DAVIS: Riders embarassing showing in Winnipeg cause for much concern

The Saskatchewan Roughriders were horrible.

They did virtually nothing right on offence, defence or special teams while getting obliterated 31-0 by the home-town Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday. In a pivotal CFL game between two teams on three-game winning streaks, the Roughriders were so unproductive they have to be concerned about their ability to bounce back from such an embarrassment.

Here’s the biggest issue: Saskatchewan’s offence hasn’t scored a touchdown in nearly two-and-a-half games with a receiving corps that has, in one year, declined from one of the CFL’s best groups to its worst. High-priced quarterback Zach Collaros didn’t seem willing in curt post-game interviews to explain the issues or take much blame, while head coach Chris Jones, guard-turned-centre Brendon LaBatte and defensive end Charleston Hughes acted like leaders and pointed the fingers at themselves.

There were numerous ready-made excuses, including the absence of their only receiver remaining from last season’s group (Naaman Roosevelt), a patchwork offensive line that was missing centre Dan Clark and lost right guard Dariusz Bladek during the game, plus a crappy CFL schedule that forced them for a fifth time to play a road game after a shortened week (Saskatchewan had four days between games; Winnipeg had seven).

So it was little surprise the Roughriders didn’t look prepared for a game that could have helped them earn a home playoff game.

With a postseason berth already clinched they were totally flat from the opening minutes, when Collaros (who was 8-for-19 for 69 yards with two interceptions before being replaced by Brandon Bridge early in the third quarter) connected with rookie receiver Kyran Moore. Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill knocked the ball from Moore’s hands to Winnipeg defensive back Anthony Gaitor, who ran 45 yards for a touchdown.

Those were the winning points. Out-gained 346 to 195 yards, the Roughriders never even got close enough to attempt a field goal, ending 12 of their 17 offensive possessions with a punt and four others with a turnover.

The defence and special teams have carried the Roughriders to their 10-6 record. Game-winning plays by defensive ends Willie Jefferson and Hughes and defensive backs Ed Gainey and Nick Marshall, plus kick-return touchdowns by Christion Jones, Marcus Thigpen and Moore have nearly hidden the fact that Saskatchewan’s anemic offence ranks seventh in producing points.

The concern with the Roughriders throughout the season has been this: What happens when the special teams and defence perform as badly as the offence? The answer is this: 31-0.

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