Riders 21 – Bombers 6
Coming into Saturday’s game both the Riders and Bombers had a huge opportunity in front of them. Thanks to the Als beating the Stamps, sole possession of first place (in addition to the season series) was on the line. One team seized that opportunity. One team played like they really don’t mind waiting another 29 years for a championship. For as long as I have been a Rider fan they have had a tendency to do things the hard way. It was refreshing to see them seize an opportunity.
Story of the game was the defense. They came to play! They were physical. They were sound tacklers. They forced turnovers. They dominated. I thought they executed a great game plan. Much like I talked about pre-game, they were willing to give up some passes assuming (quite correctly) that Steveler would eventually make mistakes. And boy did he. All 4 of our turnovers came when the Bombers were inside our 35. When it mattered most, we made plays. The most impressive of which was McCray’s crazy int. I really like how we controlled the run game. Streveler’s legs were not a factor. Harris was contained. We forced them to the air and the results should surprise no one. If the defense can keep up that level of play we should be in store for a great November. Only problem is that most of the teams we will play can actually pass. Man is it funny to see Bomber fans take back all the awful things they said about Matt Nichols.
Through 3 quarters I was about to start a petition to never allow Fajardo’s wife to another game. The D was dominating and the O was doing nothing. They weren’t making mistakes but we should have been way father ahead in that game for how much we were outplaying them. Fajardo looked uncharacteristically flustered. Indecisive in the pocket and off target on his throws. I wish we could find a way to summon whatever awakens in Fajardo in the final 5 minutes of game at some point in the first half because his slow starts are getting notorious but he always seems to deliver in the end. It’s kinda like the opposite of my love life where I start fast and often disappoint in the end. I like that we stuck with the run. Powell got double digit carries despite not always having a ton of room. The Bombers have a great D . But if you want a telling stat of how our offense did despite their struggles… neither WiIlie Jefferson nor Adam Bighill recorded a solitary stat. Roosevelt was his normal reliable self. Shaq Evans continues to develop into one of the top WRs in the league. It wasn’t pretty but thanks in large part to not turning the ball over, the O did enough to secure the win. I guess Mrs. Fajardo can come back.
As a sign of just how much we elevated our play as a team when it mattered most, we did great in 2 areas we normally struggle in. First, Dickenson was 2 for 2 on challenges. Normally he is just awful in that regard. Second, Jon Ryan (for as a much as I’ve criticized him) had his best day punting by far. I know 2 of them went for rouges but both were outstanding kicks with just unlucky bounces. It was the first game where he consistently found the numbers when punting.
The defense set the tone but the whole team elevated their play when needed. For now we sit in sole possession of 1st place. Our magic number to clinch a home playoff game is 2 (combination of Rider wins and Bomber loses). But we have higher ambitions than just second. First place is ours for the taking for the first time since 2010. We will have to face an actual QB next week to get there.