Riders 36 - Esks 39 (OT)
Friday the Riders added yet another chapter in the long history of giving fans hope, only to crush it, then give them hope again and just as they are piecing their heart back together, throwing on the ground and stomping it out for good. It was also another game where I fully expected us to lose and yet somehow they managed to leave me disappointed in the end.
For the second week in a row, the Riders played beyond expectations yet in the end made too many mistakes to earn a victory. They came out roaring in the first half shocking the Esks and most fans. They then decided to take a break from the whole "playing good" thing and proceeded to play like absolute crap until there were less than 10 minutes left in the game. They then launched an absolutely amazing comeback and scored the go ahead points with 19 seconds left in the game. Then of course they once again reverted to craptastic levels and managed to lose the game. They were like Jekyl and Hyde. At some points they looked like a team that could beat a lot of teams. At some points they looked like a blooper reel that was only missing the circus music in the background.
The good news is that every phase of the team chipped in and contributed in a very meaningful way in an effort to win. Offense was awesome. Durant spread the ball around to everyone (4 different players caught TDs) and thew no INTs. The touch on some of his passes was amazing to see. Ricky Collins is quickly making a name for himself. Defense got a nice endzone pick and made some very timely stops late in the game. Special teams forced a fumble, recovered an onside kick and was perfect on FGs.
The bad news is that every phase of the team also contributed to the loss in a very meaningful way. Offense completely disappeared from halftime until the 9 minute mark of the 4th. I find Steve McAdoo trying to get too cute. We ran the ball just 8 times and only 3 times in the whole second half. Then there is this whole Bryant Moniz thing. Just take any plays involving him out of the play book and burn them. Him even stepping on the field appears to be a liability. Durant seems to be firing on all cylinders so why bother inserting Moniz? Lastly there is our damn near comical inability to execute a 3rd down plunge. Esks did it twice in that game and got 3 yards each time. We are damn near 0 fer on the season. On a play that is essential fall forward and you succeed we have failed at least 4 times this season, fumbled twice and given up a TD. May want to address that because short of the entire O-line losing their pants simultaneously I'm not sure how things can get worse. Defense looked amazing early but then they settled into more what I expected. The Esks have too good of an offense to completely snuff out. They exploited our inexperience at safety. But that part didn't bother me near as much as that god awful excuse for defense that allowed them to drive for the tying FG. Even Richie Hall would have mocked that prevent defense for being soft. Play 4 yards further up and we win that game. Special Teams (more specifically Kendial Lawrence) chipped in 2 untimely fumbles to the losing effort.
It was a frustrating game because we saw definite proof that this Rider team can be a force in this league. But it was mixed with the kind of mistakes you'd expect of a bottom dwelling team. The optimist will look at that game and see a ton of positives: offensive showed firepower, defense is making progress, special teams is making a difference. The pessimist will see a team that despite the progress its made in level of play, is still finding ways to lose game (and one that I swear made 6 roster moves while I was typing this).
On a high level, I think we are happy with the direction that Chris Jones has this team pointed. We went toe to toe with the defending champs. Good things are in store for this team if they keep progressing like they are. It would just be nice if all this potential could be translated into a win sooner rather than later.