Riders 14 - Als 19
If I was an eternal optimist, or just one of those people who think the Riders can do no wrong, I would open today's post extolling the good strategy of the Riders for keeping the drive for the #1 overall pick alive. As you know, however, I am instead a bitter, jaded realist who could write a novel entitled "Things the Riders did wrong this year". If actual encyclopedias were still a thing it would make a great (and depressing) series.
In a meaningless game between two of the worst teams in the CFL on a rain-soaked afternoon, its hard to imagine a group of people who wanted to be there less than the fans. Turns out the Rider players, coaches and even the refs did not want to be there either as all seemed to go out of their way to put minimal effort into the afternoon. The care factor just didn't seem to be there on all accounts.
The Cole's Notes version (do people still get that saying?) is that our O-line showed a complete inability to pass block and our offensive play callers realized way too late into the game that Joe McKnight was the only thing we had going for us. Consider this: Over the first 23 minutes of play the Riders ran 11 offensive plays. 4 plays went to McKnight who totaled 31 yards and never got less than 4. The remaining 11 plays combined resulted in a total of -12 yards and only one play went for positive yards (3). It doesn't take a genius to see that maybe we should have given up on the pass plays (that only resulted in sacks and incompletions) and focused more on feeding the ball to the one guy who was actually being productive. As a Vikings fan I had the distinct pleasure of watching both my teams in consecutive days show no ability to pass block... and both refuse to adjust their play calling accordingly. I fully support the Fulton trade but we clearly have taken a step back in the trenches since he left. For all the gains we've made this season in talent O-line remains a glaring need.
Offense's futility squandered a pretty good defensive performance (albeit it against the worst O-line in the league and a depleted receiving corp). They put up 6 sacks and could easily have matched their yearly total if not for the escapability of a clearly greased up Vernon Adams. That's what it sucks being the first D to play a new QB. Next opponent will have the benefit of seeing his tendencies on film. Even so, if you exclude the TD they allowed when a Durant fumble set the Als up on the 2 yard line, the D did their job in this one (other than going offside way too much). One guy who blew me away was Tevaughn Campbell. All I have ever seen from him was a super fast guy with no coverage skills but Saturday he looked like a bona fide DB out there. Great play on his INT and I noticed him a couple other times for positive reasons.
As I mentioned the players weren't the only one mailing it in. The usually challenge happy Chris Jones clearly didn't want to lengthen the game anymore in Saturday. Also the refs, were so eager to be out of the rain that they missed that blatant head shot on McKnight at the end. I don't really care about how it affected the outcome of the game (let's not forget the game is meaningless) but if you really care about player safety then letting a guy torpedo himself headfirst at another player should probably be noticed and punished.
In the end the game was pretty much two pretty good defenses against two pretty bad offenses (minus what Adams was able to improvise) on a dreary day where the primary concern of pretty much everyone involved was "when will this be over". Personally I blame the presence of Jordan Sisco. I still have no idea how anyone in their right mind could see fit to honour him with the other deserving 2013 Grey Cup honorees. He literally contributed nothing. I'm convinced his mere presence caused a cosmic force of terribleness that affected the Riders.
Side note: I was the only guy in the stands booing when that Chip Cox fumble return TD was called back (on an embarrassingly bad plunge by the Riders). I have Cox in Fantaseh and that offside penalty may have cost me my playoff match-up.