Riders 32 – Bombers 27
Well that was uglier than the runner up at a Manitoba beauty pageant but in the end the Riders emerged from Winnipeg with their fourth win in a row and their first Banjo Bowl win since 2014. The win maintains the Riders’ position in second place and also secures the season series with the Bombers. It was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the 2018 Riders. Big plays on D, solid special teams and an offense that we are told exists but visual evidence would tend to indicate otherwise. It was a lot like Labour Day, majorly outplayed in the first half but kept in it by a couple big plays. Second half defense tightened up and offense did just enough.
I know you know me as a humble guy not prone to tooting his own horn (stop laughing, I’m trying to be serious here) but I need to give myself a Barry Horowitz style pat on the back (bonus points if you get that reference). Go back to my Labour Day post and you will see me cite 30 as the magic number for the Bombers. They can’t win when they don’t score 30 and they can’t win when they fail to hold their opponents under 30. Two weeks of the Riders topping 30 and the Bombers failing to and two wins for the Riders. I also nailed the stat in this game preview that the Bombers struggle in tightly contested games… but whose counting? I am because I also suggested we should dress Jovon and Bagg for vet leadership. Toot, toot!
Let’s start with the defense because that’s the only reason that we aren’t drowning our sorrows to the southing sounds of the banjo… well aside from Matt Nichols taking his 2018 suck tour to hilarious new lows. The D turned in 3 sacks, 5 interceptions and really locked things down in the second half. Having Brooks back really helped lock down the run D and make Harris so invisible you’d swear he was playing for the Rider offense. Even when Streveler came in we managed to keep his legs from being a factor. Having Neufeld line up at tackle also really helped our D (another point I nailed in the game preview, sorry I swear I’ll stop soon). Jefferson had a monster game and a lot of that was due to lining up on Neufeld a lot. Purifoy had a big impact game. Big plays really covered up some not great play in the passing game. Marshall is getting beat a lot and not making the big plays to compensate. Nichols was in the redzone both times we got pick 6’s. If he decides to be even mildly competent in those plays (and not go full Nichols) the game could have ended very differently. But it didn’t and yet again the D was the driving force in a Rider win. I keep thinking the amount we rely on our D is not sustainable but they keep sustaining it so I guess roll with it.
Offense… well stop me if you’ve hard this one before. Essentially non-existent for the first half. Untimely turnover. Brett Lauther in the lead for offensive MVP. You know, the usual. Collaros is clearly by far our best QB but he did not have a good game (even before re-enacting the Butler/Pierce encounter of 2011). I like that he pushed the ball down the field but he’s been throwing into coverage he never should be and getting bailed out by receivers. I also think that the KO knock was his fault for not reading the blitz and getting the ball out. Hope he’s ok but multiple head injuries are not a good thing. Play calling is not helping him. I like the Tre Mason had a massive game but where was Thigpen? 2 offensive touches? Not good enough. And given that I (a rye enthusiast on my couch) could tell when we are running a hitch screen, it was only a matter of time before someone who does it for a living figured it out and jumped it (side note but the downside of young receivers is none had the sense to call the blitz or try to block Gaitor). If you had told me that Brandon Bridge was going to play in this game and that we would be trailing when he entered I would have bet heavily against us. But to his credit he surprised me and a lot of others by doing alright. To be fair he only led one productive drive but it was a huge one and more importantly he did not do anything stupid (aka a Nichols impersonation). I really hope to not see much more of him but I will give him credit, he looked at lot more like the mildly competent back-up of 2017 and less like they useless profanity inducing QB from earlier this season. That’s as close as he’s getting to a compliment from me.
It was another ugly, gritty, too close for comfort win… but that last word is all that matters: WIN. We keep finding ways to win and that’s the sign of a team that can go places. Won’t get the luxury of playing Matt Nichols every week (or any week at this rate) but you can only play the hand that your dealt and the Riders keep turning their hands into winners. God it feels good to sweep the Bombers!
Other random thoughts:
- There were a lot a of super week calls by the refs. That PI on Gainey was marginal (but turned out ok so I’ll take it J). That blocking downfield on Evans was even more marginal. And that’s just naming a few. Let them play!
- I love how all the D players were doing Banjo celebrations.
- Kick cover teams were excellent!
- How many more wins before we induct that green shirt of Chris Jones into the Plaza of Honour?