Friday, September 27, 2013

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.

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