Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

It's not very often that a team comes away with a 45-point win. It's even less common to win by that margin while still managing to leave plenty of points on the field as the Saskatchewan Roughriders did yesterday. So what happened in yesterday's Banjo Bowl doesn't figure to be a repeatable result for the 'Riders - especially given how dependent the outcome was on the Bombers' propensity for self-destruction.

That said, the game looks to have been a potential watershed moment for the 'Riders in one important way. Throughout the 2009 season, the team has normally had little trouble staking itself to first-half leads, but has struggled to hold on in the second half.

Yesterday was the first time the 'Riders have substantially broken that pattern. Rather than letting up or making mistakes of their own after taking the lead, the 'Riders managed to keep going in the right direction throughout the game - playing safely enough to avoid giving Winnipeg any easy points, while at the same time staying aggressive enough to pull away until the game was out of reach.

On offence, full credit goes to Darien Durant for a steady game where his final numbers didn't match the positive results the offence was able to generate. In the midst of a season where he's seemed to try several different patterns of game management, Durant's performance yesterday was straight out of the Kerry Joseph 2007 playbook: loads of scrambling to extend plays combined with a willingness to throw the ball away rather than taking unnecessary risks, enough big plays to keep the defence on its heels, and enough ability to capitalize on short fields to put the game solidly in the win column. Which was exactly what the team needed for this game - and probably makes for a model which it can keep up for the rest of the season.

Of course, that does count on the defence continuing to generate turnovers. Yesterday's count was largely the result of the Bombers' own mistakes, but the 'Riders have previously shown they can get the job done on that front under somewhat more challenging circumstances. And the fact that the 'Riders' secondary was good enough to largely shut down the pass yesterday even while the team loaded up against the Bombers' running attack should give Gary Etcheverry even more flexibility to send pressure at opposing quarterbacks.

We'll find out next week how that strategy works against a quarterback who isn't quite as gaffe-prone as Michael Bishop. But for now, all indications are that the 'Riders have managed to at least partially fix their biggest issues while continuing to build on their early-season strengths - and it's hard not to like where the team is positioned for the rest of the CFL season.

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