Monday, July 31, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Almost No “Touchdown” Atlantic

Riders 13 – Argos 31

If you have been a Rider fan for any length of time you are familiar with the feeling I am about to describe. We entered that game with virtually no expectation of winning (be honest) and the team somehow managed to disappoint us despite literally no expectations. It takes a special level of sucktitude to manage that. 

Here’s the deal, in the wake of the Trevor Harris injury we all downgraded our expectations… ok not all, there are still some diehards out there who probably still believe we are going to the Cup. But for the second week in a row QB was not necessarily the primary reason we lost. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and overtly lie to you and tell you Mason Fine played well. What I am saying is that it was a winnable game in-spite of his current shortcomings. And that is at the core of what is most frustrating about this team right now. We have a built-in excuse for not winning and we inexplicably keep deciding to add reasons on top of that. The score won’t reflect it, but the Riders had a chance to win or at the very least keep it close… in spite of the glaring deficiencies in our team. 

For the second week in a row, the defense played well enough to win the game. The Argos have the most productive offense in the CFL and our D held them in check. We held Chad Kelly under 100 yards passing through 3 quarters and under 125 overall. We held Ouellette under 4 yards per carry. We forced a turnover. 31 points allowed is a very deceiving number because the punt return TD was not on the D, the pick 6 was not on the D and the INT returned to the 25 leading to a TD was not the defense’s fault. They did their job against the best offense in the league. And for the second week in a row, their reward was watching the other phases of the game waste their effort. I was very critical of the D early in the season but credit to Shivers he has got his unit back to playing the level of defense we’ve come to expect. Amari Henderson is still a frustratingly inconsistent player but other than that I give the defense full credit for a great game. 

Unfortunately, there are 2 other phases of the game. Special teams took most of the first half to figure their life out. Argos could have scored 2 more kick return TDs. We also did not seem to think that offering some form of blocking for Alford was a priority in this one.

The curious case of Mason Fine. In 2 starts Fine is completing over 70% of his passes and averaging close to 300 yards per game. What he is not doing is producing points. Since the Trevor Harris injury he has produced one legit TD and one fluke over 2.5 games. The problem in analyzing his play is factoring what parts of this offensive ineptness is his fault and what part is out of his control. Its not his fault his O-line got massacred. Its not his fault Jamal Morrow fumbled away one of our few promising drives (I still kinda think Jake recovered it but there was no much chaos that the ruling on the field would have stood no matter what). Its not his fault Lenius failed to haul in a pass that hit him in the hands. The pass was far from perfect but receivers are paid to make plays. Its not his fault we are comically inept at short yardage. Its not his fault the coaches make stupid decision (hey, our offense his struggling to move the ball forward, you know what will help… backwards passes). I’m not saying Mason Fine is a great QB but let’s be fair and not place all the blame on him. He’s handcuffed with a lot other people’s shortcomings. He also just had to play 2 of the best defenses in the CFL.

But he also is contributing to the issues. Both INTs were his fault. Deciding to throw a 2 yard pass on 2nd and 16 was his fault. Throwing into double and triple coverage was his fault. And at some point the fact that he has produced exactly one non-hail mary fluke TD in 10+ quarters as a starter has to fall on him at least a bit. His passing yard stats are deceiving because he seems to be able to move the ball from our 15 to midfield consistently but really struggles on the opponent’s side of the field (you know, the important part). And while we are being fair about QB performance, can I put a halt on the Jake Dolegala parade that is surely coming. Yes he produced a TD on a couple nice throws. But he did so against prevent defesne in garbage time. Let’s not pretend that had he started the whole game he would have done any better behind a porous OL, with poor play calling and WR/RB falling to secure the ball. At some point we will need to turn to him but I would like to go on record as being against the motion to anoint him saviour of the franchise based on one garbage time drive. As much as I don't like it based on production, I think you gotta give Fine at least one more start. 

I expected to lose this game. But I guess I was silly to expect we’d at least be competitive. One third of our team was competitive but the rest looked like a team that belonged on university turf. We had chances to make a game of it but failed miserably at each turn. The issues with this team are way more than just playing a back-up QB. As I said, it would be a lot easier to swallow if we could pin all our issues that.

 Our issues are this simple. You can’t win when you don’t score TDs. Doesn’t matter how good your defense is. And brother, TDs are a more foreign concept in Riderville than reasonably priced merchandise and concessions. Until we figure out how to cross the goal line at least twice a game, gonna be tough to find a win regardless of who we play. 

Random thoughts:

-        Really weird series of events took place when the Argos accepted a penalty to make it 2nd and 16 rather than 3rd and 6 and force us to punt in our own zone. Being the kind and generous souls we are, we rewarded their stupid decision by throwing a 2 yard pass on 2nd down gifting them improved field position.

-        After a few seasons of being critical of us taking a FG when we should not have, I never expected to opposite scenario to unfold. But the boneheaded decisions of our coaches never cease to amaze. 3rd and goal from the 15, a FG would have made it a 2 score game. Low odds of making the TD and even if we make it you still need 2 scores. So of course Dickenson chooses that time to forgo his longstanding love affair with the FG. He doesn’t even appear to have coherent logic to his poor choices. He’s all over the map.

-        He’s not always getting the supporting coverage but Korsac is a really good punter. (Yes I am reduced to choosing to take solace in our punter… that’s a sure sign of how good things are going.)

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