Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Impotent Offense

Riders 12 -17

People in Saskatchewan better start eating Cheerios for breakfast because apparently that’s the only place you are going to find an O.

I’ve been relatively level headed during this losing streak so far (especially by my standards) but yesterday’s disgraceful performance was enough to break my calm exterior and get me in a full out rage for the first time this season. Prophet Jr. is even starting to pick up on the “slam your first down in anger” move. It’s just frustrating to watch. What makes it even more frustrating is that despite how bad we’ve played over the past month we’ve had the chance to win every single game. If we could just turn the dial from “suck” to “mediocrity” we wouldn’t have this losing streak. Yet here we are.

I should preface this by saying yet again the D played well. Sure Prince Miller is a terrible tackler and sure Dwight Anderson managed to hug a receiver forward for more yards and sure they made other mistakes. But this unit is ravaged by injuries, on the field way too much and more than pulling their weight in spite of it all. They allowed one freaking TD for Pete sake!!! (p.s. who’s Pete?). For all the talk of these rookie QBs embarrassing us it’s not really been the D’s fault for the most part. Could they be better? Of course but I would say they are more than pulling their weight.

Our offense is an outright joke! And it starts at the top. George Cortez, consider our brief summer bromance over! It’s not me, it’s you. I mean I kinda at least like the prospect of scoring when it comes to my bromances. For a well renowned offensive genius he is sure calling a like an idiot. Fact our O-line is struggling. Fact Durant is not playing great ball right now. So instead of trying to help them out he repeatedly puts them both in a position to fail by completely phasing the RB out of the game. Great idea! Let’s make it easier for defense to pin their ears back and harass Durant and the line. We ran once in the second half… once! Part of that seemed to be that Garrett’s shitty blocking got his ass stapled to the bench but again… if the guy sucks at pass blocking why don’t we call a play that involves him doing something other than pass blocking??!?! Newsflash, yes Kory Sheets is amazing but he isn’t the only one in the province who is able to run. This isn’t rocket science, defenses do not have to respect anything our RB does (no runs, no dumps) so is it any wonder why our receivers are having a hard time getting open? Or that our QB is facing relentless pressure? It’s just stupid!!! It didn’t work the last 3 times, what makes you think it will work now??? Change what you are doing, put people in a position to succeed rather than hanging their weaknesses out for everyone to see. Players need to improve their play across the board but until the playcalling changes I don’t see things getting better anytime soon.

Speaking of play calling (cue long held deep seeded rant). The handoff 5 yards deep when all you need is a yard is the dumbest call in Canadian football!!!!! Just absolutely retarded. I hate it. All you need to do is fall forward for 1 yard, why make it 5 times harder by increasing the distance you need to go. If you aren’t running the plunge at least pull it on a bootleg and give yourself some options. Stupid!!

We were told that this roster was rebuilt to avoid slumps like last year and to fight through adversity yet here we are again. Déjà vu. Coaches need to look in the mirror because they aren’t earning their paycheques right now. My optimism is sliding. Do you really think that we will fare any better on a short week against a far superior BC team? I don’t.

Pass the rye. This could get ugly.

Other random thoughts
-       Duron Carter is good. Some damn nice catches made by him.
-       I have to eat a bit of crow and admit Geroy has been better than I expected.
-       Didn’t notice but did Tyler get hurt or pulled for performance reasons? Just saw Watman at guard and Heenan at tackle.
-       Penalties masked what was actually a decent day returning by Jackson. Still think Sanders should be back in but given how thin we are getting on defense I assume having Jackson there as an emergency fill in factors into the decision.
-       While it probably would have been picked anyway, what the hell was Taj Smith was doing in the area of that last pass in the endzone? Clearly a wrong route that drew in an unneeded extra DB.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 14 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for week 14.

Prophet Junior - Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal
Step-Prophet - BC, Hamilton, Toronto, Saskatchewan
Rider Prophet - BC, Calgary, Toronto, Saskatchewan
Mrs. Prophet -  BC, Calgary, Toronto, Saskatchewan
Momma Prophet - BC, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal

Riders vs. Montreal: Stop The Slump

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before… the Riders’ next opponent features a strong defense but a struggling offense. They will be starting a back-up QB and many of their best offensive weapons are hurt. It should be a good chance to chalk up another win. What’s that you say? This is the exact same scenario we have faced each of the last 3 weeks? And we lost? All we need now is Bill Murray to walk by and I’ll be convinced we are in the movie Groundhog Day.

For the 4th week in a row the Riders come up against similar circumstances in their opponents. They are hoping to change their fortunes and emerge from Montreal with more than just left over glitter from a night spent at the classy establishments along St. Catherine St. We face the team that damn near handed us a loss back in August and once again they will be led by Josh Neiswander… though mostly out of default because old man Calvillo’s brains are still scrambled from our last meeting and Tanner Marsh hurt his thumb. Als just better hope that Neiswander stays healthy because next up if he goes down is either Troy Smith or Kyle Greaves (though given this League’s general disdain for CIS QBs I assume they’d let their inflatable bird mascot throw before Greaves).

I was going to say that defensively I’m not overly concerned but the way our list of injured defenders is swelling I’m no longer as confident. Potentially Harris, Taylor, Brown and Thomas will be out. Having Ferri back will help stabilize things a bit but when it get to the point where our secondary features both Russ and Newman we are in some trouble.  Let’s be frank here, this is an offense that has scored less TDs than Winnipeg (didn’t think that was possible) and has turned the ball over 43 times… 43! In addition to being forced to start Neiswander due to lack of other options, I also have no clue if they will even be able to find a healthy RB to start. Whitaker is done, Messam is hurt, they already cut Chris Jennings, even rookie Steve Lumbala is hurt. Neiswander is not a runner and without a known quantity at RB I expect very little ground game. With Green, Bruce, London and an emerging Carter they have the receivers to be dangerous. I just don’t think they have a QB that can effectively use them. D-line needs to step up again and create havoc up front to help our patch-work LBs/DBs. That should cause errant throws, mistakes and sacks. D has been asked to do a lot of late and Sunday will be no different. What we really need is a defensive TD or at least a big turnover. Either way this will be a low scoring affair.

Defensively, the Als are a completely different story. We saw first hand last time just how good they are. #1 against the pass, #2 against the run, they force more turnovers than anyone. They are allowing 29 points per game but that is more due to the ineptitude of their O than their play. That said, they can be taken advantage of, say by a pump fake to the wideout perhaps. Their all out aggressiveness is their strength but it can be turned into an exploitable weakness. Screens can exploit their big blitzes. Quick hitting crossers and hooks to where blitzing LBs vacate can become big gains. Pump fakes can become TDs. You know they are coming with pressure so accept it and use it to our advantage. Force them to scale back the aggressiveness and play out of their comfort zone. Garrett will hopefully be slightly less confused in his 2nd start and build on a decent debut. We need a strong run game to take the pressure of our struggling OL which will now feature Dan Clark at guard and Devin Tyler at Tackle. Lord sakes, the league doesn’t test for steroids yet do they? So inject the best roids money can buy into Best and Heenan. The OL will have their work cut out for them and I expect them to struggle. But Cortez needs to show his genius again and help them out by staying committed to the run and calling passes to slow down the pass rush and get the ball out of Durant’s hands quick so the OL doesn’t have to block as long. TEs will need to be sharp as Brouillette and Cox are often blitzed off the edge.

I expect the O the struggle so it would be nice is defense or special teams could help compensate by scoring a TD. I honestly think 3 TDs will win this for us. I’m petitioning the league to add bonus points for hitting the post (you get 1 point if you miss by 30 yards for goodness sake) but we probably can’t count on that so Milo should probably just make his kicks.

We are in a slump, injuries are mounting exponentially, and we are on the road against a good defense. Honestly I should probably pin my hopes for the first football victory since Labour Day on my hapless Vikings. But I’m devoted to this team beyond logic (and maybe a little drunk) so I really believe we are going to pull out an unbelievably ugly win (and I mean like offspring of Jason Maas and Rosie O’Donnell ugly). First half will be full of offensive turnovers and defense keeping it close inspite. We will slip behind in the 3rd and wake up just before the start of the 4th and play some inspired football. In the end…

Riders by a Garrett TD.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Same Old Story

Riders 22 – Lions 24

I assumed that when my Vikings lost to the lowly (and running back-less) Cleveland Browns that my day could not get any worse… I was wrong. Apparently I have done something to offend to sporting gods (right now you are probably thinking “just one?”). For the 3rd time in as many weeks, the Riders let a winnable game slip out of their grasp. It was a very familiar scene as the defense started strong but run out of gas at key times; offense played for only sporadic drives and otherwise were just painful to watch and special teams was unable to give us a needed boost and yet again had costly miscues of its own. Another QBs whose testicles probably haven’t even dropped yet made to look like a savvy vet, another opposing defense with a day made too easy… another loss. Same old story. Our decent from favourites in the West to a fighting to even be a contender continues.

To Cortez’s credit I was somewhat happier with our short game this week (we even ran one of those mystic screens that I thought were extinct). But still… what happened to that feared 30+ point per game offense we started with? It has been replaced by one so impotent that teams are confidently punting from their endzone because we won’t make them pay for it. We went from one of the most heavily devoted to the run to a team that might as well be coached by Doug Berry for how little we value running. 9 runs by Garrett vs. 50 passing attempts is just not sustainable. Our O-line is getting worked in pass blocking so maybe give them a chance to go on the aggressive and run block more often. This plan of just assuming they will magically become useful blockers is not panning out. And it ain’t just my perennial whipping boy Neufeld. I saw Labatte on roller skates a couple times and Picard at one point failed to block a defensive tackle… you know the guy that lines up right in front of him. Offense as a whole is just bad, coaches, QB (the fact that the stat sheet shows 0 picks is beyond flattering), RB, O-line, even the receivers aren’t doing anything magical. The frustrating parts is we keep seeing flashes of the offensive power that should be there but it is way too sporadic and inconsistent to do us any good.

Defense was clearly hurt by the late and unexpected absence of Weldon Brown. Yet again they started out strong, allowing just 6 first half points but a lack of offensive support has to be wearing them down. The way our O is playing, we need the D to win us a couple games but they just haven’t been able to do enough despite commendable efforts. Last week it was John Chiles we couldn’t not stop, this week it was Courtney Taylor. We got pressure but needed a big play that we just couldn’t get. I know we are asking a lot of our D but opportunities are there for them to play better… they are at least starting from a way better point than the O.

Quick though on Milo… 3 posts in 2 weeks, He couldn’t do that again if you paid him. Love Milo but those have all been very costly mistakes.

The season it not lost by any stretch but the illusion that we are the team to beat in the West is. All we can do now is embrace the role of underdog and fight to prove people wrong. We are showing heart and fight but thats all just nice words unless you can translate it into a win. 6 of our 8 wins have come against sub 500 teams. We’ve proved we can play like ass and still hang with the big boys… now we just need to eliminate the playing like ass and start winning games we should.

Other random thoughts:
-       Why do the refs hate us? That first roughing the passer call was garbage. Does a ref have a hot wife that someone boinked
-       Poor Stu… that didn’t look good.
-       These awkward Gainer vignettes are just getting weirder by the week. IS there really nothing else to fill time with?
-       Was really hoping Geroy would break the record while winning us the game.
-       Upon further reflection, while the Rider loss hurts more, the Vikings losing to the Browns is more embarrassing.