Riders 29 - Stamps 24
The first thing that popped into my mind following the Riders' win on Saturday was depth... well actually the first thing was "Holy Crap!" then depth. There have been many concerns raised about Chris Jones the GM over his tenure (most of which were very valid concerns) but I can't help but think about how far the depth on this team has come in his 3 years.
The win in Calgary featured 3 missing defensive starters yet the D didn't seem to miss a beat. It featured 4 rookie receivers who all contributed significantly (and were all better than the lone veteran import WR that dressed). Our "back up" RB logged almost 100 yards from scrimmage (plus a huge return). Most impressive was at O-line. There have been concerns throughout Jones' time here about the razor thin depth we had at OL especially Canadians. Yet Saturday, despite missing 2 Cdn Starters we fared just fine against one of the top defensive fronts in the CFL... and briefly we had to play our back-up to back-up to the back-up OL when Schram came in. Jones and Murphy take a lot of flack but this is one time they deserve kudos. If our depth was of a lesser quality we could not have won that game.
The Defense needed to step up and they did. They dominated the first half, allowing just a lone FG and stood tall in the second half when Calgary started fighting back. They came up with a massive second half interception (INTs are always sweeter when they come from Bo Levi Mitchell). Ed Gainey giving every ounce of effort to keep Ambles out of the endzone on the 2 pt conversion summed up the play of the D.
I love when this team just randomly decides they "hey, we can play offense". It happens rarely but when it does, its a beautiful thing. What's more impressive is that they did it against the stingiest D in the CFL. They showed up early, scoring on 5 of their 6 first half possessions. Yes they were almost all FGs but beggars can't be choosers (we would have killed for a FG last week). In the 2nd quarter they got the ball on their own 5 yard line and proceeded to drive the ball over 60 yards, in 8 minutes for a FG. That's a big time drive. The biggest factor was them controlling the ball (zero turnovers) and controlling the clock (led time of possession by 10 mins and led many long drives).... that and having a ball bounce 6 times then into the hands of Marshall. Credit where credit is due Zach Collaros played great. Spread the ball around, made good decisions, was productive. I was a big Cam Marshall fan last season and man did he come to play in this one. His strong running really helped take pressure off Collaros and keep the chains moving. Mason has been improving slowly but when Thiggy is healthy I would choose Marshall over Mason at this point. Lambert stepped up big time and gave Collaros a reliable target. Moore bounced back from last week. Even the newcomer Cannon looked good. O-line gave up a lot of pressure early but really stepped up as the game went on (allowing just one sack after that drive where they gave up back to back ones). Turns out St John may have a future in the league after all. The O will probably disappear again next week (that seems to be how things go) but in a big time game where we needed them they delivered.
That was Rider football. Solid D, lots of long FGs, just enough offense to get the job done and winning despite a down week filled with bad news on and off the field. We seem to do well when there's controversy that people assume will sink us.
Suddenly the 1st place pipe dream is not so far fetched. I have a hard time believing Calgary will lose 4 straight to end the season. But they have tough opponents in the last 2 so I'm upgrading it to "plausible". More importantly the magic number to clinch second is 1. One win, or BC loss/tie and its ours (there's some other math in there but I'm much too lazy to explain it all). We also have quietly amassed the best record against west teams as 6-3. Style points aren't Chris Jones' thing but winning certainly is.
Other random thoughts:
- I would love to hear what Labatte and Johnson were saying to each other when they were face to face. That is 2 big nasty guys going toe to toe. Have to add that while Johnson was concerned with winning the verbal war, Labatte focused on winning the war on the field.
- Josh Bartel had the chance to make a hit on the punt return TD and clearly decided to not try.
- I like how Purifoy runs on returns. He runs fast and hard.
- The OPI on Lambert was a super chincy call. The other OPI was deserved.
- Crezdon Butler remains of the best at sticking the tackle on WR screens or outside pitches.
- How in the world do we keep beating teams on QB runs?!? Anytime Watford come into the game its a run. Anytime any non-starting QB comes into the game for McAdoo, its a run. It's blatantly obvious to everyone... except Calgary's D apparently.