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?
Bang on as usual. With 3 Eastern squads on the menu including Mtl & Argos in there, we could easily end up 10-4 or at least 9-5. Don't count top spot out yet. Stamps lose the game & Jorden, their top receiver, Evans their all-star CB, Jackson at RB & Powers, a key specials guy. Mitchell's knee didn't seem to bother him in the rematch but Micah Johnson is also playing a bit hurt. So, Stamps go into Hamilton who is playing as well as anyone right now & have one game left with Riders. It's not that far fetched. Bombers are not a concern, Eskimos have a much tougher schedule down the stretch. So things are lining up nice for a home game. Why is pacing first, not second important outside of the obvious reason? Zero TD's again from the offence. Riders have been very lucky to sit at 7-4 IMO with 14 TD's from offence. If they have to play Edmonton & Calgary to get to the big game they're going to need offence. Edmonton has 40 to date, Calgary 34 &, outside of the shootout on the weekend, give up about the same points to opposing offences (Edmonton) or far less (Calgary). Get to the GC & you're looking at TiCats who have 30 TD's & also rank higher in pts allowed by defence than Riders. The Riders have been very good at scoring points off turnovers & creating turnovers. Record when they have less turnovers than the opposition 6-0, more 0-4. More importantly the defence puts up the points on T/O's, not the offence. Or they fall a yard short giving the offence a 1 yard offensive drive to look after. Going into the weekend here are the rankings for Opponents net offence allowed - Cal, Ham, Sk, Edm. Opponent pts allowed - Cal, Ham, Ott, Sk with Edm 0.3 pts/game behind SK. You don't need to know how the offences rank in those categories except to say you have the top 3 offences in the league in Hamilton, Edmonton & Calgary & they're putting up close, or more, than 100 yards of offence/game than the Riders. As good as the Riders have been on defence, I don't see them beating those teams come playoff time unless they get a top seeding in which case they only need to win 2 & the Alberta teams go into that match having beat on each other. At some point in time the offence has to contribute. Let's be honest. Had Nichols fallen down twice in the Red Zone instead of throwing a ball right into the DL on one play & shovel passing it to a green uniform on the other, the Bombers get 2 FG's & 2 TD's come off the board for the Riders. Those 20 points are game, set, match. Great that they're sitting at 7-4 & who cares how they got there. But they have a lot of work to do on offence.
What did you think about Durant's comments of not being bitter? That he left to be with his daughter doesn't jive with offering his services mere weeks later when Nichols went down before the season started. That with Carter etc he could create "magic" is improbable. Darian was released because he couldn't complete a short pass anymore as he aptly demonstrated in Mtl where, despite the mess there, QB's of far fewer talent have nonetheless won the same # of games as DD did last year. If he was honest with himself Darian would admit the reason he quit on his new team was he only wants to start which isn't going to happen with any team that has weapons like he would like to have. On a good team he's a backup. On a bad team why start with a 36 year old who's 5 years past his prime? Not bitter? He's still plugging himself & it's sad to see. Give it up man.
I love Durant but he doesn't come across great in that interview.
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