Riders 34 – Elks 23
Being a Rider fan is weird. I mean we won and we scored the most points we had all season, but I doubt many feel great about it or went to bed super happy. The best way I can describe the emotion is that its less happy we won and more relieved that we somehow managed not to lose. And believe me, we tried to lose that game. We were just lucky that Edmonton was far more committed to losing and far more experienced at it. We are at a point in the season where we can’t be picky about how we win. We needed that win and we got the job done.
Defensively it was the tale of two halves. We looked uncharacteristically bad on D in the first half. We could not stop the run. RBs were consistently getting big gains and Cornelius was killing us. But man o man did Shivers put in work at half time. Because they came out on fire and dominated up front in the second half. In the first half we gave up 256 yards and 17 points. In the second half it was just 109 and 2 FGs (and one of the FGs was Fajardo’s fault for throwing a terrible pick). Sankey was visibly on another level in the second half. Lanier snagged a share of the lead in sacks. Slow start but the D once again flexed their muscle and willed us to victory.
Offense was also on another level in the second half. Unfortunately that level was the basement of an outhouse. It was the second consecutive game where the offense just didn’t show up in the second half. Here is every second half drive we had:
· 2 plays, -4 yards, punt
· 2 plays, 6 yards, punt (1 penalty)
· 2 plays 10 yards, punt (1 penalty)
· 1 play, 0 yards, INT
· 4 plays, 97 yards, TD (43 yards came off Edmonton penalties)
· 4 plays 21 yards TD (purely because the defense got a pick and Edmonton got a borderline pyramiding penalty)
· 2 plays, 2 yards, punt
For a while I was convinced that our only chance of victory was a mid-game trade for John Ryan and punt single our way to victory.
There were a few positives. Duke is back. He made some big time catches and realistically should have had one more long TD if Cody could throw. We also found a way to get Baker back involved. Those designed runs work and while he only had 2 catches one of them was a big time catch at a big time moment. Unfortunately that was about it in terms what did not suck on offense.
The ongoing theme remains the same: you can’t pinpoint the issue with our offense because we have so many issues that therapy should be mandated. Its starts with coaching. Yes our O-line is devoid of talent. And yes Cody missed throws. And yes receivers dropped balls. But this is not a one off. Our offense is consistently awful and the coaching staff seems to have no answers going on 2 years. Like we actully pay someone to coach our OL. Seems like that may be a wasted expense at this point. Yet again we abandoned Morrow after a hot start. Yes, Edmonton did adjust to focus on taking the run away but a good coach would find a way to keep your best offensive weapon involved. Maas just appears to be like “well, they took away the run so lets just never go back to that”.
O-line is to the point where I need to get thesaurus' in 4 other languages in order to not run out of new ways to describe their awfulness. The Elks have just 14 sacks in 9 games. 7 of them have come in 2 games against us. At this point by not at least trying to play Campbell at tackle you are saying that you assume he will commit a felony crime if we do. Clearly penalties are ok. Clearly a complete inability to slow down oncoming pass rushers is OK. So the only logical reason left not to sit Rogers is that there is a risk of his replacement committing a crime that the organization would be partially liable for.
I’ve made mention in bits an pieces about Fajardo’s performance. It was nice to see Fajardo actually be able to move. Though it would seem that while rehabbing his leg he let his arm atrophy. That INT was underthrown by 15 yards. He had Duke on a long TD but he threw a low straight pass rather than arcing it at it ended up being knocked down. He overthrew a wide open Jones on the convert. 130 yards and 55% completion is not good enough regardless of whether or not your O-line clearly hates you.
You need 2 phases to be working for you to win so fortunately our special teams stepped up. Cover teams were rock solid. So nice to have Gary Johnson back out there (or Gary Johson as he friends call him). He is a stud whose only flaw is constantly being injured. Vedvik kicked well. He actually punted farther and had more singles than John Ryan… by Rider logic I assume that makes him the greatest punter of all time. (Though for the record on that one single, he punted perfectly and just got an unreal bad bounce). Most importantly Mario Alford stepped up and stole momentum back from the Elks right after a go ahead TD with a massive return TD. Alford now has 5 career kick return TDs in 19 games. That’s a pretty good ratio.
Struggling to beat the worst team in the West hardly gives confidence for the upcoming stint of back to backs with both the best teams in the West. But hey, a win is a win and reinforcements are coming next week (i.e Robertson, Marino). So who knows, anything can happen in the wacky CFL. For now enjoy winning for once. It’s been a while.