Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Night 'Rider Blogging

Most of the commentary on last week's loss to Calgary has focused on the converse of the factors that went the Saskatchewan Roughriders' way in their previous game - as about half a dozen key plays all turned the game in the Stamps' favour. But it's worth taking a closer look at how the contest got close enough for those late-game breaks to matter - as it's there, not in the randomness of dropped passes and broken protection schemes, that the 'Riders may have missed their most important opportunity to stay undefeated.

For about 50 minutes, the 'Riders did everything one coud dhave hoped for against a tough division rival. On offence, the 'Riders countered the Stamps' run-stopping by leaning very little on Kory Sheets (aside from one big play). Instead, they built a possession game around Darian Durant's passing on the run - succeeding in avoiding turnovers, and trading off high completion percentages for both points and reliability. Meanwhile on defence, the 'Riders nicely shut down Jon Cornish while keeping the Stamps' passing game in check.

But after they took a 17-point lead, the 'Riders turned down the pressure on Kevin Glenn, allowing the Stamps to move the ball with little resistance. Then, the offence stopped doing what had worked - first going into prevent mode by relying on Sheets to carry the ball every first down, and later (once it was glaringly obvious that the run wasn't going to work) shifting to what was presumably supposed to be a safer short passing game.

An interception later, the 'Riders presumably lost any illusion that they could afford to try to kill the clock. But their efforts to restart their offence fell just short due to drops by Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf on potential touchdown throws, as well as two key sacks on Durant.

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether the Stamps might have been able to attack Saskatchewan's defence regardless of what the 'Riders did. And Calgary's success with a fast-paced offence will make for an obvious area where the 'Riders need to improve generally.

But the main takeway from last week's loss looks to be not to abandon what's actually working within a game in favour of conventional wisdom as to how to hold a lead. And that may prove an important lesson as the season progresses and mistakes become more costly.

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