Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Grey Cup Thoughts

Look Hamilton, I’m not mad… I’m just disappointed. You somehow managed to screw up an ongoing string of postseason futility that spanned decades and generations. The simple comment “1990” was synonymous with failure, and quite frankly made jokes and insults insanely easy. But you had to go and ruin it, you big ruiners. Well in a fitting bit of karma, you now own the longest string of futility and “1999” is the new “1990”.   

In all seriousness, as much as  hate the Bombers and wish nothing but bad things on them, you have to be impressed with the playoff run they strung together. Sunday they were by far the best team (as much as it physically pains me to say that). Also, this has to feel pretty sweet for Bomber fans. I may disagree with their choice of football allegiances, their hygiene practices, their choice of mating partners, etc… but to stick with a team through 29 years of that is certainly admirable. I know how sweet 2007 felt here, so I can only imagine what adding over an addition decade of wait time must feel like. Enjoy your day and I’ll go back to hating you tomorrow.

Thus brings an end to the 2019 season… let us never speak of this again.

But the offseason is just beginning and the first thing on the to do list around here is the 2019 Rider Prophet Awards which will be handed out next Monday. The most anticipated part of those awards is the Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year. Where you the fans get to cast your vote for those who excelled in the field of douchebaggery.

Please cast your vote for your favourite. (There is also a Twitter poll if that’s more your thing. Votes sent by carrier pigeon or singing telegram are accepted and count double)

Here are this year’s nominees:

Jason Maas– He’s the two time defending champion in this category and looking to three-peat.

Simoni Lawrence – Despite his claims that he’s not a dirty player, he was suspended once and fined twice for three separate incidents of dirty play. Also, its really his fault that the Bomber no-Cup streak was broken when you think about it.

Andrew Harris – Reasons are obvious, but an additional reason I will add is that he has kept us waiting on pins and needles all this time to find out who tainted his supplement. Why must you keep us waiting Andrew?  

Other - Please leave the name of anyone else you feel deserves consideration in the comments section.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Coming Up Short

Riders 13 – Bombers 20

We knew heading into to Sunday that we were in tough and every aspect of the team would need to bring their best. With Fajardo not close to 100% (he turned in a hell of a performance all things considered but if you really thought coming into that game he was healthy then I have many pyramid marketing schemes that I would like to speak with you about) it was going to take a mistake free game to book our ticket to Calgary… but that didn’t happen. Mistakes were as plentiful as my rye intake. We kept it close, but every time we got close another mistake would pop up and keep the win just out of reach. The season may have ended on a doink but there were many other moments that led up to that that ended our season a week sooner than we had hoped.

We lost for one simple reason… we could not get the ball in the endzone. You can’t expect to win a playoff game when you can’t score a TD. As much as it would be easy to blame that on a QB somehow gutting through 2 torn muscles, for me this was a lot more on coaching. Powell got 8 rushes This was despite him averaging 6 yards a carry against the best run D in the CFL. He did have an uncharacteristic and costly fumble but it would seem he was running well enough to warrant a few more carries. We had the ball inside the 10 yards line 4 time. Do you know how many times we gave Powell (a man who led the CFL in offensive TDs) the ball? Once. Criminally underused one of our best weapons when he should have been the focal point of the offensive game plan. I guess we were saving him for next week or something?

My most hated play in all of football had a prominent role in the loss as well. The old “Shotgun on short yardage” play. When you need a yard and the defense has to start a yard back it makes zero sense to willingly turn a 1 yard conversion attempt into a 5 yard attempt. Not only did we call a stupid play, we doubled down by putting in our 3rd string QB to run it. We seemed to have something against going up the middle as we went laterally later in the game and Fajardo got tripped up in the back field. I get that Winnipeg has a good defensive front but if you can’t trust the interior of your OL to get you 1 yard, get a new interior OL. The other curious coaching thing was the refusal to take a timeout near the end of half. How many times have we mismanaged the clock going into the half? Obviously even with a few extra seconds, there was no guarantee we could get into scoring range but why not give yourself the chance?

On a more positive note, I want to acknowledge how good a player Kyran Moore has developed into. I still think he is underrated. Moore was targeted 10 times and had 9 receptions most of the big important catches. By comparison Evans had 9 targets and 4 receptions. On the year Moore caught 78% of his targets. Of receivers who had over 75 receptions, the next closest is Braylon Addison at 75%.

Defense played one hell of a game. Yes, they allowed too many long passes but when you hold a team to 20 points, 6 of which came when your offense turned the ball over in its own end twice. We neutralized the best running attack in the CFL keeping the combo of Streveler/Harris to a combined 51 yards ad we got 3 sacks against a pretty stout Bomber OL. We really needed the D to produce a turnover but they couldn’t (they did force  2 fumbles but could not recover). Still, I don’t put the loss on the D. They held up their end of the bargain.

We had our chances in this game and just couldn’t execute. Winnipeg made plays when they needed to. That was the difference. Credit to Dickenson, Fajardo and everyone else on a great season (that few expected)… but losing still sucks.

Next week one of the two longest Grey Cup droughts in the CFL will come to an end… and the Bombers’ drought will continue.

Regular readers will know this already but if you are new to this blog be sure to stick with me through the offseason for news and irreverent commentary.

Other random thoughts:
-        For the record Fajardo was over the line. It wasn’t close, how that was upheld on review is mind boggling.
-        That fake punt return was a thing of beauty… until Marshall ran out of gas and his blockers forgot to actually block. That should have been a TD

Monday, November 18, 2019

No Sentimonies Today

Going to need a day to digest this.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Riders vs. Bombers: West Final

The West Final is upon us and its about damn time! We haven’t played in a West Final since 2013  and we haven’t hosted one since 2009. The good news is that although we don’t have an extensive list of recent West Final appearances, we do tend to do well those few times we get there. We haven’t loss a West final since the Danny Barrett era (you may recall that era as the one where Kenton Keith would dominate the West-Semi and the then we’d get rolled in the West final).

The opportunity is huge. Win and it’s off to the Grey Cup. Plus we get homefield advantage. How big is that? Well instead of having to play in Winnipeg (where the Bombers are 8-1, plus its Manitoba so it just generally sucks) we get to play at home (where we are 8-1) against a team that was 3-6 on the road… and 0-2 here. So, yeah it’s kinda big.

This big story is of course the health of Cody Fajardo. The irony is not lost on me that this is a game where Zach Collaros is playing and he is not the QB whose health everyone is talking about. I can guarantee you this, Fajardo will play. How effective he will be and how long he lasts will be the question. The good news is that Dickenson is a pretty honest and straightforward guy so when he says Cody’s good to go, I believe him and have some hope. Regardless, you can expect Richie Hall to scheme up a D that takes away the short stuff and forces us to try and push the ball down field (at least that’s what I would do). Hopefully Fajardo has enough in him to make them pay with a deep shot to stretch out the D. This is a game where I think we need to lean on our vets: Roosevelt, Arceneaux and Watson (possibly Lavoie). The windows will be tight so leaning on the vets who can find the space will be important. We also need to find ways to get Powell going. No easier way to take the pressure of the QB then by feeding Powell either through handoffs or short passes. Early gains may be small against a strong Bomber run D but we need to stay committed. If he has less than 15 touches we're stupid. Most important will be not turning the ball over. We can win a grind out game as long as we don’t commit turnovers. This is one of those times where you are best advised to “Don’t do what Bo did”.

Defense needs to own this game. With uncertainty at offense, we need them to step up and lead in this game. They need to set the tone physically and limit the Bombers O. They need to want it more than their opponents. It’s no secret that the Bombers strength is the run game. They have the #1 run game for a reason. We need to be ready to step up and limit that. For all the talk of how much Zach Collaros boosts that offense (and he does), in the West-Semi he completed 52% of his passes for less than 200 yards. Stop the run, stop the Bombers. They used Streveler a lot last week. The book on him is simple, he can run and he can throw the deep ball. Anything else is a struggle. So essentially when he’s in, you need your front 7 aggressively shutting down the run and your secondary playing off to limit the big play. You may give up some medium stuff but that’s the chance you need to take. While I want us to be physical and get contact on Zach Collaros I just hope we keep it within the rules. While I want him to epically fail on Sunday, I still like Collaros. I’m a well wisher in that I don't wish him any specific harm. Key stat on the Bombers: they are winless in games where they are held under 25 points. We did it twice already… and doing it a third time would go a long way to punching our Grey Cup ticket.

Unless a whole boat-load of Jesus Sprinkles have been delivered and Fajardo is his old self, I expect a hard hitting, low scoring, grind out game. The team that wants it more and makes less mistakes will prevail. We have the advantage of an extra week of rest and a hometown crowd, which should help slant the odds in our favour. I don’t feel great about this game. I wouldn’t read much into that though. The feeling is less about this game specifically and more a result of decades of being conditioned to have my heart broken by the Riders. The good news is that as powerful a force as Rider disappointment is, the Bombers’ aversion to the Grey Cup is an even more powerful force.

Cheer loud because we are going to need every once of energy we’ve got to will our team onto a hard-fought victory.

Riders by a Lauther FG (yup he’s still the man). 

Depending on how stressful the game is, my heart may just give out in the stands. So if you see a robed guy with a beard in a heap on the ground, please find my some medical attention… and by that I mean rye.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Impressive Regular Season

We now know our opponents for the West Final and in a surprising turn of events it’s the Bombers. Bo Levi Mitchell was out there handing out turnovers like he was trying to promote a new bakery, which warmed my heart. While I certainly have lots to say about the upcoming playoff game, I’m going to save it for later in the week.

Today I want to spend a bit of time reflecting on how good of a regular season we had. As I’ve done now a couple times this year, I compiled some stats comparing the 2019 Riders to the 2018 ones.

After 18
% Change

Offensive TDs
Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Sacks allowed
Points allowed
Passing Yds allowed
Rushing Yds allowed
Special Teams
Punt Return Avg
Opponent Punt Ret Avg
Kickoff return avg
Opponent Kickoff Ret Avg
Net punt avg
Players Dressed

A couple things jump out for me. First and foremost is the 13 wins. Many of you (myself included) have never seen a 13 win season. Seasons with 13 loses I’m familiar with but not wins. Hasn’t happened in since 1970 and is only the 3rd time ever. I’ll also remind this comes despite a 1-3 start. Expectations were lowered when Dickenson and Shivers took over for Chris Jones but fortunately they didn’t buy into that.

Offensively, touchdowns were up 76%... that is not a typo. Scoring was up slightly but the source was very different. Instead of relying on the D and Lauther, we actually just had an offense that did it’s job. Go figure. The number that stands out here for me is turnovers. They were way down. That’s one of the things that has most impressed me about Fajardo is that he’s smart with the ball. Just 8 INTs and one of those came on a 2 point convert. For comparison, Collaros threw 9 last season and did not play even close to a full season. Some will point to sacks being up as a negative but that’s more a product of running plays that could conceivably result in a sack rather than running exclusively hitch screens and runs up the middle. For all the criticisms against McAdoo (and I have had many) he deserves credit for what he did this season. He’s a very bi-polar OC. When he has a QB he trusts (like Fajardo and Reilly) things look good. When he clearly loathes his QB (Bridge) his playbook becomes so limited it could fit on a post-it note.

Defense is what really stands out for me. Many (myself included) assumed the loss of Jones would negatively affect our D. Turns out Jason Shivers had other ideas. Less points allowed, less yards allowed, more sacks, overall a less explosive but more solid defense. Turnovers were down but if you track them over the course of the season, the trend is encouraging.
First 6 games: 4 turnovers
Middle 6 games: 11 turnovers
Last 6 games: 18 turnovers

For comparison we had 10 turnovers in the final 6 games of 2018. Turns out Shivers picked up a thing or two from all those years working under Jones.

Special Teams was a curiously the one area that struggled… under a Head Coach who is a noted Special Teams expert. Lauther had an off year (even before his final game performance). I still trust him for a money kick come playoffs but he didn’t have a great regular season. Kickoff returns were great. Punting… well let’s not rehash my obviously anti-Saskatchewan views on our punter. I mean his is a West All-star so clearly its me that’s wrong about things. I apologize.

So let’s appreciate what an amazing season we’ve had so far. Who would have known that Jones bolting and Collaros getting KO’ed would have us falling upwards.

Now, let’s start getting pumped for the West Final. We are 60 minutes of football away from a return to the Grey Cup and all that stands in our way is the much hated Bombers.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Random Quasi-Coherent Playoff Thoughts

With the Riders enjoying a bye, it gives me the opportunity to breakaway from my normal game previews to just opine on whatever thoughts pop into my head on this Friday. I can’t promise they will be particularly witty or even relevant thoughts but its Friday and you’re probably looking for an excuse to no actually of your job or house chores or whatever it is you are choosing to slack off from at this moment.

-        I still don’t think we’ve fully grasped how big a regular season the Riders just head. 13 wins. First place. We just don’t do things like that. Craig Dickenson and his staff deserve a ton of credit. We finished the season 12 and 2 after a 1 and 3 start.
-        Many are choosing to focus on the “I will be in the West Final” part of Cody Fajardo’s comments. While I do believe that part of it I still don’t think we can ignore the “No matter how painful it is” part that immediately followed. The bye week was absolutely needed for Fajardo but just how healthy he will be by the 17th remains to be seen.
-        I say pump him full of steroids. Its unlikely he gets caught and even if he is there’s no way the CFL would be able to figure the discipline before the end of the season so at worst he gets 2 games off in 2020.
-        I’m kidding about that last one… mostly.
-        Here’s you weekly dose of Prophet’s Jon Ryan hate. He should not have been the Riders’ Most Outstanding Special Team Nominee (that should have been Purifoy) and he should definitely not have been a West All-star. At best he’s the 3rd best punter in the West. He’s definitely improved as the season went on but I just don’t get the hype.
-        I’m not sure if it will be in the East Semi or the East Final but the Esks are destined to get beat by like 30 points (and Maas will definitely try and kick 10 FGs to make up the point difference). Odds are good it happens in Montreal but there is a chance they hold it together for that one. But I think we can all see where this is going… the will lose, Maas will break something and be promptly fired.
-        In the West-Semi, since both teams losing isn’t an option, I guess I will hope these 2 teams beat the hell out of each other. Like quadruple OT in -20 degrees. Winnipeg brings a great D and run game. Calgary brings a great pass game and a pretty solid D. There's going to be no easy path to the Grey Cup... unless Winnipeg loses Collaros to injury in a winning effort. 
-        I’m entertained by the whole “Andrew Harris as the victim” for being snubbed on awards. I hope that if I’m ever come up with an explanation from wrongdoing that I have zero proof for, that people will believe me as much as they do Harris.
-        If the RedBlacks really think they can find a better coach than Rick Campbell they would be wise to recall how it turned out when they thought they could find a better QB than Trevor Harris.