After suffering their first loss in over 2 months, the Riders are back home Saturday looking to get back to their winning ways. Their opponents are the 6-4 Alouettes… it has been so long since Montreal has had a winning record that my spell check flagged that statement as an error. The last times these two teams squared off the only thing that was more thunderous than the storm that prematurely ended the game was the hits Rider LBs were putting on Antonio Pipkin leading to TDs.
Based on how our season has been going, I kinda assumed that by this point in the week Vernon Adams would have been diagnosed with bubonic plague or Stanback would have been arrested, or the majority of their defensive starters would have abruptly quit football to join the Movementarians. That’s just how things are supposed to go aren’t they? It’s too bad Regina doesn’t have a notorious night life to distract visiting players. Our night life is more the kind to encourage players to stay in their hotel rooms.
This will be a good measuring stick game for this team’s ability to overcome adversity. They just laid and egg and got whooped on the road. Now they are home but facing a strong opponent. Are we really a good team? Are we a team that plays well against bad teams and depleted teams? I guess we will find out.
It needs to start with the offense. For all the hype around how improved they are this they have quietly regressed a great deal over the past 5 games. If you exclude the Ottawa game (because, let’s face it, they are brutal) the offense has produced a TOTAL of 4 offensive TDs in 4 of the past 5 games and only once produced multiple TDs in the same game. Through the first 6 games we had 12 big passing plays. We’ve had only 4 over the past 5 games. To be fair we’ve faced some of the league’s top defenses in that timeframe so some struggles are expected but you can’t win many games scoring a solitary TD (especially when our special teams are a liability and our defense isn’t scoring much). I personally believe our offensive struggles are rooted in our lack of commitment to the run. Through the first 6 games we were running an average of 26 times per game (most in CFL). Over the past 5 that has dropped to 16 times per game. It’s all linked. Run less, defenses key on your pass game, deep ball gets taken away, you produce less. So this needs to be a game where we turn Powell loose and give him a chance to show he can go toe to toe with Stanback. O-line needs to step up and provide better protection, though the simple fact of not facing Willie Jefferson will help in that regard. Winnipeg leads the league in sacks, Montreal is second last with just 15. Montreal allows the second most yards so if we are patient, extended drives will be there. As discussed last time though, they drop everyone to force you to take short gains and rally well to make the tackle. This will be a grind. So commitment to running and smart decisions by Fajardo are needed. That said, we need to at least try to stretch the field. Shaq’s size, Moore’s speed, Arceneaux’s ability to have people forget he exists because he’s targeted so rarely. We gotta take some shots when they are there.
Defense struggled last game and it was in large part because they refused to use their arms when attempts to tackle. You think dropping your shoulder recklessly is going to stop Stanback? Wrap up! If we don’t do that this game, we won’t win. Montreal plays pretty safe O as they have the least giveaways... and also the second least passing yards. Stop Stanback, keep Adams in the pocket, win the game.
Special teams needs to stop sucking as well. The old adage that you have to win 2 out of 3 phases to win the game holds true but we’ve rarely been able to count on our special teams (punting in particular). Jon Ryan got testy with Derek Taylor on twitter for posting stats showing he’s not that great. If only he cared as much about actually being an effective kicker as he did wishing people thought he was a great kicker. It’s entirely possible to respect Ryan’s abilities and all the great thing he has accomplished in his career and admit that he’s not doing good this season despite being able to kick it far. Everyone involved from coaches down to players needs to be better if we want to get back to winning.
Couple bonus stats for you
- All 4 Rider loses have come in games where we lost the turnover battle. That will be a key in this game
- Als are 5-3 in games decided in the final 3 minutes… I guess that’s why managing to avoid the last 3 minutes last game was so key 😊
Honestly this game could go either way. I think our D will have a bounce back game. I have no clue what to expect on special teams. That leaves the O needing a solid game. Montreal has a good D so that’s no guarantee. My gut tells me this will be an ugly game with many curse words coming from my mouth. But in the end, give the edge to the home crowd…
Riders by a Lauther FG from 50 yards out.