I don’t know about you but I’ve had just about enough of this losing business. After coasting through the start of the season in first place we face the very real possibility of dropping down to third if we don’t get things figured out. Sunday we get our first look at the BC Lions of the year. Winning the season series with them is must if we want a home playoff game. Now if we were in the East division we would likely be selling playoff tickets by now… maybe we should see if we can switch when the Bombers do.
Our issues are so evident that I’m a recent immigrant who knows nothing of sports could figure it out. Defense is playing great ball but killing themselves with penalties and late collapses. Offensively between a line that can’t block and a game plan that refuses to adjust, we cannot handle any kind of pressure. There are Faberge eggs out there that can handle more pressure. It’s really that simple. If defense can quit hurting itself and more importantly if we can find a way to move the ball and score then we will get back to our winning ways.
Problem is we have to manage that against one of the stingiest D’s in the league in Rich Stubler’s unit. They are # 1 against the pass, #2 against the run, are tied for most picks with us and don’t allow a ton of points. Also, unless Stubler suffers a major brain injury on the trip here or his sweater vest cuts off the circulation to his head he will be sending a lot of pressure. He has a veteran secondary than he can trust to handle things manned up. We have 2 option to counter the inevitable pressure: 1) pray our OL has suddenly massively improved or 2) go on the offensive and start calling plays that will make the Lions pay for their pressure. We need to stay committed to the run even though Garrett is no Sheets (he can bust one for a big gain). We need call some screens and dump offs and we need to milk the short hot routes and take the small chunks of yards they will give us. Stubler is a patient man. He will give you 4-5 yards per play... so we need to take it and string together long drives. Lions like to ballhawk so I would avoid anything to the wideouts under 20 yards. Dressler, Getz and Simon (who should have the BC coverages memorized) will need to carry the load. Be patient, be smart and be willing to counter the blitz… that’s how to get our offense back on track.
Defensively we get the relative unknown in Thomas DeMarco starting. About all I know about this guy is that he looks like a chach. Normally I wouldn’t be worried but this franchise has made stars out of many an unknown Lion back-up QB. The good news is that this O has been struggling even with Lulay in. The have only the 5th best passing attack and only Montreal and Winnipeg have less passing TDs (and they have new starting QBs each week). They have the 3rd most giveaways (they have more loose balls than a nudist colony). Their OL was once revered for the protection they provide but recently has let Lulay take a late night Dewdney-style beating (too soon?).
Our D has been very solid of late (minus the dumb penalties and the 4th Q last week) so there is no reason to believe we can’t keep that up. There are 2 keys as I see it. 1) eliminate the long ball to Arceneaux and 2) stuff Harris. Simply put without the big play or the run, I don’t see DeMarco stringing together long drives against us. Plus here’s a nice fact about Harris. The Lions are 6-1 when he gets over 15 touches and just 1-3 when he gets less. Limit Harris and our odds of winning sky rocket.
If I’m being perfectly honest with myself, the way our O has been playing is worrisome when matched up against a solid D in BC. We have already lost to 2 inferior teams. Logic says this will be a tough game. But like any good Rider fan I suppress my logic with alcohol and go with a gut feeling. We are at home and have all the tools to beat the Lions if we just put together a complete game on both sides of the ball. Time to prove we are still a force to be reckoned with.
Riders by an improbable 4th quarter rally end in a Milo FG (because we never do things the easy way).
As a side note, after missing out on Labour Day, I am really looking forward to the potential of getting to play the Buck Pierce Injury Pool game. Come on broken fingers.