Riders 31 - Stampeders 34
The 2015 Riders are among the more puzzling teams I've ever watched. There are moments when you watch them and figure there is no way they can be winless. They ran well. They forced turnovers. They scored 3 offensive TDs and a 4th on special teams. Certainly worse teams have managed to win games. Then there are other moments when it all becomes pretty obvious why this team has failed to win a game. One such moment might be allowing a TD on a hail mary at the end of the first half. I'm not sure I've ever been more embarrassed with my pants on then when we allowed that TD. But such is life for the Riders. It always seems they manage to take 2 steps forward, only to turn around and stumble back 3 steps. I've used this line before but we keep finding ways to lose.
Offensively I thought Brett Smith further cemented his status as someone who belongs under centre. I like his poise. I like his guts. I like how his eyes are always down field and how he finds ways to make plays. But he also cemented his status as a rookie QB. He made mistakes, He locked on to receivers at times. He had a rather lacklustre passing attack (minus his passing ability into the endzone) failing to pass for 200 yards... it would have been closer to 100 had Calgary not completely forgotten about Demski on that one play. I think Smith is still showing a very positive progression... but he's still got a lot of room to grow. I did like how we rediscovered our ground game.
Defense just keeps making positive steps forward. Like how we managed to explode for 3 turnovers after amassing just 2 all season. I noticed that they were hitting with aggression (like they were finally angry). Hell they even managed to hold the Stamps to FGs on both offensive turnovers in our own end. Sadly, no matter how much they show promise and progress, this defense always ends up regressing to an utterly useless group that couldn't stop my 8 year old touch football team, let alone a professional level offense. In addition to the aforementioned embarrassing hail mary, there was the complete inability to stop the run, even when everyone knew they were running well in advance (a depleted LB group likely factored in to that but excuses don't win football games); the inability to get off the field on second down; and the inability to tackle on the first, second or third attempt. There are signs this could be a good defense but they always end up blowing it in the end.
I do feel the need to comment on the now infamous "Clothesline from Hell". First of all, I'm fine with the call to go for the ridiculously long FG. It was the end of the half, the wind was at out back and Early has that kind of leg. Even with the clothesline, that play is nothing more than a forgotten footnote if our defense was not accessible to the high percentage play known as the hail mary. Second, as a fan who has not had much to cheer for, that was freaking awesome!!! Third, upon seeing the replay I can see why he was ejected. Though to be fair, if Tim Brown wasn't a midget that would have been a nothing play. Fourth, I nominate Randy Richards to play free safety next week... ain't nobody coming across the middle then.
As I said in the opening this is a weird team. We aren't getting embarrassed, we are hanging tough with some of the best teams in the league with our 3rd string QB, we are playing good ball at times and yet the loses keep piling up as quick as divorce notices following the Ashley Madison leak.
Other random thoughts:
- I would have asked Eddie Davis and Geno to suit up in the second half. Both guys still look in great shape. Very cool to see them inducted here in Saskatchewan.
- It is now 5 our of 8 games where we have failed to register a first quarter point.
- There were some pretty brutal calls by the refs in our favour. Like the penalty for a D-lineman being throwing into our QB by an O-lineman. Or the guy who was penalized for his pinky grazing our player as he went out of bounds.