There’s one thing the Saskatchewan Roughriders do better than any other team in the league, perhaps better than any team in all of football, and that’s make a game interesting.
Week after week, for better or for worse, the Riders always seem to be in close games. That’s good when the team has the lead, not so much when they don’t.
You could argue for the second week in a row, the Riders turned a blowout into a close game.
For really the first time this year, the offence was the biggest reason the Riders held a 31-17 lead late into the third quarter. Zach Collaros looked comfortable despite taking a few hits, spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers and Tre Mason was having an outstanding game on the ground. The defence kept an Alouettes offence that looked pretty good in early parts of the game in check. The Riders were set to cruise to victory.
Then it happened.
Chad Geter was unable to take Montreal returner Stephan Logan to the ground and the veteran was gone with no one else in sight.
The ball kept rolling from there as the offence went quiet, the defence gave up a few big plays and suddenly the Alouettes offence was alive again with a touchdown. Thankfully for the green and white, a failed two-point conversion made sure they never officially gave up the lead.
It was gut check time again.
As good as the offence was on Sunday afternoon, they again had opportunities to close out the game and make the final few minutes a mere formality. Naturally, they didn’t. Instead, Collaros had a pass intercepted deep in Montreal territory and then Marcus Thigpen dropped what looked like a sure touchdown keeping the Alouettes within one possession after Brett Lauther field goal.
The third time was the charm for the offence who put together a solid drive to close out the game, including a third down conversion to run out the clock. Realistically, it never should have come to that.
Another thing the Riders are really good at? Finding a way to win. They did it again and ultimately, as the old saying goes, they don’t ask how just how many? The Riders are at 9-5 on the season and very much in the drivers seat to host a playoff game at Mosaic Stadium.
Just once though, you’d like to see them make it easy on themselves.
Collaros had his best game as Rider. For the first time this season he surpassed the 300 yard passing mark for the first time in green and white. Yes it was Montreal, but their defence is generally not bad. It’s a positive moment for an offence that has been a drag most of the season.
Kyran Moore has become a great find by Jones and company. On top of his special teams abilities, Moore is finding a home in the offence. It was his turn to have a big game catching nine passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. Good timing with the absence of Naaman Roosevelt.
It didn’t end up costing them the game but this team continues to make curious clock management decisions. This time, just before the half after a big run by Tre Mason that would have put most teams into the hurry up to try and get at least three points, the Riders ran the ball again and then took a knee at mid-field and ran to the locker room. There was no reason to not take a shot at getting into, at least, good field goal range at that point. Those three points (or more) could have made the end of the game a little less stressful.
Charleston Hughes must have heard the Lauther for team MOP talk this week as Hughes was up to his old tricks again making life difficult for Johnny Manziel. Hughes picked up his first sack in three games to give him 14 on the season. Before the game, the TSN panel was talking about the Riders needing to bring extra pressure to make life difficult for Manziel. They didn’t. The Alouettes swiss cheese offensive line made it easy on them as three men were often able to break protection.
Overall though, is it time to wonder about the defence? That’s three weeks in a row they’ve had an “average at best” game. They haven’t made the big play they’re known for in a while. As we’ve seen all season, the defence is the engine of this team and they need to re-find their form.
Speaking of Lauther for MOP, I’m just glad last week’s thoughts didn’t jinx the Riders kicker. Yeah, he missed a PAT but did everything else that was asked of him.