Riders 41 – RedBlacks 44
Show of hands. If I had told you in advance of Thursday’s game that the Riders would score 24 points in the first half and 41 points by the end of the game, how many of you would have bet a considerable amount on the Riders? I know I would have. I’m honestly not sure what shocked me more, the fact that we scored 40 and lost or the fact that we scored 40 period.
This was just an unexpected game. Two young QBs who had their struggles in Game 1, so of course they both throw over 350 yards and commit no turnovers. Two strong defensive units, so of course its one of the highest scoring games in recent memory. Just a whole lot of weird. It was a damn exciting game to watch but the end was yet another loss.
Look I’m as encouraged as anyone that our offense suddenly broke out of a slump going back over a year but there are no morale victories. We lost again and we lost again because we aren’t playing good enough football. In both of the first 2 games we have played well in only 1 of 3 phases. First game it was the defense playing great, while the offense struggled. Thursday it was our offense playing well but our defense giving it up like a drunk co-ed on Friday night. There have been just two constants. 1 – We can’t play well in more than 1 phases at a time. 2 – Our special teams are brutal.
Let’s start on the offense. With talk of rotating QBs in the air, Fajrado stepped in and seized the starter’s role and would not let go. He looked like a completely different QB from Week 1. Decisive, accurate, aggressive, protected the ball, seemed to be aware that passes longer than 4 yards were permissible. He hit 8 different receivers, leaning heavily on Moore and Evans (who finally broke his endzone curse). He got decent, but not great, protection up front (I mean he got sacked on a 3 man rush where a guy came clean off the edge). But you have to be happy with what the offense did… which is something we have not said around here for a long, long time. When we stepped back and chucked it deep at the end of the first quarter I damn near fell out of my chair in surprise. McAdoo seemed to trust Fajardo and open things up as a result. Hopefully that continues. Can’t remember the last time I said that I liked our game plan on O.
Everything not related to the offense was utter garbage. Defense had no answer for Dom Davis (who shocked a lot of people, myself included with his play). Nick Marshall had a rough day. Some of it was just great coverage getting beat by an even better pass but some of it was just not good coverage. Solomon Means is terrible. I bet he was cheaper than retaining Butler but the drop-off in performance is staggering. He was 7 yards off and 2nd and 3. He was nowhere close to his receiver at other times. He just wasn’t good. Front 4 had their moments but haven’t been the game changers we need them to be. We also still do not have a turnover. It’s no secret that no turnovers for this team will make it really, really hard to win games.
I feel reasonably confident that the D will get this fixed. I can’t say the same for the special teams… they have been consistently awful through the first 2 weeks. Where to start?
It’s great that Lauther can hit from 57 (what a kick!) but it would be nicer if he could consistently make easier kicks, like say a convert. 3 missed kicks in 2 games is not a good start. He’s also averaging 10 yards less on kickoffs than last season. Get your crap together!
Christion Jones has exactly 1 job on this team, return kicks. He literally does nothing else. When we have great returners like Thigpen, Moore and Purifoy on the roster who also do other things, Jones needs to be awesome to justify a roster spot. Mediocre returns and fumbles are not awesome. I’m not giving up on him but maybe a week off to think about things will be good for him. And yes I know some of it is blocking but when you watch him return he simply isn’t the same guy we were used to. Get your crap together!
And how about the most popular man in Riderville, Jon Ryan? So far I would say he’s actually had a negative impact on our team. Sure he can kick far but he consistently outkicks the coverage leading to big returns. Now one solution is to find special team gunners who can run faster but I’m guessing its far easier to just have Ryan take a bit off his kick or angle it higher. Bartel had a weak leg by comparison but at least the coverage knew where to be and when. I’m shocked that Dickenson (a noted special teams guru) doesn’t have this unit better prepared.
While they have come close in back to back weeks, the simple truth is that you can’t expect to win in the CFL when you only play good in one of three phases. I still feel a bit like I’m in bizzaro-land praising the offense and scolding the D and special teams. Not time to panic yet (we have started awful the past few years and recovered) but the window to get our crap together and remain relevant this season starting to close.
Other Random thoughts:
· Everyone is jumping on Rider fans for their hypocrisy regarding Mak Henry. Look he was correctly penalized and he should he fined. No place in the game for that. I think a suspension is a bit harsh but wouldn't argue a 1 game too much… but if you think the Simoni hit and the Henry hit are comparable then you are an idiot.
· Not a good look for Dickenson to miss challenging a play because he didn’t have his headset on. Someone needs to get the message to him.
· First passing TD in 7 games… 7 games!.. in the CFL!
· Did I mention that Solomon Means is useless?