Riders 8 – Bombers 23
Last night we made a rule that we were not allowed to discuss football. It helped us enjoy the evening a bit. But now I am hungover and having to relive that utter garbage… I am not a happy man.
I don’t remember the last time I saw a game that bad. We had nothing. Came out off a bye week, at home, in the biggest regular season game of the year and were completely flat. Again, losing Labour Day is bad enough, but we didn’t even get anything to cheer about.
I should clarify… our defense came to play. They had us leading a halftime in a game that we did not deserve to be even close in. Even without our best defensive weapon (Micah) they put in a pretty impressive performance. Started slow but after that first TD they locked things down and kept us close right until the end. Just waiting for the offense to do something. They are still waiting for the offense to do something. We definitely missed Micah’s presence up front but they held their own. They weren’t perfect but they gave us a chance to win.
While we are talking positives (you know before I get all fired up and ranty talking about our offense) I do need to mention that Jamal Morrow looked good on returns. I have seen nothing from Montez Murphy so far. Morrow more than once made me think he was close to busting it. I want to see more of him going forward.
That’s it for positives. D played good and the returner didn’t suck.
Nothing was going right on offense. Fajardo played his worst game as a Rider by far. In the first three games he was feeling it, not thinking, making good confident reads. He looked lost out there. Whatever Richie Hall threw at him, he was not expecting it. His reads were slow… and often very wrong. His passes had accuracy that gave me Michael Bishop flashbacks. When he did find his receivers, he was either serving them up for a big hit or throwing behind them. He also keeps taking hits. He’s a tough dude but I guarantee he’s banged up and at this pace will be completely crippled in time for the end of the season run towards the playoffs. Now Fajardo is a pro and I’m sure he’ll bounce back but it shows the man does not quite walk on water. He also got no help. While they were often harder catches than they needed to be if the QB was throwing accurately, the receiving still did Fajardo no favours with a number of drops. The O-line was clearly over-matched. We have no run game to speak of. Not even the illusion of one, so defenses know they just need to cover the pass. Fajardo threw 39 freakin’ times! Powell rushed 8 times. See an issue there? Jason Maas had 2 weeks to prepare for this game and it looked like he just took 2 weeks off and then dusted off the play sheet from last game, assuming the Bombers do not watch film (I mean fair assumption that Manitoba does not have the necessary technology but that’s beside the point). He had no answers for what Winnipeg was running.
Our coaching staff in general had a bad game. This was most evident at the end of the first half. In a rarity we strung 2 positive plays together. Morrow had a massive return off a missed FG (that was almost wiped out by one of the worst penalty calls you will ever see). Fajardo then completed to Lambert at the 34 with 17 seconds on the clock. Most logical people would have immediately called a time out. Took a shot or 2 at the end zone before kicking the FG as a last resort. We took a drastically different approach. We let 12 seconds run off the clock trying in vain to get organized and then called the time out so we could kick. Bad, bad coaching.
The icing on the poopy flavoured lollipop that was that game was the ball doinking off the uprights. Clearly the football gods want us not just to suffer but to really kick us while we are down.
We knew going in this would be a measuring stick game and now we know how we stack up… we just might not like it. We can beat the bad teams but we have a lot to work on to keep even with the good ones. Given how well we usually play in the Banjo this could be a rough couple weeks.
You hit all the areas. So I'll add just a couple.
The Good - I have said that the Riders had to win a bunch of home games early & @ 3-1 they are pretty much where I thought they would be. A BC team without a healthy Reilly & the RB's should have been free spots on the schedule & were, though BC was more difficult than it needed to be. Hamilton has been awful with Masoli & we got them at the right time. But you don't pick your opponent. I'd take 3-1 to this point.
The Bad - Winnipeg was going to test our OL & that's not looking good for the next game. The bonehead clock killer end of the half was a head scratcher. Not sure who was to blame but I have mentioned before Maas has a history of overthinking things & questionable moves. In any case, the coaching collective has to figure out how to get 3 plays out of 17 seconds on the clock. Probably touching on ugly.
The Ugly - 46 penalties for 457 yds the 1st 4 games. Extrapolates out to 1600 over 14 games. For perspective, Maas' old club led the league in 2019 with 197 for 1677 yds. Ironically our loss was also our least penalized. But you gotta get this fixed.
Looking Ahead - Should we lose in Wpg, we could be staring @ a 3 way tie with the Elks & Lions @ 3-2. Lions have Ottawa, Elks have Stamps @ home. And Wpg takes the season series. Early days but quite the turnaround. That leaves 1 more home game with the Argos, maybe better than the other 3 clubs we beat, before 6 of 8 away to close the season. Not make or break but the rematch is really critical, at least to get things on track. The easy games are over.
Things could get worse. Moncrief has signed with Elks, turning down Riders & Argos.
I had the same fear as you going in. That the Bombers D line would dominate my main counter being "But it's Labour Day". A friend of mine summed it up best in his text to me after - "Disappointed but not surprised"
To date, typical Maas offence. Avg length of pass - last among starters. Lots of dump passes. One completion over 30 yds to date. Bombers dared them to go deep. Shut down short passes. Minimal YAC per pass all receivers. Lack of overall speed on offence. Until Riders can threaten teams deep, OC's will do more of same. O strategy a reflection of protecting OL. Can you rip up game plan & start over in 5 days? You're right. Two weeks should have been enough. Interesting week coming up.
Correction. Dunk says Elks outbid Riders & Blue Bombers for Moncrief. Wouldn't have wanted to see him in Winnipeg.
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