Riders prove they can hang with the best (but there’s still work to be done)

Football isn’t a game of moral victories, but even in defeat, Rider fans should be feeling pretty good about the overall state of their football team.

A number of weeks ago when the Riders went into Calgary, they promptly made a mess of the bed leaving many to question just where this version of the team was headed. A lot has changed since that day and the Riders proved that despite their loss on Sunday afternoon.

Two-thirds of the team are currently playing at a very high level and that showed against the Stamps. The defence and special teams were the reason the green and white had a shot at taking down the best team in the league after getting annihilated earlier this year. Keeping Calgary’s offence out of the end zone for 60 minutes is nothing short of impressive. The defence recovered a fumble and got a stop on third and one, something that rarely happens to Calgary.

After the defence, the story of this game for the Riders was their special teams. There’s no better returner in the CFL right now than Roy Finch, who was more or less kept in check all game.

On most days, that kind of effort would be enough to win football games. However, when you’re facing the best, all three units need to be clicking and the Riders offence certainly had problems with Calgary’s defence, most notably their defensive line and that’s what did them in. The offence was bad and they made their share of mistakes but Calgary deserves a ton of credit defensively too. Sometimes, you just get beat as we know the offence can play better.

Game thoughts

– It was an interesting day across the football world after comments from the President of the United States on Saturday. That carried into Mosaic Stadium with the Riders locking arms during the national anthem. It was a good move by the team, half of them are American, to show solidarity with their friends down south. It was also good to see some players on both teams speak out before and after the game. I know this will get some “stick to sports” comments but if politics is going to take a shot at sports, then sports has every right to fire back. (Also, stick to sports is dumb and a lot of other things).

– The other hot topic, at least early in the game, was player safety. Naaman Roosevelt took a horrific head shot in the first half and never returned to the game. Some think it shouldn’t have been a penalty but I don’t agree with that. While I do agree that it was an unfortunate play and there wasn’t a whole lot Adeleke could do, it’s still the kind of hit that should draw a flag. Unfortunate plays that are fouls happen in every sport. If player safety is actually a priority, then that sort of thing still has to be a penalty. I don’t think Adeleke should face any supplemental discipline.

– As for the whole head shot debate going on, this is how I think it should be handled: all blows to the head of defenceless players should be at least a 10-yard penalty, that would apply to the hit we saw in this game. Hits where it’s clear the offender lead with his helmet – like Micah Awe on Jerome Messam – that should be a 25-yard penalty and a game misconduct. The player should then be fined for a first offence, suspended for a game for a second. If the problem continues, the suspension only gets longer. It might seem harsh but it’s time the league gets serious about head shots. A black and white system that applies to every player, that leaves little room for interpretation, is the best approach.

– Part of the problem for the Riders offensively was their inability or unwillingness to run the football. The offensive line was clearly struggling with the Stamps defensive line. Chris Jones admitted after the game that he put Brandon Bridge in because he is more athletic than Kevin Glenn. Why not run the football with a non-quarterback earlier? If Stephen McAdoo doesn’t trust the guys behind Cameron Marshall, then maybe they should have kept someone else out of camp or find another back. 28 yards rushing (Bridge lead the team with 12 yards) isn’t going to beat a team like Calgary.

– Getting points off Calgary turnovers would have made a huge difference. Those are the kinds of things you need to take advantage of against an elite team.

– Considering that Calgary had the ball over 12 minutes longer than the Riders, it’s remarkable the defence didn’t wear down and break. I was expecting Messam to eventually bust a big one. Instead, the defence hung on until the very end. If the dam did break in the final minutes, I don’t think anyone would have blamed them.

– Speaking of Bridge, he almost did it. The offence certainly seemed to improve under the Canadian pivot but the score and time might have played a factor in that a little. Is Glenn’s job in jeopardy at this point? No. But, Bridge is starting to build a decent resume that might lead to him eventually getting a shot without someone getting injured.

– I think my pick for Riders most outstanding special teams player is changing. It’s definitely punter Josh Bartel now. Bartel had a net average of 42.6 yards with a long of 60 in this one and his placement was perfect as well. Some of you pointed out Bartel to me as your pick when I made my mid-season selections and you were definitely right. He’s the guy right now.

Joel Gasson

Joel Gasson

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic.
Joel Gasson

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Joel Gasson
About Joel Gasson (132 Articles)
Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic.

33 Comments on Riders prove they can hang with the best (but there’s still work to be done)

  1. Another observation – Jones has got to STOP his “trick plays” This time it was a fake field goal and again it failed miserably. Jones has no razzle in his dazzle and Adams is sitting at about a 98% fail rate. The team is looking better no doubt, but I’ve seen enough goofy as*sed plays over the last few games to choke a….er, horse. O’Shea can pull these things off and does regularly – we can’t.

    My 2 cents plus tax

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // September 26, 2017 at 11:32 am //

      As a Stamps fan, it’s hard to argue that point. In fact, both my friend and I mentioned it before it happened. I expected a trick play out of Jones because that’s what he does – he has to be smarter than everyone else and catch the other guys “sleeping,” for some reason – and it didn’t take long. It seems Dickenson knew it was coming, too.

  2. Enough already // September 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm //

    Perhaps you should check the schedule before you write your articles because the Riders play the Stamps again on October 20 in Calgary.

  3. Looks like Esks signed Swayze Waters. With Grymes & Waters 2 areas the’re hurting are improved. Likely means Whyte is done for the year. This I would guess impacts tight playoff race in West. Big signing for them considering how bad it’s been since Whyte went down.

    • Just like the addition of Foster and Knox by the Riders. Green and white defense now better than it ever was. Makes it really tight for the others in the West. But the story is on the Riders, not the Eskimos.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // September 26, 2017 at 11:38 am //

      The West is better than ever, and the thing is, those five teams are pushing each other. It’s great to see such a strong product on the field when these teams play one another.

      There appears to be no “push” in the East because, well… they don’t need to. Win four or six while losing twelve or fourteen, doesn’t matter, their ticket to the dance is just as valuable as the guys busting their asses to win as many games as possible against quality competition. Seems fair and equitable to me (sic).

  4. After this recent game it is apparent that the Riders have improved alot compared to the last couple of years. They are already better than BC, and are more consistent then those Eskies. If the Riders were somehow in the East division they would easily have 8 wins at this point in the season. 2018 will see some great Stampeder/Rider games.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // September 26, 2017 at 11:49 am //

      I agree; the entire Western Division doesn’t look like it will be taking a step back, but a step forward once again in 2018.

      And, if the Riders were in the East, they’d have the division clinched already, it wouldn’t be close. Next seasons’ Stamps/Riders series should be exceptional. I expect the same from the Bombers, Eskimos, and probably the Lions, quite frankly. Toronto looks to be building something, thank goodness, but the rest of the East is currently in shambles. The Redblacks get some love because their injury list is overwhelming, but they’ve got a good organization, so there’s still hope from them, but there couldn’t be a much more obvious asterisk to the CFL playoff format than the current Grey Cup champs regular season record since the start of last season: 13-17-2. That’s a .437 winning percentage from the, ahem, best team in all the land. Fans of other leagues would look at that and laugh. Being a Stamps fan, I look at it and cry. (sic)

  5. On to Riders. My question, Enough, is do you think it will be different in McMahon? They haven’t lost there in 2 seasons. Riders are a different team at home – tough there but still got beat & dominated on the line.

    • white stallion in red // September 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm //

      The fact is until the riders oline a
      can out play the Stamps dline they will not win. I don’t see that happening this year

  6. South-west cowboy // September 25, 2017 at 1:37 pm //

    To Joel Gasson;
    How’s a guy supposed to take anything you write seriously when you can’t even read a schedule? Don’t quit your day job.

  7. Thanks for pointing out an honest mistake. It’s been fixed. Must be difficult for some of you being perfect all the time.

    • AFootballGuy // September 25, 2017 at 2:00 pm //

      Eh, that’s just how the internet works. Everyone has a big, tough mouth from a safe distance.

  8. Well Joel its sad to say but seems some come here to just insult or put people and players down ,and it seems honest mistakes and your opinion are a couple of reasons for them to jump all over people

  9. White Horse // September 25, 2017 at 1:59 pm //

    There is no doubt that the riders are improved since the last time they played the Stamps. However the riders defence is where the improvement shows. I question what would have happened if Stamps three best receivers could have played in this game. Jorden, Daniels and Lamar Durant. The three replacements used sporadically during this season have been marginal at best. Except Marken Michel.The loss of Stamps three best show in the results of the season BLM is having. If BC lost Arceneaux, Burnham and Nic Moore, Sask lost Rooselvelt, B,Grant Rob Bagg…how well would any of these teams fare? Nuff said about the poor season BLM is having! Remember he is 54-8-2 all time career. That is all that matters.

    • Question is: Naaman Roosevelt was lost early in the game. Definitely hurt the Riders. In addition, Cam Marshall’s been gone for some time. That was a huge blow. Does that make Rider fans question the fact that the green and white should’ve won this game? Your question of the stamps being hit by the injury bug is a foolish question. Every team suffers injuries — that’s sports. What should’ve and could’ve happened is like banging one’s head against a wall and saying, “Why did it happen? What would’ve happened had it not happened?” Take the victory, but don’t blow it up more than it should be.

  10. Riders may yet find out. Is Roosevelt out for awhile? Is Carter healthy with ankle? If neither are 100% are Rider brass taking a chance on making injuries worse leaving them out for longer period?

    • Question is: How healthy are your Eskimos. I understand some players are out for the year. Earlier, the Eskimos were overachieving. Can they handle the losses at linebacker and at D-line? Has Chick played well enough to overcome the loss of Marcus Howard? Lot’s of questions everywhere, including not only the Eskimos and Riders.

  11. Enough already // September 25, 2017 at 2:06 pm //

    I just made the comment because the article stated that if the Riders face the Stamps again, it would be in November and it would be playoffs. But not so; they meet again in the regular season. Do I think it will be different? Probably not. Certainly not if the Stamps keep playing at their present level and I can’t see that changing unless they loose some of their major components, such as Bo Levi, Messam, perhaps Singleton. Most of the players they lose to injury, they plug a different player in with no noticeable downturn. They seem to have incredible depth with perhaps only a few players that would be difficult to replace. Add to that the Stamps are almost impossible to beat at home. The Riders, on the other hand, are playing much better football but are certainly more vulnerable to injuries because they are lacking depth at several positions, in fact, have some starters that are questionable. One of the Riders strong points right now is that they are playing with heart and energy but I don’t think that is enough to beat the Stamps without some lucky bounces. I guess anything is possible on any given Sunday but I would expect the same results with all things being equal.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // September 26, 2017 at 12:03 pm //

      Calgary is a very, very good team, so you’ve got to “stick” with them, keep it close. That’s where those lucky bounces you speak of can be impactful. If they get a healthy jump, you’re in trouble.

      Ottawa did this in the Grey Cup last year: played their best possible game, and THEY got the big jump, when the Stamps caught up, the Redblacks had that opportunity for a few good bounces to make that impact.

      The Riders defense is clearly excellent, and relatively young. Lots to look forward with that, as Jones certainly knows how to build and deploy a defense. They kept this last game close, as you know, which means that fortunate bounce can happen.

      As good as Calgary is, they are human. A few bad bounces and momentum can carry any team – even a bad one for the other 51 weeks a year – to victory in such circumstances. I would say the Riders are positioned nicely to compete for years to come. Won’t be easy, because the Stamps don’t typically beat themselves, but that’s how it should be. At least the Riders have earned the right to fight for the title, which is more than at least one and maybe both Eastern teams who make the cut will have.

  12. white stallion in red // September 25, 2017 at 2:14 pm //

    We all make mistakes Joel. Don’t worry about it..

  13. Amazing how the ‘perfectionists’ are always there with the cheap shot. Ohthat I never made a mistake or erred in some fashion.

  14. For you greenrider every article on every team ends up a Rider story. But we all need you to keep score.

  15. Whitestallioninred // September 25, 2017 at 11:26 pm //

    You know. If you really look at that game. Offense VS. Defense Calgary had 5 scores and Saskatcwen had 1. We had a shut out through 3.5 quarters. We dominated the stats and had the ball 10 minutes longer. Always had 1the lead.
    Basically we were in full control the whole time.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // September 26, 2017 at 12:09 pm //

      I completely agree. However, that they couldn’t put the Riders away with multiple opportunities to do so – a single TD would have buried the Riders much earlier in the second half – suggests there is plenty of room for improvement from the Stamps, too.

  16. has anyone herd has frank beltre or freddie bishop beig pickup by any nfl teams or are some cfl teams after them

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // September 26, 2017 at 12:07 pm //

      Great question! I wonder if Hufnagel is interested, given the premier status of his current D-Line.

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