Only the Riders could manage to have me walk into a game I fully expected to lose and have me leave feeling disappointed. Such is life as a Rider fan.
Before I get to the game, let illustrate just how bad things had gotten in Riderville over the past month or so. On the first offensive play of the game when Joseph took a deep shot, there was damn near a standing ovation despite the fact the pass feel incomplete. On the next play Joseph hit an 8 yard pass and as he and the offense were headed to the sidelines, there was another raucous ovation despite the fact we just went 2 and out. We have been so desperate for competent play at the QB position that even failure of the less embarrassing variety was a welcome sight. Every ounce of me wanted to stand up and yell “Really?” to the fans cheering a 2 and out but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I was also happy we didn’t suck quite as bad. For anyone who watched Mad TV, the whole scenario reminded me of a sketch they did about a really bad dating service call Lowered Expectations.
As for the game, a competent QB changes everything. Plain and simple. Was Joseph great? Lord no. Was he good? Good enough. And low and behold, given the talent we have around him, “good enough” was almost enough to beat the 2nd best team in the CFL… hell we should have beat them. I figured Joseph would do good but admittedly he looked better than I expected. He was poised, made reads, bought time, made passes, moved the ball, scored points… you know all those things that our other QBs just couldn’t do. Clearly it was advantage Joseph in the first half since the Esks would have had no film on him running our offense and they certainly made adjustments in the second half to level the playing field. Regardless, Joseph showed enough that I think we can win with him. The whole team played better around him. O-line had their best game in many weeks buying tons of time for Joseph. Heenan had a rough outing but as a unit they were improved. Receivers were a mixed bag. They made some good plays… but also dropped far too much. I like what Korey Williams brings at that wide-out spot. Our run game was clearly affected by the late scratch of Allen. His back spasms should come as no surprise given his attempt to carry the entire team on his back last week. While our run game was a disappointment, what was refreshing to see was us be able to adjust and still move the ball without it. Joseph and the O will need to be better but I have faith in their abilities overall which is something I did not have in the Sunseri/Doege offense. More importantly the coaches seem to have confidence in Joseph given that he didn’t get the training wheels playbook.
Overall a very good effort by our defense. They really manned up and contained the run, both of White (68 yards) and Reilly (11 yards). Foley was a monster out there. That D-line looks a whole lot better with Derrick Walker in the line-up. He is very underrated in my opinion. The injury to Maze was devastating. While he was in, we really contained Bowman and the rest of the passing game. When Green was forced into action, it all went to hell. Hopefully Maze will be back soon because he is a key piece of that secondary.
That kick return TD was a killer. We had all the momentum going into half after an outstanding 30 mins of football and lost it all right then and there and let Edmonton back into the game after having them on the ropes. Simply put we are currently not a good enough team to overcome major mistakes like that. We need to play our best football in all three phases in order to compete with top teams like Edmonton and Calgary. The second half displayed less than our best in all 3 phases and we weren’t able to overcome it.
We had an opportunity to win that game and let it slip away. I think the confidence level across the province increase by monumental proportions but a loss is a loss and I won’t be happy until I see that increased confidence translate into wins. We have 2 games remaining and in both cases our opponent will not care about the outcome so we need to keep improving and be ready to play our best football come playoffs.
Other random thoughts:
- Greatest kiss cam ever! Also likely the last kiss cam ever. For those of you who weren’t at the game you really missed out. It was all going along like normal until the camera showed a young couple. The guy told his lady friend to stand up. She seemed a bit confused but obliged. He then shocked everyone by turning her around and giving her a her very enthusiastic dry humping.
Somewhere someone had to be yelling “Won’t someone think of the children!”
- By now if you are not convinced that Dressler had paid off the refs with paninis and blizzards you are obviously in on the conspiracy. They just seem to look away when he is returning punts. I’m not complaining mind you… in fact I think he should expand his bribing ways to offensive plays as well.
- I am certainly not on the “Fire Cortez” train. I have longed for an OC this good for years and hope he sticks around long-term. That said, I have to question some pretty basic stuff that I’ve seem him call. One example: Short yardage play we run Ford up the middle. Next play we run Messam off-tackle. I’m no offensive genius but that seems really backwards to me.
- Bartel is every bit as inconsistent a punter as Milo. He really needs to get better if we are to continue justifying using a roster spot on him.