Riders 23 – RedBlacks 10
Saturday’s game was a lot like watching a rerun of a show you love: predictable, rather uneventful, kinda boring but satisfying in the end. It started a lot slower than I would have liked but slowly but steadily the Riders damn near built up the 14 point margin of victory I predicted. Given that I seem to know nothing about who was going to win the other games I am going to milk the few times I’m right this season for all I can get.
Coming into the game I said Ottawa had a decent defense and awful offense… well that’s exactly what we saw. Their defense kept our offense to our lowest output of the season (rough life when 23 point is a down game) and really made us grind it out. Their offense (if you can call it that) could be marketed as a sleeping aid.
Let’s start with the defense who carried us in that one. Six sacks, 4 turnovers, no run game to speak of. Outside of that one long pass to Harris, they didn’t allow much in the pass game. They were dominant. On that Gainey INT is was clear from the moment that pass went up that it was being picked. Remember that Ottawa intentionally let Nick Arbuckle go so they could have Matt Nichols backed up by Dominque Davis (by far the worst QB room in the league). The only reason Ottawa was able to get their lone TD was because we gifted them 30 yards in penalties on the drive. Penalties remain one of the few negatives to find on the team as we are still taking too many. For all the worry about our D-line coming into the season they have really come to play in the last 2. We are getting great push up the middle and its letting our ends feast. Now take Saturday with a grain of salt because Ottawa doesn’t have a very good OL to begin with and were missing MacMillan (one of their few good linemen) but I love seeing them seize the opportunities they are given. Both Marino and Woodward are making their presence known. I am really interested to see how we fare against Winnipeg. If they can get anywhere close to the pressure we have got in the past 2 games against an OL that good then look out. 4 people in the CFL have 3 or more sacks on the season… 3 of those are Riders. The one negative for me is Micah Teitz. He is clearly the weak link out there. Not awful but weak. So far the strong play of the other 11 is managing to mostly hide it. Better offenses than Ottawa will know how to exploit that.
Offense had to earn it against a decent Ottawa D. But what I like is that they ground it out. Most important thing was zero turnovers. One of the best way to win the games you are supposed to is not give the ball to the weaker team. Yards were harder to come by but we did move the ball. Very few 2 and outs and managing to get points even if it was just field goals on most drives. It didn’t seem like it watching the game but quietly Fajardo managed over 300 yards completing over 85% of his passes. And what makes that even more impressive is how he’s doing it. He’s without his #1 receiver and Lambert went out to injury and he just keeps producing. He hit 8 different receivers. One of the receivers was Kian Schaefer-Baker who made an impressive CFL debut catching 4 passes for 64 including some big important catches. Yet another big bodied receiver for Fajardo to pass to. Duane Forde raved about Schaefer-Baker in his draft year and we got a glimpse of what he was talking about. Really tough to shut down an offense when we can rely on this many different receivers to make plays. Ground game was a non-factor (except for Fajardo who managed to run a lot smarter and take far fewer hits this week) but we made up for it. Still not completely sold on our OL but they are getting it done for now.
One thing a feel I need to comment on is special teams. Not only has Lauther been automatic on the year. I am also hating Jon Ryan less week by week. And our cover teams played so solid you wouldn’t even have known that 3 regular starters were out with injury and being replaced by practice roster players.
The win surprisingly leaves us alone atop the CFL standings as the only unbeaten team left. We haven’t exactly been dominating teams along the way but we keep finding ways to win and that is a recipe for success going forward. We now get a much needed bye week. Just 3 weeks in and the injuries are piling up quick. Hopefully the bye will allow us to heal up and be rearing to go for the next game… which just happens to be the Labour Day Classic.