Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Last week, I noted that the Saskatchewan Roughriders missed a chance to grind out a defensive win against the Toronto Argonauts.

In retrospect, it should be been obvious in advance that the same strategy wasn't going to work in yesterday's loss to Calgary. This was the 'Riders' sixth contest of the year against one of the CFL's premier offences - and while Saskatchewan was able to win a couple of games in thrilling offensive showdowns, not once had it managed to hold either Calgary or Montreal to less than 30 points in a game.

And that's not entirely the fault of the defence either. As I've discussed many times, the 'Riders tend to play a high-risk, high-reward scheme that involves pressing for turnovers rather than making sure tackles. And it stands to reason that a top offence will do better at exploiting the defence's gambles - meaning that 27 points allowed (not counting Corey Mace's fumble return) combined with a couple of key turnovers was all we could have expected on that side of the ball.

So if the 'Riders are going to be able to hold their own against the CFL's elite teams, they'll need top offensive performances to do it. And unfortunately, the results yesterday fell well short of that standard.

Aside from the first drive of the game (aided by two key Calgary penalties), the 'Riders didn't manage to turn anything into trips to the end zone other than bombs to Chris Getzlaf. And it took far too long to go back to that option after three quarters of utter futility with a middling ground attack and misfiring possession passing game.

Which isn't to say that yesterday didn't provide somewhat of a blueprint for beating the Stamps - that is, if the 'Riders can stick to a scheme which isolates their depth receivers against Calgary's less effective defensive backs while setting up Darian Durant to take off at every available opportunity.

But that plan is going to be highly dependent on having enough skilled receivers to get the job done. And it looks particularly problematic if the 'Riders' response to Rob Bagg's injury will be to fill one receiving slot with the unreliable Obed Cetoute (who managed a penalty as his only offensive contribution yesterday).

Unfortunately, it's probably too late in the season to try to change the 'Riders' game plan in any meaningful way - and the last couple of disappointing games have effectively locked in the team's position in the standings. So the best we can hope for is that the 'Riders can at least take care of business against the teams below them in the standings, and that a few more long passes will find their mark along a road to the Grey Cup that now goes through Calgary.

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