Friday, November 15, 2013

Riders vs. Stampeders: West Final 2013

Sunday two bitter rivals face off in what will surely be an epic showdown to determine who moves on to the Grey Cup (as the favourite realistically). Just thinking of the Riders travelling to Calgary for the West Final evokes strong memories of the 2010 WF. Two things I remember clear as day from that game. On a positive there was the Cary Koch catch in the back of the endzone. At the polar opposite end of the spectrum was a moment that evoked more curse words from me in a qo second period than ever before (and that bar was set high). It was when Ryan Grease-Mullen fumbled catching a kick and it ended up bouncing in the endzone until Jerrell “Jesus on Wheels” Freeman saved the day (and likely Grice-Mullen’s life) by sliding in and saving the day. Hopefully this edition has a similar ending but a less curse-filled middle.

Plain and simple the Stamps are the best team in the CFL and beating them in their own park (where they lost only once this season) will be very difficult. They are strong at every position and have endured a huge string of injuries along the way. Even the fact that they lost 3 starters in the final game of the year does not strike me as a huge boost for us since the Stamps have excelled despite injuries all year. By now you are probably saying “way to instill confidence Prophet, this sounds pretty depressing in terms of outlook”. Well no need to go into a Rob Ford-style Drunken Stupor because I believe we can win and will explain how… though if you want to don an Argo jersey and utter profanity in a public forum be my guest.

Our defense will need to rebound from a poor showing in all but the 4th quarter of the WSF. We have just been taking for granted that our D will excel and BC shot a big hole in that theory. BC ran all over us for over 200 yards so you can bet Cornish is liking his lips (and likely lowering his pants). Its no secret that any attempt to beat the Stamps requires containing Cornish. We don’t have to stop him completely, just ensure he doesn’t run all over us at will. D-line will need to be aggressive and keep the OL off our LBs so they can move around freely. When Calgary gets blockers on LBs that’s when their run game starts going crazy. So the first 3 items on the top 5 list of things to do are all stop the run. Unfortunately that won’t be enough. Maurice Price can score from anywhere. Joe West is a very underrated receiver. We have already made a star out of that Fuller. There is even an outside chance that Nik Lewis might play (though that depends on their ability to keep his knee braces free of KFC grease so they don’t slip off… good luck). Success on D needs to start with dominance up front. Calgary has an excellent OL but we have assembled a ridiculous DL and they need to earn their money this week. If they can win the battle at the line of scrimmage it will affect the run game and we already proved how well Kevin Glenn does when our line attacks him. Tate was the saviour last time but we will be ready this time for him if needed. If our D plays like they can then the score will stay low. But with a team like Calgary there is no room for mistakes or penalties or sloppy play. Take away Cornish, take away the deep strikes and force them to dink and dunk down the field. We can force mistakes and turnovers in that scenario.

Offensively, we need Durant to be the leader he was against BC yet again. If he is that tuned in again this week then our O will be humming. Unlike BC I don’t expect the Stamps to be too stupid to stop the QB draw 9 times in a row. But the fact that they now have to account for that should help open things up for Sheets or in the passing game. Like last time Calgary will want to shut down Sheets (mostly out of pride). So expect a slow start from Sheets but the early focus on Sheets will open up those medium passes for Durant and also leave room for him to run. I would test the middle of that Stamp DL early with their 2 D-tackles both out, no guarantee of success but worth testing with Sheets behind Best or Labatte. With Raymond and Smith locked in on Dressler, Taj Smith could be in for another big day (lord knows he’s earned the trust of Durant). Getzlaf will likely play but will be less than 100%... the good news is that his game is to run around until people forget about him and then burn them. So he will see fewer passes but they will be key ones. Let’s not forget his legacy of being a Stamp killer (and I’m not talking about a postage murderer… just to clarify things). We need to bring back that screen to Sheets and be prepared to use him actively in the pass game (just keep the passes easy because his hands are worse than Getzlaf’s used to be). Primary key is keeping Hughes and the rest of the sack happy Stamps off of Durant. Last time we played, we idiotically left Hughes unblocked or one on one with Clark or the RB alot. Don’t overthink this. Get your best blockers on their biggest threats and neutralize them. If Durant has time he will find the receivers and move the ball… if he has no time then we better hope he has another 100 rushing in him because that’s what we would need. The odd run to keep them honest is good but I would prefer if we could get Durant the time to get the ball to our other play makers.Greater chance of success the quieter Hughes is.

My nerves are already starting to get shaky just typing this. I’m pumped for the game and can only fathom the pandemonium that will engulf this town if we win. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We are correctly cast as the underdog in this game. It will take our best effort to end their season, nothing less. I fully expect this game to be curse-filled (ear muffs Prophet Jr.) and so full of stress that it will shorten my already low life expectancy… but this is a very talented team and is playing with a ton of heart. On Sunday we will be the better team (though both the O and D will go through their struggles).

In the end…. Riders by a Chris Milo FG (that comes so close to hitting the upright that a collective gasp can be heard across the prairies).

Gentlemen (and ladies) start your drinking!

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