Riders 18 - Ti-Cats 13
Apparently all that's needed for a Rider win is for me to completely give up hope on them. You're welcome. Calls into question my ability to keep calling myself a prophet but my blog, my rules. If you haven't soured on me by this point, I doubt this will be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Thursday's win was certainly unexpected. We just lost to Montreal, Hamilton had just beat 2 west teams. But in the CFL logic tends not to be of much use. For example: we beat Hamilton, who beat Edmonton, who beat Winnipeg, who beat Montreal, who beat us. Good luck sorting that equation out. But logic be damned... we won!!! The win has been characterized as ugly... which I think is an insult to actual ugly things but we are not exactly in a position to be complaining about how the wins come.
The Riders are a team with a split personality. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide Your Face In Embarrassment if you will. Our defense... looked like world beaters. They shut down a very potent offensive attack and unquestionably won us the the game. The offense... looked like a group of people that would struggle to score even if the opponents carried them to the 1 yard line and pushed them in the right direction.
Let's start on a positive note with the defense. For all the knocks on Chris Jones the GM and Head Coach (and there are many), he remains a damn good defensive coordinator. He threw looks at the Ti-Cats that they clearly weren't expecting. Hell I've watched every snap of the Chris Jones tenure and I wasn't expecting it. First they played match-up in the secondary. And not ill-advised ones like killed us against Montreal. We bumped Gainey outside and locked him on Banks. Jovon was moved inside. Duron was moved to cover Tolliver (a way better match-up both in terms of speed and size). Duron is still a serviceable at best DB but we managed to hide that fact with a great game plan. We also sent a ton of pressure. According to Derek Taylor at TSN, we blitzed over 50% of the time, an unheard of rate for Chris Jones. The result was a a ton of pressure on Masoli and a lack of offensive output as a result. Throw in some crazy looks like Duron play centre field and Antigha playing safety (C'mon Maosli! Didn't you account for the D-end playing safety on that INT?) and you have a dominant performance. Sure we gave up a lot of yards but we allowed 0 TDs, got 3 sacks and forced 3 turnovers (one of which went for one of the slowest defensive TDs in recent memory). That was the D we expected to see coming into this year. Great game plan, great execution, high effort on the field.
One thing that really surprised me was seeing Hamilton abandon the run so early. On their first drive they seemed to run at will, with their RBs gaining 42 yards on 6 carries (7 yards per attempt). They handed off just 6 more times in the entire game. Seems an odd strategy given the issues our pressure was giving their passing game but then again its not exactly like a Rider fan should be giving offensive advice to anyone.
As good as our defense was, our offense can best be described as pulling a homer:
It has been a while since I have seen this level of incompetence offensively. I mean say what you will about Nealon Greene and the Prairie Offense at least they had a coherent strategy... even if it was a terrible one. I can't imagine why an offense that rotates 2 QBs and 3 RBs seemingly at random, its having issues getting anything going? I may not be Brandon Bridge's biggest fan but Jones needs to decide definitively whether he can get the job done or not. Either we have faith in him or we don't. I don't understand how a pro team can give a guy the majority of starting reps only to pull him after 2 series. If you don't trust him then just make Watford the starter and be done with it. At this point I don't care, just pick one. You can't even say the ridiculous approach is working. Our offense is non-existent. Just 1 TD in each our our first 4 games and we have yet to play a west team. We have many offensive issues but until we get the coaching aspect of that (both personnel and play calling) addressed, we don't have a hope of getting back to even mediocre offensive play. An awful offensive performance was mercifully salvaged by an amazing catch by Stanford and an opportunistic run by Thiggy.
The previous rant notwithstanding, a win is a win and I'm happy the Riders found a way to squeeze out a narrow victory. Hopefully the momentum will carry us into the bye where players can heal up and coaches can re-evaluate things. The next stretch (road game followed by 6 straight western opponents) could be a killer. The hope is that, much the BC win last year, this win is just the first step in a mid-season surge by the Riders.I'll remain skeptical until I see some semblance of an offense but as long as we keep finding ways to win I'll be happy. I would gladly cheer a game winning rouge or game winning "opposing player develops sudden onset amnesia and runs into his own endzone for a safety"
Other random thoughts:
- Sure he missed a PAT but Lauther can sure kick. He can definitely be trusted from long range which is huge considering he's our back-up plan.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again, Bridge is better when he's forced to react based on instinct than when he has time to think. It makes it all the more weird that we kept him in the pocket while letting Watford roll out.
- How long before Jerome Messam becomes the next Shawn Lemon? They guy we go out and get in free agency then almost immediately decide we have no use for? I thought it was a dumb idea to sign him but we did so we might as well use him.
- Speaking of Messam, he has clearly taken over the "token Canadian who gets a standing O for even the most negligible offensive gain". It used to be the Szarka role, then Foord, then Clermont, then Bagg... now Messam.