It would be nice to be able to blame the 'Riders' latest loss on injuries hitting a few more of the team's key players. But that excuse would ring rather hollow against an opponent missing the CFL's defending Most Outstanding Player and its top starting quarterback - particularly at the point in the season where every team needs to be prepared to deal with a few missing starters.
Unfortunately, as I'd worried at the start of 2013, the 'Riders seem rather unprepared to deal with the foreseeable. The offensive line has indeed proven fairly thin, resulting in Darian Durant facing unmanageable pressure for the most of the past five games; the dropoff from Weston Dressler and Rey Williams to their replacements had an obvious impact on the 'Riders' performance on Saturday; and a decision to operate with only one true running back proved deadly when Kory Sheets got hurt in the first quarter against Toronto.
Yet even that spate of injuries might not have been enough to lose an otherwise close game if not for some other avoidable problems. After starting off the season as the CFL's most disciplined team in avoiding both penalties and turnovers, the 'Riders have racked up both at an alarming rate in recent weeks - with the most painful sequence Saturday coming early in the first, when an interception, a pass interference penalty, an unnecessary roughness call and a botched snap helped turn zero offensive production by the Argos into ten free points.
From that point on the 'Riders had little choice but to go to the air - initially to try to catch up, and then to account for Sheets' loss. And the results were about what we should expect when a CFL team has to show its hand too soon: Durant and company managed to make a few opportunistic plays (especially in the second quarter), but couldn't keep up consistent production against a defence which could load up a blitz with no risk of punishment. And the 'Riders' defence which started off strong gave up just one more score than the team could afford.
What's worse, the Toronto game likely ended the easiest five-game stretch the 'Riders can expect all season. Now, the schedule features plenty of tough divisional games which will only raise the degree of difficulty - and it's an open question whether Saskatchewan will be back to health in time to fix what's been ailing it over the past month.