Riders 28 – Stamps 30
Unlike the previous week which was marked by seizing opportunity, this week was the opposite. The opportunities were there but we couldn’t take advantage. We missed a wide open Shaq Evans for a sure TD. Gainey let an INT fall through his hands. Lauther missed a FG. Thiggy misplayed a kickoff that went for 6 the other way. In a game that ended up being decided by just 2 points, any one of those plays would have made the difference. But couldas and wouldas are about as valuable as RedBlack and Argo playoff tickets. Calgary made more plays than us… there’s a reason they are consistently one of the top teams in the CFL.
Offensively, while Fajardo showed marked improvement from his first encounter with the Stamps he still wasn’t at the top of his game. You could tell the Stamps’ D was frustrating him. They are a D that takes away the deep ball and makes you be patient and methodical in your drives. When Fajardo did just that, things went fine. In the second quarter he led 15 and 8 play drives and an 11 play drive in the 4th that resulted in points. But his INT was a direct result of him getting impatient and forcing a ball downfield that he should not have. It certainly didn’t help that Shaq had his worst game of the season. He looked like vintage 2018 Shaq (and that is not a compliment). In a close game where Powell was averaging over 6 yards per carry it seems stupid to me that we limited him to just 8 touches but McAdoo seems to be bipolar when it comes to running. Either its all he does or it becomes an afterthought… there is no middle ground.
Defensively, Mitchell carved us up like Thanksgiving turkey. We let him complete almost 80% of his passes. In particular he made Ed Gainey his bitch. And given that Mitchell is a whiny bitch (see his half time comments) that makes Gainey a bitch’s bitch… which pretty low. In addition to allowing a ton of completions, Gainey as had 46 yards in penalties on one drive. Aside from the Marshall pick six there wasn’t a lot to be happy about on D. That said, Bo Levi picks are extra sweet. They are second only to Winnipeg INTs in terms of ones I enjoy. Despite the Stamps missing their starting tackle we had minimal pressure. We ran a lot of 3 man rush which in theory gives you more in pass coverage but you wouldn't have known that from the ease Mitchell had in completing passes. We let a fullback rack up 46 yards rushing. We might as well have been fielding 5 Solomon Means for as useful as the secondary was. Calgary is a very good offense so some struggles are to be expected but this is the caliber of offenses we are going to need to beat come playoffs (it won’t all be Stevelers and back-up QBs).
It’s not all doom and gloom. We went toe to toe with the best team in the west and came within an FG of victory despite not playing our best. But this game certainly highlighted what separates the top teams from the others. Calgary made plays when they were there. We missed a few and that’s all it takes when you are playing top teams. The good news is that first place is still a very real possibility. We need to win our final 3 (against the bottom west teams who all have nothing to play for) and hope Winnipeg wins at least one against the Stamps (look Bombers I know we’ve said some pretty unkind things in the past but I’m willing to take back at least some of those if you just do us this one solid). We still need to go out and earn it but it’s ours for the taking.
Other random thoughts:
- That was a nasty game full of big angry hits… and an ankle lock that would make Ken Shamrock proud. I really don’t understand Calgary’s strategy of playing overly aggressive with the most flag happy ref in the league in charge.
- I still don’t understand how we can be so good at kick returns (2 returns of 30+ yards in the game) and so bad at punt returns.
- Love the call and execution on the fake FG. I honestly thought we waited too long to snap it and lost the element of surprise but we pulled it off.
- Our offense was focused on the wrong guys. Williams-Lambert caught 2 of his 7 targets and Evans caught 2 of his 6. Meanwhile Roosevelt was 5 for 5, Watson was 6 for 7 and Moore was 3 for 3. Gotta ride the hot hands.
- I hope Micah’s injury is nothing longterm
- Even though it will cost him, I was highly entertained by Ed Gainey’s “Y’all can’t cheat us outta this shit bra!” Thank god TSN warned me that viewer discretion was advised.
Beating the Stamps in McMahon was asking a lot. Shaq has been great but proclaiming he's the best receiver in the league, well, that's a reach. He's had a good season but some guys have been putting up better #'s for a few years now. You need to do it a few times to rate & no, Rider fan or not, I'd take the 29 year old Burnham or the 28 year old Walker over the 28 year old Evans anyday. Evans has to prove he's more than a 1 hit wonder. And as with you Prophet I say step up when it really counts. We need Shaq to be a factor in the playoffs. It's still there. The Riders have had some luck this year. Masoli gets injured just prior to the Rider game, Harris gets tossed just prior to Labour Day & Nichols gone too. Reilly is out just prior to the Rider game & with Eskimos in, they likely see little if any of Harris. Maybe Esks start him in the last game in Mosaic, not Commonwealth, to get him ready for the playoffs. Plus given a game they might not have won in Montreal. Offence was no great shakes there. There's no excuse for not going 3-0 down the stretch so it comes down to Wpg/Cal splitting the series as the Stamps won't lose to BC in the season finale if 1st place is on the line.
Gnome - Oh yeah, Shaq has come a long ways and is in the conversation of the top receivers in the league... but the best, not yet.
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