Riders 24 - Lions 21
The Riders' win in BC on Saturday has been described with such terms as: narrow, barely, ugly, and boring among other negative things. But when you can show me where in the rules those kinds of wins cause you to earn less points in the standings than a convincing or pretty win then I will start caring. The bottom line is this, the Riders went on the road against a team that had yet to lose at home and found a way to win despite facing a fair bit of adversity. In the process they earned 2 crucial points in the West division standings where they are now just 2 points back of second place.
Yet again the story of the game was the defense. We are a team built to grind out wins on defense and that skill came in handy. They came up big every time we needed them. Give up a massive Rainey return, no problem force a FG. Offense disappears mid-game, no problem they allowed just 3 points in the second half. Untimely interception, force a 2 and out. 3rd down gamble with game on the line, stuffed with authority. My drink needed refilling... well that may be the only time they let me down on Saturday. 2 sacks, 3 turnovers and just one TD allowed (mainly because of a long PI call). It is honestly getting repetitive to sing the praises of our D every week but I will gladly do it week in and week out if they keep stepping up like this. They came up big when we needed them and had next to no support from offense while doing so.
Offense briefly gave us hope and then quickly devolved into the no-ffense we we've grow accustomed to. Much like me on a Saturday night, they seemed to blow their load way too early in the evening and have nothing left when it really mattered. Unlike me, the good news is that they were still able to provide a happy ending. After we scored in the second quarter I foolishly let myself believe that 3 offensive TDs were a possibility. I know, I know it was a pipe dream in retrospect. It was crazy to see how quickly we went from Collaros moving the ball at will while involving many different players to "please god just fall forward because you'd at least gain 3 yards then". Not sure why we got away from using Kyran Moore's speed which seemed to be effective early. Collaros' passing yards were overly inflated by receivers bailing him out on two long passes. Evans just willed that ball into his possession and Bailey made an unbelievable catch on a pass that never should have been thrown. At least the Evans pass was single coverage. That Bailey pass was into double coverage and at no point was he open. Look, I like that we have the confidence to stretch the field but reckless passes like that will catch up with us. As bad as they were, I will give them credit for that 4th quarter drive. We got the ball on our 13 yard line with 4 mins to go and managed to drive the ball to mid-field while killing 3 mins. No points but huge drive. I realize that's like congratulating your dog for pooping on the laminate instead of the carpet because its easier to clean up but hey, you take good news when you can get it.
Here's the thing for me... we won without a score on D or special teams. We won while giving up sacks and interceptions. Neither of which we have done thus far. Yeah it was ugly but I'm super happy we have a team with the toughness to grind out an ugly win because it damn sure won't be our last.
These last 2 weeks have been about as perfect as possible for the Riders. 3 West teams lost both last week and this week and we won twice. We have catapulted ourselves from the West cellar to in the mix for a home playoff game. Stock up on purell and hide your attractive barn animals because next up is Labour Day!!!!
Other random thoughts:
- Making Nick Marshall our short yardage QB has turned our scary awful short yardage group into fairly competent. Don't ever put Bridge back in there.
- Speaking of Marshall. I'm curious just how screwed his wrist is.
- One of the 2 sacks we gave up was a rare complete F-up by Labatte. The hole left was so huge I just naturally assumed it was Dan Clark's fault but the replay showed otherwise.
- Speaking of Labatte, dude is as tough as they come and I'm sure by this point his ankles are more pain killer than actual flesh.
- Nice to see Christion Jones get a couple big returns again.
- Alex Chevrier is quietly turning into quite the solid special teamer. When we drafted him Coach Jones said he was the fastest special teamer in the draft class. Turns out it was one of the few draft occasions where Jones was right. See, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
If Esks lose in Calgary which is likely & Riders win at home Riders are in 2nd. Before we get ahead of ourselves remember we were 5-4 last year with 3 consecutive beatings on Western clubs at this point last year & went 5-4 the rest of the way. I had Riders @ 10-8 for 2018 & still see them there. Why? We had a decent defence last year & the offence led the league in TD's from the offence & had three 1000 yard receivers. As you mention this year we have had either 1 or 2 offensive TD's, never more. We have a much better defence despite Hurl in place of Muamba, who may be the defensive MOP in the East. Most of that comes with Hughes, Evans & Brooks on board. But we're 2 games into an 11 game stretch without a break. Calgary. Edmonton & Winnipeg don't have problems scoring points. If you look at the stats, Calgary & Edmonton are about even with the Riders for points allowed by the defence. The Rider defence has donated crucial points to the winning margins most nights. Only 1 TD from the offence of the 40 points vs Stamps & that off an INT setting the offence up on the Stamps 30. If the offence doesn't get untracked it's going to be very difficult & that 11 game stretch will likely result in some knicks & bruises, especially with the older guys on the OL & we have a handful of 30+ guys on the D as well. Needless to say the 3 games with the Bombers are crucial with 2 @ IGF. If we can't put up numbers on that D, good grief.
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