Riders 28 – RedBlacks 13
Just got back from camping… did I miss anything notable?
Just kidding, I came in for the game and all things considered was pretty happy to spend the last few days out camping and somewhat avoiding all this Marino stuff.
I’ll just say this. It was a dirty hit. He’s got a well deserved reputation as someone who crosses the line with his aggressive play (that’s been his MO since he arrived here, great player when he’s not taking major penalties). The suspension fits for me, though he could easily appeal and get it down to 2-3 (I feel both the team and PA may encourage him not to for optics purpose). I will say this though, there is not a team in this league that would cut a DT that good over this incident, easy to be high and mighty when its someone else but winning is all that matters in football so its not like we are the only team willing to overlook some indiscretions (just cause its an ugly truth doesn't mean its not the truth). Hopefully we can move on and put this behind us… though part of me would love to have seen how this scenario would have played out in the Chris Jones era. I mean Dickenson is a pretty good guy and has not handled this the greatest.
OK can we talk about actual football? Because, aside from 1 play I thought the Riders turned in a hell of a performance.
Game started per the usual pattern, D does awesome and forces a turnover. O goes run, sack kick on back to back drives. Yup, seen this movie before. But wait, we recovered and scored an actual first half TD!... and then another! Game was over once Hickson hit daylight. The was our D was smothering Ottawa they weren’t coming back from that. Riders are tough to beat when their offense sleeps through the first half, give up 22 first half points to them and good luck.
By gawd that defense! In the first half they allowed under 65 yards and 2 FGs… and one of those FGs was a direct result of a 38 yard punt by Vedvik (the D allowed them to move just 5 more yards on that drive). Run game was not a factor. Darvin Adams had zero catches. I maintain that even when healthy, the RedBalcks are still a very mediocre offense but still. I want to make a special note of 2 players for very different reasons. Rolan Milligan is a force. All over the field, great coverage and one of the surest tackling DBs that I have seen in a while. He made the stop on that first turnover on downs. If he can ever figure out how to play deep zone (something that I’m sure will improve with experience) he could be a perennial all-star. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Amari Henderson. Were it not for seeing him on the roster, you’d barely know he’s played… and that is a very good thing. Normally offenses would target a guy getting his first CFL starts mid-season but Henderson is playing so well that he’s damn near invisible most of the time. Lokombo missing a game may end up being the best thing to happen to that secondary (and it’s not even that he’s a bad player). This current group of 5 just seems to work together well. Also in fairness I need to mention that this is the best I have seen Nick Marshall play in a couple years. He’s not taking stupid penalties (in a year where everyone else seems to be), he’s limiting the bad plays, he’s making plays. He’s working his way off my hatred list (watch me jinx it by saying nice things about him).
Offense had a pretty good game by their standards minus the abysmal first couple series. When we do 3 things, we win: don’t turn the ball over, run and get Schaefer-Baker the ball. That’s it, that’s the offense, everything else is just a bonus. How about that run game?!? I haven’t seen an RB just dominate out there like Morrow since Sheets. You just assume he’s going to get the corner and manages to turn absolutely nothing into 6-7 yards gains routinely. Add in the outright speed of Hickson and its dangerous as hell. It also allows us to limit how much we expect our O-line to pass block, because simply put, they can’t (they allowed 5 sacks to a very mediocre Ottawa D-line, Willie Jefferson might hit double digits on Labour day). The play action a strong run game creates is giving Fajardo just enough time to get some kind of passing game going. Duke had a rough start. He dropped a gimme pass and was almost murdered on another pass. But he stepped up and made some needed big plays. I really wish him and Fajardo could get on the same wavelength. You could see the chemistry with Shaq a mile away but with Duke they always seems to be just off. If we can get 70 and TD from being off, imagine what could happen if they ever got in sync?
Good lord are our special teams awful! Vedvik hits about 1 great punt for every 2 bad ones. Our returners get no blocking and thus have smaller returns than my retirement funds currently do. And every kickoff ends up the same: 6 guys miss a tackle, Lauther ends up writhing up pain on the turf after being forced to step up and help slow down the returner who we eventually haul from behind after a sizeable return. Lauther honestly probably secretly wishes we would go back to not scoring TDs. Kicking a million FGs is better for his financial and physical well being.
The Riders are 4-1 to start the season… which is pretty darn good. I hope Robertson’s injury isn’t as bad as it looked because this defense is downright dominating at this point. O is showing flashes. Special teams is a liability we need to shore up.
Problem is I am getting some serious 2008 vibes from the season. For those who don’t remember that year, we started 6-0 but lost at least 2 players per game to broken fibula. As good as that team was, eventually the injuries became too much to overcome. We are already down Evans and Clark. Picton and Robertson went down this game. Not sure how long Lafrance, Harty and Tuck. Cody Fajardo is a tough guy who tends to downplay his injury status but even he says his knee is in rough shape. At some point unless we reverse this injury tread it will catch up with us.
For now though, enjoy the win.
Other random thoughts:
· Having Fajardo go in with under 3 minutes was stupid. Having him run short yardage during that time was moronic. And having him roll out on a full bootleg and take a needless tackle in garbage time is so stupid even the thesaurus didn’t have a word that adequately captured it.
· In regards to the crowd cheering for Marino, I will say that from my angle it looked like Marino was pushed into Masoli. It wasn’t until much later that I saw the replay and saw the play for what it was. Most of those cheering probably just didn’t fully know what happened (obviously some people did see it and are just dicks but I’d like to think they are the minority).
· Your weekly reminder that Larry Dean is a beast.
· If the O-lineman who cheap shotted Robertson doesn’t get at least a game suspension then don’t try and tell me the CFL cares about player safety and not just public relations.
· Schaefer-Baker does not look that physically imposing but I swear I have never seen just one defender be able to bring him down.