It might not be easy being green, but the Riders sure made it look good on Sunday night against the Calgary Stampeders. So good that Chris Jones might have to embrace a new look.
It was just a few weeks ago in this very stadium, the Riders were disposed of quickly by the Stampeders who rushed out to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Riders made the score look more respectable by the end of it, but really, after 15 minutes the game was over.
After a loss to Edmonton and a bye week that created headlines across the country, if you thought the Riders were headed toward another loss, you wouldn’t have been out to lunch. So naturally, like they’ve done so many times before, including earlier this season against Hamilton, they won. We all should have known better. This is what they do.
This time around, it was the Riders who got the ball rolling early leading 24-6 at half-time. Calgary made it seem close late, but the damage was already done.
It’s a win the Riders badly needed too.
Over the last few weeks, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg started to separate themselves as the top three teams in the West. In B.C., Travis Lulay turning back the clock meant that making the playoffs was even suddenly in question.
This week, the Riders got some help on the out of town scoreboard with both Winnipeg and B.C. losing.
It’s pretty hard to call a game in August a must win, but it kind of felt like that for the Riders. They did it and now have some much needed positive momentum heading into an important stretch against teams they’re battling in the standings.
The Riders defence continues to play at a whole other level out there. I don’t think it’s wrong to say they are in the conversation with Calgary for best in the league. Bo Levi Mitchell wasn’t comfortable all night, getting sacked five times. That doesn’t happen very often and it showed. He was making bad throws left and right and never settled into any kind of rhythm. It’s the easiest way to ground the best quarterbacks in football, it’s always easier said than done, but that’s how it’s done.
It’s pretty incredible that Charleston Hughes has surpassed 10 sacks on the season already. It’s hard to say that Calgary made the wrong move letting him go, because they are still so good, but Hughes definitely isn’t done yet.
I would say that Matt Elam is adjusting well to life in the CFL. The former Baltimore Raven had himself a game with five tackles and two sacks. He could have had three but Mitchell was able to escape on a delayed blitz only to run into Hughes.
I’m not ready to say that the Riders offence has arrived, but they took a step forward against Calgary. Their first two drives were particularly impressive. It’s a positive sign for a team that needs to find life on offence. It doesn’t have to win them games, but they needed more than they were getting. However, they still only scored one offensive touchdown and it was technically scored by a defender. They got two majors of defence and special teams, which ended up being the difference, but there will come a time where the offence will have to bail them out. Can they do it? That’s yet to be seen.
Zach Collaros is starting to fit into this offence. It’s been night and day on offence since he returned and this was easily his best game in green and white. That helped the Riders get their first 100-yard receiver of the season: Jordan Williams-Lambert.
At the start of the season, we all wondered if Duron Carter could be a dual threat for the Riders. We were clearly looking at the wrong guy, it seems that’s Nick Marshall. He’s already got multiple touchdowns on defence. Now you can add one on offence after he was deployed early in the third quarter from the wildcat for a rushing major. If only they could have found a way to get him a special teams touchdown. He’s been a little boom or bust on defence, giving up a few touchdowns as well, including this game, but overall it’s hard to argue against moving the former Auburn QB to defence.
Brett Lauther was again perfect and played a big part in the Riders win. It feels weird to write about the kicker every week but it’s such a good story that it’s impossible not to.
The news started before this game even started with Chris Jones spotted wearing something other than his trademark black shirt. Jones did wear the team’s green diversity is strength shirt. I had wondered if he would have a special black shirt with black lettering made, but he broke character for one night. The question now is, will we see it again since he won?
Once again, credit to the league and the teams for the Diversity is Strength campaign. While some might feel the idea is sports butting into politics, I don’t agree. Being respectful of everyone isn’t a political thing, it’s a human thing. I’ll probably get into this more on the Green Cast this week.