Friday, November 26, 2021

Riders vs. Stampeders: West Semi 2021

I know this season has seemed like a drag. We won a lot of ugly games. It wasn’t always the most exciting football. But the end result is a home playoff game on Sunday. I think we should a minute to appreciate that. This will be our 3rd straight season with a home playoff game. We have literally gone decades without home playoff games in the not so distant past. Now it has become something that is a regular expectation. Don’t take the current winning culture for granted. Its not a guarantee and it can easily slip away.

While this is fortunately not the first playoff game at new Mosaic, one thing we have yet to experience in our new digs is a playoff win. In the regular season, we certainly enjoy homefield advantage with a .706 winning percentage. In the post season, we are currently 0 for in that department. Sunday seems like as good a day as any to change that.

The 3 regular season meetings were decided by a total of 6 points, so that would tell you that these are 2 evenly matched teams and we can expect the 4th match-up to be another nail biter. Have mercy on our hearts. 

A few key differences to note from the first match-ups. In our 2 loses we fielded Campbell and Brown in the secondary. In the win we fielded Webb and Clark, who each got a pick. Fortunately it’ll be Webb and Clark this time again. While both have shown their inexperience at times, they have proven way less of a liability than their predecessors. We will also have Dan Marino who did not play in any of the previous meetings. But the changes aren’t all lopsided in our favour. Since we last met the Stamps have added Tre Roberson and Reggie Begelton. That’s a pretty big injection of talent down the stretch.

Defensively there are 2 things we need to do. Don’t get beat deep early and contain Kadeem Carey. In the 2 loses we spotted the Stamps 14 and 10 points respectively in the first quarter before smartening up and playing defense. In the win, we gave up just a FG in the first quarter. In the loses, we let Kadeem Carey gain 89 and 178 yards. In the win, we held him to 67. Two other things I really key in on in this matchup are D-line and turnovers. We have a damn good D-line and they are fully heathy. Calgary has a very solid OL but this stat jumped out at me. Calgary allowed just 20 sacks all season (2nd best) but 10 of those came over the 3 games we played. Winning in the trenches is key and we all know we ain’t winning on the other side of the trenches so our D-line (led by AC and Micah) need to be disruptive. Turnovers is another thing we are good at. We forced the second most this season. Here’s a stat I love, Bo Levi Mitchell tied for the league lead in interceptions putting on par with Taylor Cornelius in that department. Also remember that Bo missed 3 games.  Now obviously in a playoff game Mitchell can’t be taken lightly, especially when he has Jorden and Begelton to throw to. But if the D-line can be disruptive I see chances for turnovers and we need to seize those. We all know of offense can’t be counted on for more than 20 points so the pressure will be on the D to keep the score low.

I have confidence in our defense… the same cannot be said for our offense. I’m just hoping that can do the bare minimum to scrape out a win. Calgary has a very good defense (allowed over 20 points just once in the past 7 games) and let’s face it, we struggle even against the mediocre defenses. This one is really all about Fajardo, can he make his reads, can he protect the ball, can he will us to first downs?  Lots of talk about Fajardo going full 2013 Durant and winning this game with his legs. To a certain extent that will be a factor. Cody isn’t great at sliding at the best of times, so you know in a playoff game he’s fighting for every inch. But here’s the thing… Calgary is not stupid. They will probably plan for this. They certainly aren’t going to scheme away our deep passes. So I would expect the Stamps to take away everything short and force us to throw. As much as Cody is our leader and wants to win this game, I think we need to take some pressure off him by given Powell a heavy workload. Cody’s fighting spirit is good but I see it leading to him forcing things if we put everything on him. Also, I’ve a stated more times than I can count, the less time our OL spends in pass protection, the better.

Obviously Duke will be the focus point. Both for us and for Calgary. He’s our best weapon at this point and he needs to see the ball. But this really strikes me a game primed for Evans to have a breakout. He’s been ok since returning from injury but not 2019 dominant. With Duke drawing extra attention this could be his breakout game. I also don’t want us to forget about Schaefer-Baker. Good things happen whenever he gets the ball. You have 3 big bodied reliable receivers… use them. Seams, crossers, quick outs that’s where we will find success. I also think we need to pull out all the stops. Let LaFrance or Morrow get some touches. Bring back that dump off to Dupuis. The more we keep Calgary guessing, the easier life will be for Fajardo. I mean pretty much any play other than a swing pass is likely to surprise them. 

I still have very little confidence in our O but if you want a stat to help you feel better… we average 24.6 points at home vs. 16.9 on the road.

I honestly don’t know what to expect in this one. On one hand our playoff record at new Mosaic sucks and Calgary is a good team who knows how to win in the playoffs. On the other hand we managed to extract 9 wins from a hapless offense and a defense with constantly changing players. We seem to be uniquely built for playoff football. Also, given that you know the game will be close, its nice to have a guy like Fajardo who seems to have a knack for pulling a drive out of nowhere when you absolutely need it. Maybe just look for sideline passes when we get to the redzone this time… you know, for reasons I’d rather not state out loud.

I see no more fitting way then for the following ending to lead to our first playoff victory at new Mosaic: Lauther FG with 1:30 left on the clock to go up 9. Calgary ties it with 60 seconds left on a long TD over Marshall. Leading to an onside kick recovered by Duke.

Riders by 2.

Let’s make it friggin’ loud in there!


Gov said...

First time in 3 playoff games in Regina that we have a healthy starting QB. That should help. Notice I should should vs will

Rider Prophet said...

Excellent point. I don't buy that Cody is "healthy" but he's good enough and miles ahead of last year. Also, he's not Brandon Bridge... So there's that