Riders 20 - Ti-Cats 18
The Riders delivered something to fans many months earlier than we were expecting based on the current pace... another win. Under the lights of old Mosaic on Saturday night, they defeated the Ti-Cats on a last second FG. In the process, the racked up as many wins in the past 7 days as they have in the previous calendar year. So you'll forgive me if I seem a bit confused and not quite sure what to do with myself. I'm just a bit rusty that's all.
In reality this outcome should have been expected. We were facing a team missing half their normal starters on each side of the ball... this is a game we should have won. We're just surprised we actually did because, well... you've seen the last 3 months. But perhaps its a sign that the Chris Jones regime may finally be starting to turn the corner (more specifically turning off of Gong Show Blvd and onto Respectable Ave). I won't lie though, during that 4th quarter my emotions went from hopeful, to prayerful, to we're screwed, to we're totally screwed, to I hate Mitch Gale, to "this is what I get for being hopeful", to "I wonder if the beer stand is still open", to "Mitch Gale! I always loved that guy".
I noticed 3 big things this game that have been lacking this season that I see as keys to the victory (you know minus playing an injury riddled team).
The first was being aggressive early. This team averages 2 points per 1st quarter (two!). Saturday they rattled of 10 first quarter points (this most they've done all season). Instead of playing chase all game as we habitually do, we forced Hamilton to chase us... and amazingly discovered its a bit easier than our usual method. Durant started with 4 straight completion and an FG, defense got the pick, he fired 5 of his next 6 complete and then most importantly answered a Hamilton QB with a rapid fire 3 for 3 drive culminating in the bomb to Edwards. For a team with nothing to lose, I hope I see a lot more of this early aggressiveness.
The second was the development of a short game. All season our passing game has been a bipolar combination of long bombs and passes so short you wonder why we even bother. Saturday we suddenly unleashed a flurry of 6 to 10 yard passes. We picked apart a depleted secondary and strung together some nice long drives. A short game like that goes a long way to masking the deficiencies of our OL. It was another welcome sight.
The final thing was that we are effectively spreading the ball around. Losing Roosevelt sucks but the silver lining appears to be that its forced us to lean on other guys instead of him being our only hope. Holley, Bagg and Edwards are carving out big roles offensively. Demski got involved. Hell even Chambers emerged from a witness protection-like invisibility to make a catch. Add in a more consistent reliance on the run game and you have an offense that can keep defenses off balance. I would add that the continued absence of "that stupid Brandon Bridge play"is also playing a positive role.
Do I think the Riders are suddenly a good team? Lord no! We squeaked out a win against a team struggling to find 46 healthy guys to dress. But headed into the bye week the Riders are playing competitive football, winning and more importantly re-instilling hope in a fan base desperate something positive... 3 weeks ago all of these were mere pipe dreams.
Other random thoughts:
- The continuity is certainly paying off defensively. They aren't world beaters but they are playing solid football and lacking the myriad of mistakes that plagued them previously (minus that whole breakdown on the Masoli TD).
- Jeff Hecht is an average at best safety but I love him. That massive hit he laid was awesome but to me more awesome was him reading that play and then getting himself in position to make the play. After struggling through the likes of Webster and Francis who were rarely in the same area code as the ball, its a welcome sight.
- While I agree that the 3rd down gamble 37 seconds left was the correct call, I had zero confidence in our ability to successfully run it. I would have kicked the FG knowing what I know about our team. Guess that's why they don't give me button up all black shirts, sunglasses with the wrap around band and let me make the big decisions.