Riders 32 -RedBlacks 30 (OT)
Don't look now but after mustering just 1 win in the first 10 games, the Riders have won their last 3. It's now been a full calendar month since we last lost. And while playoffs are but a pipe dream (don't give me that mathematical chance crap), I must say that this whole winning thing feels really good. This particular win was made even sweeter because it was fueled by a Burris interception and a Milo miss. I should say that I have nothing personal against Milo, always liked the guy. I just figure that after all his misses here, he kind of owed us that one.
The game highlighted many of the aspects that the Riders have improved at... as well as many issues that have plagued this team all season.
On the good side, we once again came out guns a blazing on offense. Going straight for Ottawa's jugular. Durant was dialed in and the way he was throwing that easily could have been a 3 score game early if our receivers could catch. We spent all season napping through the 1st quarter and playing catch-up all game. It's no surprise that when we are aggressive early and build up a lead, its far easier to win. Our defense has gone from embarrassingly awful to holding Harris/Williams/Ellingson/Jackson/Sinopoli to one score through 3 quarters. We got turnovers (plural!). We got sacks (also plural!). They were a real difference maker instead of something you prayed sucked just enough not to cost us the game. Willie Jefferson made a huge impact in his first game. Justin Cox is a stud. Ed Gainey is making me hate him less each week and Fred Bennett is one tough SOB to hang onto that pick while taking that hit.
On the bad side... we saw our potent first quarter defense go to sleep until part way through the 4th. Some of that was receivers not catching. But I think a big part of it had to do with a refusal to adjust our game plan. I liked pushing the ball downfield early. But when your D is locking things down and you have a lead it no longer makes sense to keep our offense based on deep shots. Curtis Steele had 5 carries for 50 yards... it doesn't take a mathmegician to figure out that he should have had at least double the touches. Also the short 5-8 yards passes that we decimated Hamilton with disappeared. Defense also came unglued in the 4th. Ottawa has a potent O so it's no surprise they finally managed to get points on the board but 22 in one quarter is ridiculous. Penalties hurt us. Honestly if Mrabure-Ajufo were American he would need to find a new career. Mediocre play coupled with very poor penalty-filled decisions the odd time he actually gets in position to make a play.
The good news is that unlike earlier in the year where the team would have crumbled based on this adversity, they actually battled back. That TD drive by Durant was so clutch. And that TD grab by Bagg was a sight to behold. Durant even got us back in position to kick a game winning and FG. I maintain that if the snap isn't off and if Bartel has time to spin the laces out that Crapigna would have made that 55 yarder. It's such a weird feeling having confidence when your kicker lines up again.
As exciting as the win was, it apparently came at a high cost. Edwards and Fuller are done for the year with hand injuries. Its too bad because Edwards he been flat out impressive. As for Fuller, unfortunately one of the few knocks on him is that he's often good friends with the injured list. Demski is out short term with a shoulder injury as well as what we hope is a curable case of Getzlafing.
It may have been closer than it should have been but I am not about to complain about a team that has made watching them lead me to drink due to excitement as opposed to drinking as a coping mechanism.
Other random thoughts:
- Josh Bartel has been damn good this year. He looks nothing like the guy who was here during his first tour of duty here.
- If they ever advertise a game where Burris is mic'd up, I won't watch it. His constant whining is intolerable.
- Durant joking with the ref about the "block" he threw was pretty funny.
- Unlike Jefferson, Muamba had a rougher time re-acquainting himself to the CFL
- Joe Craig has been impressing me as a returner