Riders 41 – Lions 8
There are a couple major concepts (that were previous damn near unfathomable) to wrap my head around in the fallout of the Riders’ blowout win on Sunday. For one, we actually beat a West team. That is a game changer as far as our chances this season goes. Equally as mind blowing, we actually played defense. And not just “good enough to win defense”. Solid, dominant defense. We also started very strong, something we tend not to do. I don’t know who it was that took the field on Sunday night but it certainly wasn’t the Riders I have been watching all season.
The offense went according to script: they play like utter garbage on the road but at home are electric. But for me this game was all about the defense. They made more plays on Sunday than I swear they made in the previous 6 games combined. Coming into this game we had forced 5 turnovers and sacked the QB just 11 times (less than 2 per game). Sunday they exploded for 7 turnovers and 4 sacks. Now I will put a caveat on all of this prior people start thinking we have finally turned the corner defensively. This was against a team with a terrible O-line, missing their most productive WR (and losing another one mid-game) and a QB who tuned in one of the worst performances of his career. Don’t get me wrong, I love that we took advantage of that and turned in a dominant performance but we have to prove that level of play can be repeated vs. just being a one off. Maybe we finally found a combination of players that work. I like Butler at HB a hell of a lot more than Lyles. Also, Moncrief turned in a great performance (minus the part where he ran out of gas 5 yards into what should have been a pick 6). He was really good in coverage all night. Have to give props to Gainey. He has been not very good this year and was drifting his way back onto my hate list but man did he make some plays. None of those picks were easy catches. As much I loved his performance, I wish he would have let Duron get that last INT. Not sure we ever would have heard then end of that. That man can do anything… Just ask him. My only negative comment about the D was that we should probably structure our roster a bit better so Carter isn’t our only back-up DB.
Offense turned in another great performance on home turf. At some point maybe we should look into why they can’t do that on the road, but I’ll focus on the positives for now. It started upfront with a solid performance from the O-line. Unlike Clark, Labatte actually has the ability to read a stunt and the middle was noticeably more sealed up. Having your top 2 OL playing out of position is not ideal but if that combo keeps working I’d be inclined to ride with it. While the defense was the biggest shock of the day, a close second for me was our commitment to the run and Marshall getting double digit carries. It’s such a key part to our O. Overall it was a good offensive game plan we had. The ball was spread around (even to Spencer Moore). Guys were getting open. Glenn was throwing well (minus that pick that was all kinds of terrible decision making). My only real knock on the O was when we went shot-gun formation twice in a row from the 1 yard line. Not going to lie, was losing my marbles in stands. Even though it worked out in the end, I still hate it.
We even played really good on teams. Christion Jones is quickly making an impact as a returner. Short of injury, I don’t see how Chad Owens makes it onto the roster. Our coverage was also pretty solid (minus a couple times).
It was surprising result but a win against the West huge, if for no other reason than to prove we can. We still have a long road ahead of us to claw us back into the playoff mix but Sunday showed that we can hang with at least one West team. The prospect of playing the road after a bye scares me still (it went so well last time) but this is by far the most optimistic I’ve been about our chance this season.
Other random thoughts:
- I still can’t believe that no Rider did anything about Ty Long being at mid-field when they came out of the tunnel. I was hoping someone would plow him but I get not wanting to do that. But at least get in his face and chirp him until he leaves. Back in the day no way guys like Kitwana or Kornegay would have let that happen. Show some pride, defend our turf.
- Riders sure mailed it in for the halftime show. They must take the same approach to being forced to work on Sunday as the rest of folks.