It might have been a new week on the schedule, but for the Riders, it might as well have been a repeat of last week.
For the second week in a row, we did not watch the Riders lose this game.
Instead, we watched them give it away yet again.
A glutton for punishment, I re-watched the last 2:21 minutes of the game, and while there were bad penalties, a controversial review of a third down gamble and missed tackles galore, I could not help but think that there was one thing, and one thing only, that should be blamed for the loss of a ten point lead and eventually the game:
For whatever reason, the Riders aren’t being put in position to win.
Last week, it was poor time management. This week, it was poor decision-making.
Instead of punting the ball away and forcing the Lions to march down the field to kick a field goal to tie while being up three points with 1:00 left in the 4th quarter, Coach Chamblin decided to send in the short yardage team on 3rd and 1/2 a yard.
The result? The Riders couldn’t convert, and BC was already nearly in field goal territory.
Next, the Riders declined an illegal procedure penalty. Instead of putting the Lions at 1st and 15, it was 2nd and 10.
A short pass and a field goal later, the game was tied and going into overtime.
Or was it? The Riders still had 12 seconds to possibly get into field goal position to try and win the game in regulation.
Instead, the Riders knelt down successfully (as Jim Daley, the White Zombie, would say) and forewent any chance of putting the game away.
In the ensuing mini-game, it was 3rd and a few inches and Coach Chamblin vacillated between going for it and kicking a field goal.
He went with a field goal, and the Lions won by scoring a touchdown a few plays later.
Two weeks in a row, the Riders have led going into the final minute of the football game. And two weeks in a row, they’ve not only lost those leads, but the games themselves.
A pattern is emerging – and the pattern shows that the coaches have a lot of work left to do.
Now for Things That Worked and Things That Didn’t.
THINGS THAT WORKED
1. Weston Dressler: Possibly motivated by team mate Ryan Smith’s coming out party last week, Dressler had his best game in quite some time with 9 catches for 122 yards and two TDs. After spending most of last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s good to have Dressler back with the team on a permanent basis.
2. Running game: Apparently I know nothing (although this should be rather apparent if you read my predictions every week and then look at the actual results). Here I thought the Riders would be about as pure of a passing team as you could be in the CFL, yet they lead the league in rushing. The tandem of Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen put up over 170 yards on Friday night, and the running game has certainly opened up the passing game. Given how successful the running game has been so far this season, it’d be nice to see the Riders use it to their advantage in 2nd and short or 3rd and short situations.
3. Tyree Hollins: While he got burnt on Emmanuel Arceneaux’s OT touchdown, he was more than capable in his first start. Starting in place of Marshay Green, he did not look out of place and had a few key tackles. At the age of 24, he potentially has a long career ahead of him as he appears to have the tools to be a solid DB.
4. Red zone conversions: After settling for four field goals last week, the Riders scored TDs every time they were past BC’s 20 yard line. On the other side of the ball, the Riders kept BC from doing the same during regulation, a big improvement from last week.
THINGS THAT DIDN’T
1. Pass rush: I repeat my thoughts from last week:
You ask why it didn’t work? BECAUSE IT WAS NON-EXISTENT. A game where John Chick isn’t even mentioned is not a good game. In the ‘new’ CFL where defenders cannot cover receivers as they once did, a defence requires a pass rush in order to be aggressive. Otherwise, your secondary is left trying to cover receivers that will undoubtedly either get open or draw a pass interference flag. The defensive line was supposed to be one of the Riders’ strengths, and through two games it’s been less than ordinary.
In addition, those three man defensive fronts have to go.
2. Secondary coverage: While overall the coverage appeared to be a lot tighter this week (and it really couldn’t have been any looser), it still broke down at key times, allowing a lot of long completions. For instance, Austin Collie tiptoed along the sideline to score the TD that allowed the Lions to get back into the game. But there’s still a lot of rooom for improvement, as Travis Lulay threw for over 400 yards and five different BC receivers had more than 50 yards on Friday night. Yuck.
3. Situational decisions: See above.
4. Discipline: The secondary continues to have trouble with the new illegal contact rule, but what continues to be so frustrating is how the Riders’ offence continues to take penalties that negate first downs. This time, a TD was taken off the board due to a penalty. While the Riders eventually got that go-ahead TD, it was mainly due to a number of ill-timed BC penalties that extended the drive. The Riders need to play a lot smarter, as the number of penalties is simply unacceptable.
OFFENSIVE STAR: TIE – #7 Weston Dressler, SB
As stated above, he’s baaaaaaaaaaack.
DEFENSIVE STAR: #37 – Tyree Hollins, DB
A solid game by the rookie, as I discussed above.
SPECIAL TEAMS STAR: #39- Ray Early, P
His punting average was nearly 50 yards. Too bad he didn’t get a chance to pin the Lions deep late in the 4th quarter.
NEXT UP: vs. BC. The second part of the home and home series goes on Friday night at Taylor Field. The Riders will definitely have revenge on their minds, and they’ll be desperate to win their first game of the season. Hopefully the boo birds don’t come out.