The first half of yesterday's win over the Argos was filled with missed opportunities for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Yes, it's generally a plus to hold a 9-point lead at the half. But between a couple of dropped interceptions and an unusually ineffective short-yardage offence, the 'Riders held that small margin despite outplaying the Argos in all phases of the game. And with the Argos obviously hoping for big plays on defence or special teams to make up for a toothless offence, something figured to give in the second half.
Fortunately, the main difference was that the 'Riders' point production matched their overall effectiveness. Two long third-quarter touchdowns gave Saskatchewan a daunting lead, and the 'Riders' defence held the fort from there.
But again, the game always figured to be a relatively friendly one for a defence facing a mediocre offensive team's backups at quarterback and running back. Instead, it's the offence and special teams that looked particularly impressive in producing against the Argos' strengths.
Aside from the two third-quarter eruptions, the 'Riders didn't do much more than to play an effective possession game on offence. But they managed at least that much throughout the game, pairing another 100-yard game for Kory Sheets with a high-efficiency passing attack that more than doubled the Argos' yards per attempt. (Of particular note, Taj Smith had his best all-around game of the year - not merely taking advantage of breakdowns as he's done before, but making big plays both catching the ball in traffic and shedding tacklers.)
Meanwhile, special teams looked to be a high-risk area against one of the CFL's elite returners. But full credit goes to Craig Dickenson for a stunning performance by the 'Riders' cover teams: Chad Owens managed only one long punt return, while the Argos repeatedly started from deep in their own end due to penalties and/or negligible returns.
We'll find out this weekend whether the 'Riders can keep up that style of play against Edmonton on short rest. But it should help that the Esks rely on much the same turnover-driven game plan as the Argos. And for now, the 'Riders have kept themselves in contention for the top spots in the West.