Defence sends the Riders to the playoffs

Soak it in Saskatchewan, the Roughriders are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Realistically, it’s the first time they have a shot at winning, at the very least, a game in the post-season since winning the Grey Cup on home soil in 2013.

The Riders booked their ticket to the second season the same way they reached the Grey Cup that year by beating the best team in the league, the Calgary Stampeders, in their own barn. This win might be even more impressive considering Calgary hasn’t lost at McMahon stadium in 17 games. The streak did have to end eventually, and the Riders did it in emphatic fashion on Friday night.

How did they do it? The same way they’ve won most of their games this season: on the backs of their defence with a sprinkling of support from the special teams and plays from the offence when they needed them the most (something they didn’t get last week against Ottawa). Just how good is the defence in Saskatchewan right now? Calgary hasn’t scored a touchdown against them since that thumping earlier in the season. Two straight games they haven’t broken the plane of the goal line. Keeping a team out of the end zone in back-to-back games is impressive, doing it against the team with the best record in the league is even more remarkable.

The biggest adjustment the Riders were able to make defensively was keeping running back Jerome Messam in check. Messam has run wild on this team before, save for a couple of gashes early, Messam was quiet the rest of the night. The defence also covered up for a couple of interceptions by the offence.

Not only did the Riders keep Calgary out of the end zone, they created three turnovers. Those turnovers led to 10 Rider points, add a touchdown on special teams and you have the perfect recipe for success against a good team.

Now, it’s time to get ready for November football.

Game Thoughts

– There’s no question what the story of this game is. Defensive back/receiver/kick returner/ball boy/bus driver Duron Carter will now be remembered forever in Saskatchewan when he intercepted Bo Levi Mitchell in the fourth quarter and took it to the house for the pick six. There was plenty of opinions shared this week on whether Carter should or actually would be playing defensive back this week as Chris Jones suggested. Ultimately he did and Carter made his coach look like a genius. Even without the interception, Carter more than held his own. The night was already a win for number 89 as he didn’t get torched for a big play. Even if you don’t like Carter, I think you can agree the man has earned the right to talk and celebrate as he sees fit in this one. Carter also showed great form on a tackle on Messam. Odds are this experiment was either going to well or horribly wrong. Not only is Carter an elite receiver, he’s just a solid football player, clearly.

– Will any receivers now ask to play defensive back to try and match Carter?

– I’m sure Bo Levi Mitchell is getting it from Rider fans on Twitter who love to hate the Calgary pivot right now for his Tweet but I’m sure he’ll take it in stride. The back and forth as a refreshing change of pace from athletes online. Both guys are good for the league.

– If it wasn’t for Carter, the biggest story tonight would be Brandon Bridge being the quarterback of record to end Calgary’s winning streak at home. Bridge was quickly inserted into the game in the first quarter after Kevin Glenn opened going 1-of-3 for 19 yards while facing a pile of pressure. Bridge is the more athletic quarterback right now and his ability to move was needed to escape pressure and keep Calgary’s defence a little more honest. We’ve seen it before against the Stamps. With a playoff spot locked up, it’s time to give Bridge some more starts, you can always go back to Glenn. Bridge didn’t light the world on fire, but he did enough to help the team win. The question now is, will Drew Edwards get a word in on the 3DownNation podcast this week or will Justin Dunk take over going on about Bridge?

–  The Riders were able to manage the game offensively and let their defence do the work thanks to a revival in the running game. As a team, the Riders rushed for 150 yards, chewing up valuable clock and keeping Calgary’s defence honest. The Riders actually had more hand offs (33) than pass attempts (22). That’s a rare occurrence for this team. They will be an extremely difficult out if they continue to play defence at an elite level and establish a run game.

– I’ve questioned the addition of Chad Owens all season, but the veteran brought it on Friday night. Owens led the team with 78 yards receiving. His mere presence allowed Carter to switch to defence. I’ll eat crow on this one.

– Do I get bonus points for being the only person on this site to predict the Riders win?

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