Once again, the Saskatchewan Roughriders faced a significant challenge from a team at the bottom of the CFL's standings in last weekend's Labour Day Classic. But once again, the 'Riders emerged on top - finishing the first half of the 2013 season with an 8-1 record. And perhaps more importantly, one of the keys against the Bombers was one of the team's weaknesses over the previous few games.
After two games in which they had nothing but trouble finishing off drives, the 'Riders were ruthlessly efficient turning field position into points against Winnipeg. Out of 7 possessions where Darian Durant scrimmaged inside the Bombers' 40, the 'Riders managed touchdowns on 6 - and the lone exception (which resulted in a field goal) came after the 'Riders were already in semi-prevent mode with a 15-point lead.
That consistency in putting touchdowns on the board helped to mask what was otherwise a closer game than one might have expected given the records of the teams on the field.
In what's become a familiar theme, the 'Riders' defence played well below its potential against a quarterback who challenged it both on the ground and through the air (with another batch of careless penalties helping the Bombers stay in the game). The offence took the better part of the first half to get going. And the special teams which have given Saskatchewan an advantage through most of the 2013 season mostly played Winnipeg to a draw - at least, until the late Spencer Moore punt block which effectively sealed the game.
We'll have to hope that the 'Riders' increased effectiveness as last week's game went on will carry over into this weekend's matchup. But while there's room for improvement in a lot of areas, they'll be able to cover a lot of holes if Durant and Kory Sheets can keep converting when it counts.