Saturday the 9-5 Boo-bombers are in town for a third and final meeting with the Riders. The stakes are higher than Duron Carter on his way to the airport. Don’t like that one? The game is bigger than Jason Maas’ ears. Still not a fan? It has bigger consequences than a Kavis Reed post-game rant. Take your pick. The winner will take the season series and effectively be 2 games ahead of the other with 4 games remaining (3 in Winnipeg's case). If you want a chance at first, it’s pretty much a must win.
For as good as the Bombers have been this season (provided you exclude east road games where they have massive leads) the one place they have been struggling is on the road. They are 3-4 on the road… and just because it entertains me to no end I’ll list the teams they’ve lost to on the road: Riders, Ticats, Als… and the Argos! (pause for laughter). A lot of that is driven by their defense. While they have been allowing a microscopic 18 points per game at home, that number jumps to 25 on the road.
Defense will have to deal with Andrew Harris this time around. I assume Harris’ search for proof his supplement was indeed tainted is going as well as OJ’s search for the real murderer. Its no secret. Stop the run (be it Harris or Streveler) and you stop that O. Simple but not easy. Also, while I normally love their aggressiveness, this may be the game for the secondary to play off a bit. The book on Streveler is that he can’t throw… and that’s true to an extent but it’s a certain kind of passes he struggles with. Passes 1-9 yards he’s 77%. Passes 10-19 yards it drops to 62%. Passes over 20 yards it goes back up to 77%. That tells me we need our front 7 to be aggressive on short stuff and our secondary to take away the deep ball. Force him to throw those medium passes he struggles with. He may complete a few but I doubt he strings together long drives like that. He’ll throw picks like he did on Labour Day. We can’t show up with that craptastic tackling we displayed in the Banjo Bowl. Need sure tackles every time… just so I’m clear that means using arms to wrap up not just recklessly launching shoulders around. Given that this is the third time playing I expect a trick play of some kind. WR throw, fake dive throw, double reverse, etc… Need to stay disciplined and assignment sound.
Offensively we can’t afford a slow start. That winning Labour Day drive was great but I would honestly be happier if it wasn’t needed. If we can get a lead early and force the no-throw Bombers to chase then we have a huge advantage. If you look at the last couple games it’s the secondary that is collapsing for the Bombers… like embarrassingly so. Hamilton and Montreal didn’t even try running on the Bombers. I do think we need to follow the blueprint to an extent and attack that secondary BUT I would not abandon the run too early. The Bombers allow just 65 yards rushing per game so its tough but Powell showed on Labour Day what he can do when given some faith. Likely the game will be won through the air but gotta consistently at least try to run. Protecting the football is even more key in a game that could be a defensive slugfest. Gotta find that balance between aggression and not being reckless with the deep ball. I would lean heavy on the veterans Roosevelt and Watson (to a lesser extent). Shaq and Moore will likely be the big play guys but Roosevelt and Watson are your surehanded chain movers. I expect Williams-Lambert to take over the “token Manny catch role”… just hope it’s a big one.
When playing Mike O’Shea you need solid special teams on both sides. Coverage has drastically improved so hopefully that continues. At this point of the season, Jon Ryan is what he is and I just hope it doesn’t cost us. Much like my spidey senses are heightened for a trick play on O, one on special teams is also a real possibility. Again, stay assignment sound.
For all the talk about the Riders’ fortuitous schedule (and it has been, lets be honest), its not like the Bombers have much more to brag about. They are 2-4 versus teams that currently have a winning record. So if we’re calling out the Riders for beating up on bottom teams, let’s be consistent and do the same to the Bombers. The Riders are 4-3 vs. teams with a winning record just in case anyone cared.
This is a big, big game and I hope the teams shows up the energy and effort it needs. Home crowd should give a boost (muddle the huddle!). This won’t be easy and sadly I see us falling behind early but we’ll fight back and win… likely in a dramatic fashion that takes years off my life.
Riders by a sprinkle of Jesus.