Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

If nothing else, last night's Grey Cup game should prove to be a second-guesser's dream for the rest of the offseason. In a game decided by a single point at the last second, the 'Riders:
- not only missed a makeable field goal, but allowed Larry Taylor to run the ball out of the end zone;
- kicked two field goals on 3rd and 2, as well as one on 1st and goal from the 2 (at the end of the first half), rather than trying to put more points on the board;
- threw an interception while in field goal range;
- conceded a single point on a punt rather than forcing the Als to kick again from five yards back - after doing just the opposite on the previous play;
- and finally, gave the Als a second chance at a last-second field goal after Duval had missed his first.

Of course, it's the last mistake that seems to be receiving most of the attention today. But a change in any of the earlier events could theoretically have had just as much effect on the outcome. And that's without getting into factors which had an obvious indirect effect on the point count - like the curious decision to start sending kicks deep (resulting in two long returns) after getting goods results out of a squib-kick strategy earlier in the game, or the fact that both the offensive and defensive units came up short when they had chances to close out the game in the last two minutes.

All of which is to say that there are plenty of targets for blame if one is looking to assign it. But while it may not offer much consolation in light of how the game ended, it's worth noting how much the 'Riders did accomplish.

The defence's first-half performance was easily the most effective counter anybody has developed against the Als' offence this season; meanwhile, the offence was opportunistic in the first half and put together a beautiful run-based drive to open up the game's largest lead in the second half. And without both units playing well within extremely well-designed schemes, the 'Riders would never have opened up the lead that they did.

Moreover, even leaving aside the larger leads over the course of the game, one has to figure that if someone had approached Ken Miller at the start of the game with the chance to take the ball and a 2-point lead with 1:39 to go, he'd have snapped up the offer in a second. And the 'Riders have done well enough in similar late-game pressure cookers this season to have had reason to think they'd be able to hold on in the Grey Cup as well.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. But as Montreal can attest, even a great team will end up with some near-misses along its road to the top.

So while yesterday's result is obviously a huge let-down based on how close Saskatchewan game to being the champion once again, it's worth keeping in mind that it's not an insubstantial achievement to have made it to that position in the first place. And hopefully some lessons learned yesterday will help the 'Riders to close out some more chances in the years to come.

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