Riders 13 - Eskimos 28
The regular season came to a close on Saturday as the Riders lost to the visiting Esks and in the process secured their place in the East-Semi final. The only thing harder to find than nice things to say about this game was my testicles following that frigid game. I did discover that sitting in the cold for 3 hours while drinking and yelling is not a cure for the common cold. The more you know. It's also not a cure for the clap... or so I hear.
Anyway back to football...
While we played them pretty close through the first half, in the end the Esks prevailed as the team that wanted it the most (even though both teams seemed to be operating at partial effort). We simply made too many mistakes: too many penalties, missed tackles, errant throws, poor execution and on and on. It just seemed like our focus had already shifted to next week... or possibly to escaping the cold at the end of the game.
There are so many things that puzzle me about our offense. Such as why we refuse to utilize our best receiver in any meaningful way. Or why we refuse to go back to plays that actually work. For example we ran a screen to LaFrance for 18 yards followed by a sweep to Owens for 10. Both great plays to counterbalance the Esk pass rush, both highly effective, both never used again for the remaining 3 quarters of the game. I also think that we need to make a firm decision on QB heading into the playoffs. Given that Glenn has totaled more times pulled than passes completed over the past month, I think the choice is obvious. Just like we should be using our best receiver, we should just fully commit to playing the QB that gives us the best chance to win. About the only bright spot offensively was Marcus Thigpen who got Thiggy with it (patent pending) on a number of occasions. This time a year depth is the difference maker and Thigpen is an example us the quality depth we have (something we haven't had in while).
Speaking of depth the bad news is of course that we will need to rely on it as Labatte went down and barring some experimental steroids (that we of course would never use do to our commitment to the integrity of the game) he is out for next week. Hopefully Dennis is ready to take his place but that of course forces a ratio switch that is not ideal for a team trying to roster 2 import RBs. Jovon also got dinged up though his chances of playing seem better. Which is good because for all our depth, DB is one place where we apparently have none.
Speaking of the D, they held their own reasonably well for 3 quarters before succumbing to a lack of offensive support, cold, fatigue and Greg Morris fumbling (I like so much about Morris but unfortunately he's developing a habit of putting it on the turf). We didn't get much pressure on Reilly (which usually spells trouble) and lacked to big plays that tend to fuel us. I would like to see this Carter at DB experiment ended. As an emergency option he's serviceable but he's too good a receiver and too mediocre a DB to spend this much time on D.
Despite what the coaching staff might tell you, I don't think we were putting full effort into this game. We rested guys, we used Christion Jones sparingly. Hopefully next week when it matters we can turn the good back on. It would have been nice to win and stay out west but we know we can win out East too so there's no reason to worry. It was a disappointing end to a very good regular season, now let's hope the post season has good things in store.
Other random thoughts:
- That anthem singer missed out on singing last week and clearly was out to milk this week for every second she could. That anthem was not just artistically drawn out but bordering on painfully slow. This is November in Saskatchewan, just give us the quick version so we can get our toques back on.
- I'm constantly amazed at how much explaining the refs need to do at the coin toss. "That is a tail. Do you understand?"
- Lost in the chaos of that missed convert was Bartel attempting the rare drop kick.
- Snow games always remind me of the old University Section throwing snow balls at Ballsy. Good times.