Riders 19 – Als 14
I feel like I could just save myself a lot of time and copy and paste my sentimonies from the previous week and just add in a Choose Your Own Adventure about whether we hang on barely or blow it in the 4th. I mean the month of October was essentially this: defense starts slow but finishes strong and does everything in their power to give us a chance to win; offensive line can’t block; offense does next to nothing but musters a few measly points on the 2-3 competent drives they string together; the game ends up being closer than it should in the 4th. That’s it… that’s the write up every single week.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we squeaked out another road victory. I think we’d all prefer style points but we’ll keep taking them ugly if they keep ending in wins.
Let’s start with the defense who were the only reason we won that game. Jason Shivers does not get enough credit for the job he is doing. Remember that this is a defense that is missing multiple starters, has had numerous different combinations in the secondary and started the year down 2 bona fide starters in Dean and Bishop. And none of it seems to bother them. The D has allowed over 25 just twice, has the number 1 run D, has an impact pass rush and gets turnovers. This one was lead by the D-line who were relentless. In addition to their 5 sacks, we just missed about 4 more. I think we need to pause and appreciate the job our scouting did when it comes to bringing in talent. We are a franchise that sucks as recruiting pass rushers (name one other than John Chick in the past 15 years). We tend to have to sign them in free agency. But this year alone we brought in Woodard (league leading 9 sacks), Robertson (4 sacks) and Lanier (who was a force on Saturday). Oh and we will soon get back Marino. That’s more D-line talent than we have recruited in the past decade. Lewis and Weineke were held in check. Once we got past the first quarter, we did a good job on Stanback. The game was won by Purifoy. Montreal was driving and his INT was a minimum 10 point swing and completely snuffed out the last glimmer of hope from Matt Schiltz (who it turns out does indeed still suck).
As good as the defense was, the offense balanced things off with being equally as awful. I don’t recall an O-line this bad in my time as a Rider fan. There have been players who sucked (I could list many) but never has the whole line been this much of a liability. Lauderdale had particularly embarrassing day. It would sure be nice if those scouts who found all those DL could turn their attention to the O-line. We can gripe about Maas and Fajardo (and they deserve some criticism) but without an O-line that can block somebody (I would honestly settle for less than 3 people getting through per play) it’s hard to fault them too much.
Every aspect of the offense takes its turn struggling. The first play Maas nailed the play call, Fajardo threw a perfect pass and Moore dropped it. On one play Fajardo forced it to Duke rather than taking an easy wide open completion to Lenius in the flat for a first. On another he missed a wide open Shaq. Those are on Fajardo, not Maas. What is on Maas is not calling plays to at least try and hide his craptastic O-line. Those crossers to Shaq work, why do we run them so infrequently? why don’t we try it to Schaefer-Baker? Why don’t we use more timing outs? Why does Cody rollout so infrequently? Those would all help take pressure off the OL. The defense keeps gifting us turnovers but we keep we having zero ability to find the endzone. Generally you want to have faith that your offense could score a TD if you absolutely needed them to. Currently the best I could say if I have faith that they might move the ball to the fringe of Lauther range and hope for the best… and that’s on a good day. Sadly I think what you see if what you get. O-line won’t suddenly get better so the offense is what is it. This is like Chris Jones era football where the D will need to carry us and anything the O can muster is a bonus.
That was a pretty sad and depressing paragraph considering we won. The one good thing is that this team has won so many ugly, gritty games that they are built for the playoffs… just as long as we don’t have to play Winnipeg and get 3 chances to beat Calgary. We are undefeatable otherwise based on how the season has gone. The win is the important thing, as is clinching the playoffs. We are now 2 wins away from clinching a home playoff game. Ugly or not, I’ll take that outcome.
Other random thoughts:
- The Rashard Davis experiment has failed miserably. Please but Morrow back on returns. He was a least good.
- Gary Johson is my new favourite player.
- Did not look good for Swerve. Expecting him to be out a while which sucks.
- I’d harp more on our clock management but given the gong show that Ryan Dinwiddie did just before our game… I’ll just say that things could be worse apparently.
- Mak Henry has quietly been very good up the middle this year.
- Vedvik to alright in his punting debut. Clearly the cover teams haven’t yet adjusted to the difference between his and Ryan’s kicks yet though.