Riders 22 - Stamps 34
The Riders that we saw on Saturday night can best be described by fractions. Sorry to drop math on you this early in the morning but stick with me because I have some good Michael Bishop lines coming up later. What we saw on Saturday was 2/3's of a football team giving 3/4's of effort. You don't need to be a mathmagician to figure out that that won't cut it against the #1 team in the CFL.
By 2/3's of a team I am obviously referring to the fact that this team lacks anything remotely resembling an offense (more on that gong show later). Our defense is world class. They got 2 sacks on a great OL, forced 3 turnovers on a team that protects the ball better than anyone and can only really be blamed for 1 of the 3 offensive TDs allowed because 2 times an offensive turnover left them with a short field to defend. Our special teams are pretty good. Our kicker is just booming kicks. Don't think I've ever been so confident in a guy over 45 yards. Our kick returns are dangerous. Our coverage team have allowed 2 punt TDs in 2 weeks but overall have been doing well. Even a mildly competent offense would catapult this team into the top of the division. At this point mildly competent seems like a pipe dream.
By 3/4's of effort I mean that the 1st quarter of that game went about as bad as humanly possible. Turnovers, defensive busts for big plays, punt return TD. But if you look solely at the final 3 quarters we outscored the Stamps 22-10. Granted I think the Stamps would have employed a slightly less conservative offense had they not been way up on us but still. Had we not dug ourselves such a deep hole, we may have been able to hang with them. I say may because truthfully we need on offense to have a legit shot at beating the Stamps but damn if it wouldn't have been close.
Aside from the crappy start (which was on the whole team), the blame for this loss is being directed at the offense... or at least the members of the team supposedly responsible for offense, and rightly so. Our offense is an utter embarrassment. We have 6 TDs in 6 games (or defense and special teams have 5). I have used a lot of this space to hurl insults at Steve McAdoo and believe me I still think he's a huge part of the problem. His entire game plan was run up the middle a million times and hitch screen to the WR with swing passes to the RB and some really awful QB scrambles mixed in. That's it. That's the whole playbook. I have more plays for my kid's Atom team. And we used people in awful ways. Should we use our big honking RB to run a 3rd down gamble? No. The smaller but still powerful runner? No. The smallest guy we have straight up the middle? Perfect! We have all big tall receivers, should we call plays that utilize their height or size? No. Run quick screens where all their size is useless? Genius! Should we even attempt the stretch the field? No, let's not attempt a pass over 15 yards. I kept thinking that by repeatedly running the same stupid plays we were setting up a wrinkle or deep shot. It's really my fault for believing in them. I see the error of my ways.
But rather than focus on McAdoo today, I'm going to focus on another glaring issue with our offense. I get that this may be an unpopular opinion but Brandon Bridge simply isn't very good. I'm paraphrasing but in the post game comments Coach Jones essentially said that Bridge is not good enough to open the playbook any further than the 4 plays we used on Saturday. Hell he is running a playbook so dumbed down that even Michael Bishop could understand it (and at least he could stretch the field... well that pretty much all he could do). Now if the coaches have that little faith in him it begs the question why they made him the starter but I digress. I have been saying for a while now that if Bridge wasn't Canadian, no one would care about him. People rave about his mobility but the thing is he is an awkward and utterly ineffective scrambler so really by mobile they mean he can move around behind the line of scrimmage which is a great skill only if you can translate that into actually making plays. Which Bridge can't . He can't read a defense. He can't throw accurately even when he has a wide open receiver and he took 2 time counts (one of which was when he came off the bench). You could excuse this as growing pains if he was a young QB but he is a 4 year vet that has been the unquestioned #2 for 2 years and seen significant playing time. He's not getting better. I'm not a fan of rash QB changes but I honestly think its David Watford time. He can run the 4 plays we have for Bridge and would have the added bonus of being a competent scrambler. Plus he still has room to grow where I fear we have seen Bridge's ceiling. He can come in in relief but I just haven't seen anything to lead me to believe he can be a starter.
What looked to be an early embarrassing beat down turned into a competitive game and credit the Riders for not giving up. I think they can compete with the Stamps in 2 our of 3 phases. But until we address our offensive futility, the absolute best we can hope for is beating the bottom tier teams and hoping for the cross over. It's a waste of such a good defense but its the best we have right now.
Other random thoughts:
- O-line was better than expected. They still aren't great but I expected them to get murdered by that front 4 and they held their own not bad.
- We miss Moncrief on defense. I few times I saw Elam running around trying to get his assignment. He did not bad for a first start but he's no Moncrief.
- Charleston Hughes is almost inhuman in his pass rushing ability. To play at the highest level for as long as he has is amazing.
- Jerome Messam sucks. I knew we shouldn't have signed him.
- Speaking of sucking, Caleb Holley. Massive disappointment this season. I would gladly take back Bakari, fumbling sleeves and all, in his place at this point.
- Junior cheerleaders were the half time show and that always reminds me of that infamous game where the junior cheerleaders had to dance around the unconscious corpse of Spergeon Wynn and the awaiting ambulance. A truly classic Mosaic moment (even though it may have still been Taylor Field at that point).