No, this isn't 2011 all over again. But Saskatchewan Roughriders fans could be forgiven for flashing back to the previous season throughout the team's loss to the B.C. Lions.
Once again, the 'Riders' defence was relatively effective through most of the game against a strong opponent, making some big plays (notably a brilliant third-and-short stand deep in 'Rider territory at the end of the first half). But it got progressively more tired and less effective making tackles as the game went on, and ended up allowing the opponent to pull away.
And once again, the 'Riders' offence wasn't up to the task of putting points on the board. Darian Durant and company moved the chains just often enough to keep the game respectable, but the offence stalled every time there was an opportunity to convert drives into touchdowns and fell into the all-too-familiar pattern of turning the ball over late as time ran short.
Which leaves the question: what can the 'Riders do now to make sure the rest of this season doesn't play out like the end of the previous one?
On the downside, the 'Riders look to be getting periously thin at some key positions. With Jordan Sisco joining Rob Bagg on the injured list, it's hard to see where the 'Riders will get any production from non-import receivers other than Chris Getzlaf (who continues to be inconsistent for a primary option). Meanwhile, the non-import offensive linemen pressed into duty by injuries and ratio considerations haven't been able to keep pass rushers away from Durant. And once again, the offence hasn't adapted by giving Durant more opportunities to turn that aggressiveness against 'Rider opponents.
But that failing so far points to at least one opportunity to improve. Another may come from Taj Smith, who looks more and more like a sorely-needed impact receiver in the making. And the defence has shown at least enough hints of being able to control games (rather than merely hanging on for dear life) to offer the hope that the 'Riders can get by with a less-than-stellar offence.
That may not make for the team fans would most like to see - and which seemed possible at the start of the season when a healthy offensive line showed what it could do. But it's probably Saskatchewan's best chance to be anything more than cannon fodder for the rest of 2012.