There’s an old myth that exists in CFL circles, that some believe, that the season doesn’t really start until Labour Day.
It’s a hold over from a time when games before then were barely on TV and the fact we’ve seen some teams go on incredible rolls down the stretch to make the playoffs, go on a run and even win the Grey Cup.
So, whether you believe in that or not (I don’t), it’s difficult to consider a week six game a “must-win” but that’s essentially what Saturday afternoon/evening’s game against the Toronto Argonauts was. The Argos came into the game having just played a tough, injury-riddled contest against the Ottawa Redblacks on Monday. Even though Toronto has been the better team most of the season, circumstances made the Riders three and a half point favourites.
Considering the Lions and Eskimos are on the horizon for the green and white, a win was paramount for a franchise that hasn’t exactly lit up the win column the last few years. A loss to a tired Argos team could have said a lot about this year’s edition and it possibly could have left them with just one win heading into their annual match up with the Bombers on Labour Day weekend. The mood around Riderville certainly would have been ugly.
Instead, for the first time in a while, the team did what it was supposed to do and win a game they had to win against a vulnerable opponent who might otherwise have been the favourites. So, it’s an up week in Saskatchewan. The next three weeks certainly won’t be easy but at least there’s something build off of.
– Early on it seemed like the Riders were destined to repeat their start from last week in Calgary. The only reason Ricky Ray broke a sweat in the first quarter and a bit was because it was incredibly hot in Regina. Chris Jones unsuccessfuly deployed a three-man rush more often than not on second down early, resulting in plenty of first downs, a field goal and a touchdown. To Jones’ credit, unlike other games when sending fewer than four rushers didn’t work, he adjusted. After Toronto took a 10-0 lead, Jones sent four or more, more often than not and the pressure on Ray increased as the game went on. Not surprisingly, the Riders defence also got better as the game went on. Toronto was outscored 35-17 after the first quarter. This team does have to learn to start games better.
– The Riders have been waiting for that game from Duron Carter. The former Alouette made highlight reel after highlight reel catch on Saturday night, including a jaw dropper for a touchdown that may go down as one of the more incredible catches you’ll ever see. Every year Carter has games where he is basically unstoppable, we just didn’t see it in Saskatchewan until now. His issue has always been doing it more often. The good news for the Riders is they have enough wealth at receiver that they don’t need him to, though, I’m sure they would love to see him do it more.
– Carter wasn’t the only one to put on a show Saturday, Naaman Roosevelt, Bakari Grant and S.J. Green certainly made their presence felt which is always fun to watch. The talent level in the CFL is incredibly high right now, especially at receiver.
– It was good to see the Riders run the ball up against a team on a short week. Stephen McAdoo isn’t known for a bruising ground game but circumstances certainly made it a good idea. Cameron Marshall touched the ball 18 times for 110 yards. That kind of balance could take a lot of pressure of Kevin Glenn going forward and help the offensive line. The running game was noticeable against Hamilton, a game they also won. Something to keep in mind.
– Willie Jefferson was again a beast with nine tackles, a sack and a knockdown. There’s no better player to watch on the defence for Saskatchewan than Jefferson.
– I have to say, I like Corey Chamblin’s defence in Toronto. Looks nothing like the defence he rolled out in his final year in Saskatchewan. The talent is better but he’s not allergic to trying to pressure the quarterback either. It’s good to see him learn. Things spiralled out of control in Saskatchewan but I do think he can be a good coach.
– I absolutely loved the onside kick call early in the fourth quarter after the Riders had just taken a three point lead. Not only was it perfectly executed and Toronto was not ready for it at all, but it showed some guts. Jones and Craig Dickenson were playing to win. I will always support that.
– Tyler Crapigna hasn’t missed a field goal since Week 2, in case you were wondering.
– Incredible gesture by the Roughriders to bring Joe McKnight’s family to the game where they honoured the running back. McKnight was tragically shot and killed over the winter. McKnight didn’t spend much time in green and white but it’s clear that he left a huge impression. Hopefully his family sees justice. That trial is set to begin next month.