Riders 28 - Bombers 48
While the ride was fun while it lasted. As good as the Riders had been playing, you had to know that they would come back down to earth at some point (unless you were in that delusional group that thought we would run the table and host a playoff game). That point turned out to be Saturday in Winnipeg. Where they were over-matched by Winnipeg in pretty much every aspect of the game. The only redeeming thing is that they get to come back to Regina. While they won, the Bombers and their fans have to stay in Winnipeg and that's a fairly harsh punishment.
Unlike the red hot starts of the previous 3 games, the Riders started slow and were in the unfamiliar position of playing catch-up. To their credit they fought hard but they never could fully pull themselves back in the game. The last 3 wins were categorized by playing well in all 3 phases. This loss was categorized by playing poorly in 2 of the 3 phases.
Defense had their worst showing in a long time. Granted 14 of the points weren't their fault but still when you give up over 30 it means you didn't do very well. It started up front where we could not get within Nik Lewis' waist line of Nichols. I mean I get fans in the stands keeping their distance from Winnipeggers due to the smell but for the players its kinda their job. No pressure meant Nichols had all day to dissect our secondary, seemingly moving the ball at will at times through the air. We also failed to capitalize on chances for big plays. We could have had a couple picks in the first half but didn't manage to squeeze the ball.
Special teams was another area that struggled, something that hasn't happened much this year. Their returns were big, ours weren't. Their trick plays worked, ours didn't. I don't mind the calls on those onside kicks. They are high risk plays where you either look like a genius or an idiot. Saturday we were the latter.
Offense actually played reasonably well. I mean the 2 turnovers by Glenn were a problem (neither was a great read) but we scored 4 TDs which is generally enough to win you a game when you get support in at least 1 of the other 2 phases. I liked our commitment to the run with LaFrance and thought he did well. Not the explosiveness of Marshall but a steady, reliable production. Given the success we've had against Winnipeg, I would have liked to see us test the deep routes to Carter/Roosevelt a bit more. I think we noticed the lack of Bakari Grant receptions that usually get our O going. Overall not their best outing but offense was far from the reason we lost.
On top of failing in 2 of 3 phases, we added some coaching errors to make life more difficult. Should have challenged that PI call (or should I say the mentally forcing a player to trip over his own feet call). I get that going to the command centre is always a dice roll but that was a key point in the game. We didn't appear to have a great plan defensively to compensate for the loss of Nick James. Just too many things working against us to beat a team that played as well the Bombers.
That said I feel the need to remind you that I said many weeks back that we needed to go a minimum of 3 and 2 in this western set to be considered a legitimate post-season chance... and we accomplished that. We are currently on the outside looking in but we are positioned to be relevant in the back half of the season. For the past 2 years we would have killed for that.
Other random thoughts:
- Bridge is definitely far above the Tino Sunseri level of back-ups but I still think if he has to play any significant time, it hurts our chances. Can we win with him? Probably. Can we dominate like in the previous 3 games? No. Given Kevin Glenn all the steroids... err I mean totally organic old man serum.
- We lost the loudest stadium thing (like I said we would) and I'm okay with it. You don't like it? Then be so loud next game that TSN has no choice but to do a rematch.