Early in the season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders frequently dug themselves into a hole at the beginning of a game, only to pile up just enough points at the end to emerge victorious.
But that kind of luck can only last for so long. And Sunday's loss in Montreal provided an all-too-vivid example of the dangers of failing to take control of a game when the opportunity arises.
Once again, the 'Riders played well enough on defence to win with even a modest point total. And a resurgent return game gave the offence reasonably good field position throughout the game...which it just barely managed to squander at every turn.
Most obviously, Saskatchewan turned two possessions deep in Montreal territory into a grand total of two points at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second. And it's especially a mystery how a team which seemed unstoppable on two-point conversions not long ago managed to fail on first and goal from the Montreal 3-yard-line.
But even the punt singles which represented far too much of the 'Riders' offence for most of the game signalled an inability to produce when it counted most. In a game where a couple of field goals could have made all the defence, Saskatchewan's offence stalled multiple times around midfield - while the Als were just slightly better at converting opportunities into points (accounting for one deep turnover from each team).
Of course, the 'Riders combination of field position and passing yardage hid a couple of major problems with the team's offense. It's possible to get by with a low-percentage passing attack as long as a team can reliably generate some yards on the ground - but Saskatchewan's pitiful 15 yards rushing meant that the burden to move the ball was entirely on Darian Durant's right arm. And while Durant generated a few big plays, his 24-for-46 showing was far short of the efficiency needed to keep the offence on the field (and the defence out of difficult situations).
Hopefully the return of Kory Sheets will help somewhat this week against B.C. - both in generating yards in the trenches, and in forcing defences to scheme against some meaningful running threat. But there's reason to worry that the 'Riders ran through their luck early in the season.