Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Needless to say, there isn't much to question after a performance like the 'Riders romp over Hamilton yesterday. But I'll point out a couple of aspects of the 'Riders' recent play which may mean far more than the numbers receiving the most attention so far.

On that front, while "no turnovers in four games!" and "130-yard rushing streak!" make for interesting bits of trivia which do signal some important elements of the 'Riders development as a team, we probably can't count on their being repeated indefinitely. (That goes doubly since the former ignores two interceptions called back due to penalties and a fumble recovered by the 'Riders, and the latter only applies because Kory Sheets piled up yardage after yesterday's game was well in hand.)

More interestingly for the team going forward, we've seen the offensive evolve even over the first few games of the 2013 season.

At the start, Darian Durant primarily kept the chains moving with quick passes caught in traffic. But now, the offence is opening up in a few ways which can only complicate life for defences trying to defend the 'Riders.

Most obviously, Durant's success with a patient precision offence has opened up opportunities for deep passes - with two bombs to Rob Bagg yesterday breaking the game open much like Taj Smith's big game the previous week put the 'Riders ahead to stay.

But Bagg and Smith have also added another dimension to the 'Riders offence. In the past, most of the complementary receivers around Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf have been unimpressive in picking up yardage after short catches. But both Bagg and Smith have been effective shedding defenders and breaking tackles after catching the ball the past two games - turning short passes into big gains, and ensuring that even harmless-looking plays can turn nerve-wracking for defenders.
Meanwhile, the 'Riders' defence of course had a stellar game in pitching a shutout against the Ticats. But the shutout was based in large part on one of the most basic elements of defensive football: relentlessly effective tackling which shut down plays even after the ball went where the Ticats wanted it to.

Seldom did a Hamilton receiver manage to make a catch without a defender hitting him as the ball arrived. And while the Ticats hardly tried to run the ball, their few efforts to do so were easily snuffed out as the 'Riders' linemen were constantly in position to make a tackle on the first try.

Of course, more skilled groups of receivers than Hamilton's injury-depleted unit will make that more difficult in the games to come. But as long as the 'Riders can stay in the habit of winning the tackling war on both sides of the ball, they'll be in great shape for the rest of the season.

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