 2 are taken care of and that is blitz. If Cornish is contained and Tate can’t just dump it to Lewis for auto-first down, it will force him to actually be a QB in a pressure situation. Given his inexperience the harder and crazier we can make life for him, the more mistakes he will make. I would send exotic blitzes (which for Richie Hall is any blitz other than the safety blitz), change coverages, etc... If he’s forced to spread the ball around I don’t think he’ll look like the superstar Hufnagel is banking on. Also need to play contain on him since he can run. Time for the CFL’s #2 D to prove they are worthy of the title. I have a feeling we will need to rely on them for at least one game-changing play.
Offensively, I am praying that Bob Dyce has something up his sleeve... anything... well not anything, preferably not more variations on 5 yards routes. It all starts up front with the OL. Charleston Hughes is among the best DEs in the league and Patrick Neufeld is among the best OL’s named Patrick. That match-up scares me. Quite frankly anyone on Neufeld scares me. Hopefully we help him out with some TEs or chip blocks from receivers on his side. Sadly enough their #2 sack getter is Anwar Stewart. We need to protect Durant and give him time. A big way to do that is pound the Stamps with Sheets. The guy is a playmaker, good things will come if you keep giving him touched (even in the 2nd half Dyce!). Only the Ti-ctas allowed more runs of 20 yards are more... big play potential is there. A strong run game will slow the pass rush and make Durant and the OL’s life a lot easier. Running in a mid-November game is so obvious that I’m honestly scared Dyce won’t do it.
Unfortunately running alone won’t win us this one... we need the Durant that won us all those playoff games in ’09 and ’10. Obviously Dressler needs to be heavily involved. I’m assuming based on all the practicing we did last week, we will see some short passes to West. Chamblin is hinting that Sanders could play but I’m still convinced that he’s just blowing smoke. I know Taj Smith has been playing well but I just have this sinking suspicion that if there was someone likely to give us Ryan Grice-Mullen flashbacks in a cold game, it’s him. Maybe a highly laughable and mockable allstar designation will inspire Getzlaf to reprise his role as a Stampeder killer. It would also be nice if Greg Carr could mistakenly wander more than 6 yards downfield but I think its more likely Getzlaf earns his allstar designation than that happening.
An early score would go a long way to winning the game. The Stamps know we beat them every West-Semi. An early lead plus a ravenous pro-Rider crowd will get in the Stamps’ head in particular Tate. I love the prospect of cocky but inexperienced QB playing from behind with the crowd on him.
I expect a game as tense, stressful and closely played as the last time we played a playoff game at McMahon. Realistically the Stamps should be the better team but I just have this feeling that the Riders will be the better team on Sunday.
Riders by a Durant rushing TD.
PS – How nice is it to get to talk Rider playoff football again. I realize we were only out for one year but it feels like an eternity.