Riders 18 – Bombers 20
Being a Rider fan is just endless rollercoaster of building you up with hope only to shatter it… often in the most heart wrenching ways possible. I think the fact that we willingly subject ourselves to this something psychologists will one day write about. Look, I could take losing because we had a bad game. I could take losing because Winnipeg was a better team. I could take losing because of an amazing play. Still wouldn’t like it but all of those would be easier to take than losing due to stupidity.
Because let’s face it that’s why we lost. We didn’t play perfect but went toe to toe with the best team in the CFL and had a chance to win. We just couldn’t get out of our own way. We stupidly challenged something we had zero chance at winning. We took 2 time counts in a 4 minute span in our own stadium. One of them was on the first play of the drive. We had a guy who wasn’t even dressed push us out of Winnipeg territory with a penalty. But those were just the appetizer.
With 2 minutes left and down 2 points, Frankie Hickson ran 12 yards to set us up with a first down at the Winnipeg 26. At that point your goals are clear: score and leave as little time left on the clock. So the logical call is hand the ball off to your best playmaker on 1st down. Even if it’s a minimal gain the clock keeps moving and you are already in FG range. Plus Hickson was averaging 5.7 per carry. But did we do the logical thing? No. We got cute and tried to over think things. We called a pass play that had no business being called. Fajardo was inches from being strip sacked and instead throws an ill advised and errant pass. And just like that any chance at Labour Day celebrations were crushed. Sure, even if we kick the FG Winnipeg probably gets the ball back with 1 minute left and only needing 1 point. But given that our D locked them down and allowed just 3 point all second half, I like their odds of standing strong with the game on the line. How do you not run on first down?!?
There were some positives. Hickson had another strong showing. Anyone who doubts that Fajardo and Evans are spirit animals is just blind at this point. Shaq has a connection with Fajardo and he trust him like no other receiver. It leads to good things. Cody’s completion % was up and he was slinging with more confidence than I have seen in a while. Shaq is his guy. St John was not the trainwreck I expected him to be and the line overall did not awful (which is a glowing endorsement based on their play to date). In watching Evan Johnson I do need to concede that he is a very good run blocker. But it also reinforced what an absolute liability he is in pass protection.
But here’s the issue with our offense. Well I should be more specific. There are a ton of issues but here’s the one I’m going to focus on: points scored in the second half? A measly punt single. That’s it. It marks the 5th time in the last 8 games where we have had less than 7 second half points. It’s like Jason Maas has a game plan that works for a quarter and a half and then teams adjust and he just gives up and says oh well better luck next time. Like is he aware that half time adjustments are allowed? We can talk about Cody’s struggles and the line but this is an ongoing pervasive issue… it’s a coaching issue. You are paid to field an offense that scores and week in and week out you fail.
It must be insanely demoralizing for Coach Shivers and all those defensive players. Week after week they ball out. Week after week they make halftime adjustments that give us a chance to win. Sunday marked the 4th game in a row where they allowed 7 point or less in the second half. They held the best team in the league to 20 points… something that had only been done once in the past 2 months. They allowed a solitary FG in the final 30 minutes of the game. Collaros has been completing 70% of his passes on the season. They held him to 62%. That is an elite defensive unit and they have to sit on the sidelines and watch such a poor excuse for an offense that you swear we ordered it off Wish.
Since the 80s we only lost back to back Labour Days once and that was during the Nealon Greene years. Even the crappy teams of the 80s and 90s managed to win Labour Day with some regularity.
This was our chance and we blew it. Stock up on your intoxicant of choice we I have a feeling Winnipeg is absolutely going to embarrass us in the Banjo Bowl.
Other random thoughts:
- Our D-line gets held a lot more than the refs seem to think.
- I’ve seen the video of the latest Marino “infraction”. Its much ado about nothing. Is he a dirty player? Yeah. Is the microscope he’s under completely his own doing? Yes. But that one seems like grasping at straws. Willing to bet a lot of other players have done the exact same thing. Save your torches for when he actually does something that crosses the line.
- That little sidestep Leggio did to avoid a surefire blocked punt was pretty impressive poise.
- As much as I hated how the game ended and hate all things Winnipeg, we had a Bomber fan in our section and he was a great dude. Lots of good natured back and back chirping that made the game fun.
You're right. Everything that is wrong with the Riders was on full display. It boils down to basically 3 things.
1. OL - That isn't easily fixed in-season but you can help yourself & take pressure off them by running the ball. Morrow & Hickson need to be more involved in the offence.
2. Dumb penalties & plenty of them. Duke, who wasn't even dressed, shouldn't be there. As an aside, he's been grossly overpaid this year.
3. Play calling. As you say, with 2 minutes left & on the Wpg 26 the least you should get out of it is a FG to give you the lead. Run down the clock. If Hickson gets 9 yds or more on 2 plays, you likely get a fresh set of downs. Wpg has been held to 3 pts in the 2nd half. No guarantee they can come back - the less time the better.
I've been a fan of Dickenson but here's what I think should happen if we finish 4th. In 2016 Chris Jones built a team which went from the 3 win team he inherited to the 13-5 team which was still in place when he left early in 2019. Better each successive year. Since that time, we wen 9-5 & are guaranteed to lose more games again than we did the previous 2 seasons. After all this time there seems to be no answer for the penalties & our offence has digressed under Maas & it is clearly a pattern with how the offence is going to run. There's 2 games left with the Bombers - lose those & changes should be made IMO. I like Dickenson a lot but is this working? The message isn't getting through, is it?
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