Monday, July 17, 2017

Gone Fishing

As of today I am on vacation. I'm headed up north fishing and won't be back until Sunday. Nanananananana Fishing! That means no Monday Morning Sentimonies and no game preview this week. Though I will tell you that I expect a close game for 3 quarters but a 10 point loss in Calgary in the end.

Don't burn the place down in my absence.... or do, who am to tell you what to do.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Won!

Riders 37 - Ti-Cats 20

Saturday night across the province enough pressure was released to put Tom Brady to shame (are Deflategate jokes still funny? well regardless I'm too lazy to come up with something better so you're stuck with it). Losing that game would sent the whole province into a spiral of negativity that would have had 2 full weeks to increase in severity. But instead we got our first win in our new home. Now that one win doesn't magically fix everything (as we are still a 1 win team) but damn it sure feels good to win.

I honestly had to check the sidelines to see if we'd replaced our coaching staff because the things we were doing stunned me. We consistently rushed 4 on D and dialed up the blitz more in that game than we have all season. While the stat sheet will show only one sack, it does not do justice to the pressure we applied and how much Collaros had to hurry or run to make plays. It was as if someone took Chris Jones' playbook and did a "replace all" of 3 man rush with 4. Hamilton has a weak O-line and we were actually able to take advantage. What I liked is how our D came out aggressive. We did not allow a first down until the second quarter and did not allow a major until late in the 3rd. We held Luke Tasker without a catch (I said pre-game that containing him was a key). All in all a great effort from the D. They allowed just 13 points (which by recent standards is only a few steps removed from an actual miracle.) Clearly Jonathan Newsome had been holding this unit back :)

The D was aided by a red hot offense. That was one of the best offensive game plans I've seen from McAdoo in a long time. They really attacked that weak Hamilton secondary (I mean that unit was awful... and this is coming from someone who has extensively watched our secondary). They played to Glenn's strength on the touch pass with a long of perfectly run timing routes (Glenn and Roosevelt were so in sync that there were probably finishing each others sentences on the sidelines). We balanced a solid passing attack with a committed run game Alleluia!!! Marshall finally got double digit touches and the bulk of them came early in the game and really helped set the tone offensively (damn he runs hard). Glenn has damn sure gotta stop telegraphing his weekly interceptions but otherwise you have to be elated with what he has done over the past 2 weeks. I especially love the drive he led after Hamilton made it 27-20. He  moved the ball 77 yards in 6 minutes including a massive 2 and 17 conversion to Roosevelt. That drive really calmed everything back down and reestablished our momentum even though we only got a FG.

As good as this win was, let's remember that we went 1-2 through the easy portion of our schedule. We need to use this game as a building block to even better play (and coaching) when we get back from bye. But for now let's enjoy this winning feeling. It's pretty awesome.

Other random thoughts:
- We were treated to the best Kiss Cam moment since the dry humping incident of 2015. For those who were there, the camera panned to a girl and guy and she was immediately utter embarrassed and clearly said "He's my dad". Maybe that kiss cam guy should be re-assigned to Manitoba where that kind of thing is more socially acceptable.

- Also on the big screen, there was almost another tremendous moment. The camera had a hot chick on as it was panning through the crowd (nothing usual there) but she then smiled and began to pull out one of those 2 foot hot dogs. I would have paid to here the panicked sound of the camera director calling for them to switch to another camera. It was close, but alas,we never got to find out what that nice lady would have done with that hotdog.

- Duron Carter would have a passing TD if he trusted Duron's arm and didn't let up on his route. Between that play and the onside Bartel punt you could tell the coaches were feeling the pressure and making sure they pulled out all the stops to win.

- Kacy Rodgers was so close to a couple INTs. I don't mind him playing it safe and playing his man rather than the ball given the situation but a little bit more risk taking and he coulda had a couple. 

- On the play after they took a Too Many Men penalty, Hamilton only had 11 guys on the field. Do you think they miss Orlando Steinhauer much?
- I would expect the punishment for grabbing and official by the shirt like Will Hill did will be a one game suspension (though I hope its 2) but maybe they will soften it like they did when Austin hit an official and say Hill is "suspended" but he'll still be allowed to be a part of the game.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Riders vs Ti-Cats: We Need This

Only three teams remain in the CFL without a win in 2017. Granted one has a tie, one didn't play last week and one is us... but more to the point of this opening, one of those teams will emerge from Saturday night's showdown with a win (unless of course we tie). The 0-1 Ti-Cats are in town to face the 0-2 Riders for the second contest at New Mosaic Stadium. 

My preview will be somewhat abbreviated this week as I just got back from family vacation.  

I've been saying for a couple weeks that this is a big game. Given that we squandered the first 2 weeks, this is damn-near must win if we realistically think the playoffs are a possibility. This is our last "easy game" (and I mean that relative to the remainder of the schedule as no games are gimmes for us). A healthy Ti-Cat team would likely embarrass us but the Ti-Cats are to health what we are to aggressive pass rushing. The bulk of their secondary and a chunk of their receivers are out. Also they are benching CJ Gable because its his fault that Kent Austin is the only guy who hates to run more than McAdoo.

Offensively I love, love, love the match-up of our receivers on whatever it is they are trying to pass off as a secondary. If you include the Sam LB, they are starting 3 rookies and 2 second year players. Normally Emmanuel Davis, Abdul Kanneh and Craig Butler would be locking things down but they are currently only locking down IR spots.  I think the bigger loss is the loss of DC Orlando Steinhauer. A once fearsome unit looks almost lost without him. Glenn needs to pick that unit apart (Ray threw for 500 on them in Week 1). But in saying that Glenn also needs to limit his mistakes. Don't force it into double coverage like last week. Plays will be there if he's smart and patient. I think we need to balance it with some running to slow down a very good front 4 but that advice will be ignored so I guess its on the OL to step up and have another good game.

Defensively, normally Zach Collaros vs. our secondary would have me in pre-emptive tears,  but he only put up 9 offensive points against Toronto. Granted Toronto has a much better D than us but 9 is bad. Losing Tolliver hurts that unit as all the pressure essentially now falls on Tasker. Provided we actually remember to put a defender on him there is little else that scares me in that offense (aside from possibly Tyms). We already know the Ti-Cats don't run so disrupting Collaros in the pocket is priority #1 for the front 7 or I guess the front 3 in our case.The OL did not give great protection in game 1 and while they will likely make adjustments they are not going to be the toughest line we've faced. If we can eliminate the big plays, I think we have a real good chance of keeping the score low. Collaros is a way better QB than Matt Nichols but has a way weaker supporting cast so its time for our defense to step up and play a full 60 mins (not taking a nap for the 3rd quarter).

While they won't admit it,I think the team as a whole is starting to feel the pressure. A big home win would relax things but a loss sends us further into a downward spiral that becomes harder to pull out of each week. Even coming off a week's rest the Ti-Cats are a battered unit. We need to take advantage and get this win. I think we finally get our first real party in the new stadium...

Riders by a Roosevelt TD

Monday, July 3, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: New Home, Same Result

Riders 40 - Bombers 43 (OT)

We hoped coming into the season that the Riders could be a competitive team. Not a dominant one, not a really good one, but competitive. Through 2 games in 2017 that's what we've seen. But here's the problem with competitive teams... they aren't good enough to overcome mistakes. That was the story on opening night at New Mosaic, mistakes... well that and crazy long, slow lines for drastically overpriced food and beverage. Look if you are going to gouge me you could at least do it efficiently. 

It's easy to scapegoat Crapigna (are those goal posts regulation size or what?) but he was far from the only one to screw up. Pissing away yet another winnable game was a total team effort. In addition to the kicker there were our coaches. There errors were certainly less egregious than last week but the same old refusal to run and reliance on  the super-ineffective 3 man rush were there (though for the sake of the children's ear around me I was glad we were mercifully spared a Bridge appearance). The was the Greg Morris fumble and Kevin Glenn's really bad INTs (spoiling an overall solid outing). There was the defense who on consecutive plays chose to cover Weston Dressler with Kevin Francis and air. The whole 3rd quarter in general was an absolute monstrosity to watch (the score was 31- 16 in the other 3 quarters). On their own none of these mistakes are fatal (well minus the whole 3 TDs in 6 minutes thing) but when you combine this many mistakes with a mediocre team the results tend to be as expected.

It was nice to see our offense put up points after a lackluster first outing. It was nice to see the penalties decrease.  It was nice to see us get within an area code of the QB (on those rare occasions when a 4th or 5th guy clearly defied the play call and ran at the QB. Quite frankly it was just nice to have a game that the crowd could really get into (love that volume). But it's tough to focus on those positives when the end result was another loss. The first 3 games on our schedule are among the easiest ones we are going to get and we are 2 thirds through that and still winless. The don't award W's based on positives and hopefulness. 

We need to address our secondary as its a giant liability. Jovon Johnson is the best we have. I think Rogers is holding his own more often than not. The rest... off. Gainey is have a bad year. Lyles is struggling. Sam Williams is struggling. And Hecht, well he' s the mediocre at best safety we knew he was coming into the season. Matt Nichols exposed that group, what do you think Reilly, Harris, Mitchell and Jennings will do? Now of course a normal coach would try and compensate for poor coverage by not hanging them out to dry with zone coverage and no pressure on the QB but no one asked me for input on our defensive schemes, or concession logistics, or anything for that matter. I have a lot of good opinions to offer that are going to waste.

This team isn't hopeless as they are two kicks away from being 1-0-1 (a tie was the best we were doing in OT) but mistakes still are way too common and until that happens there is little reason for optimism.