The Calgary Stampeders are not the Toronto Argonauts and the Riders found that out in a big way on Saturday night.
From pretty much the opening kick-off to the final whistle, the Riders had no answer for anything the Stamps were doing on offence or defence (their special teams had some moments but that alone won’t win you football games) and now they head into their bye week with a bad taste in their mouth.
Was it the short week? Maybe, but that’s no excuse. Calgary has had to raid their practice roster many times over this season already due to injury, including their superstar quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
In their previously losses, the Riders were at least competitive. They weren’t against Calgary. It happens, but they can’t let it become habit. Otherwise, things will get away from them this season very quickly.
Here’s some thoughts on the game.
1. Letting them off the mat
As lopsided as the score ended up being, there was a point in time where the Riders actually had things going their way and could have turned the game around.
It was 15-10 in the third quarter when punter Jon Ryan bounced one deep into Calgary territory, where a holding penalty had the Stamps starting at their two yard line. The Riders were having a pretty good quarter to that point, then a PI call brought Calgary 40 yards up the field. Four plays later, the Stamps were celebrating in the end zone.
That drive was pretty much a microcosm of the Riders’ night defensively where they routinely gave up explosive plays and let Nick Arbuckle work with ease up and down the field most of the night.
The Stamps followed up that drive with a pick-six from Tre Robertson and it was lights out.
Those are the kinds of moments a team needs to capitalize on and Riders didn’t and lost because of it.
2. A sprinkle of something else
Riders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo was quoted following their win over the Argos that he’s had a “sprinkle of Jesus” with him lately following nearly 800 yards passing through his first two starts.
That wore off pretty quickly as Fajardo faced his first road bump as this team’s starting quarterback. A banged up offensive line was unable to give Fajardo much support as Calgary was routinely in his kitchen, leading to some bad decisions by the pivot.
Fajardo finished the night with just 89 yards passing, a far cry from his last two games. Isaac Harker made his way into the game following the Robertson touchdown in what was more than likely a mercy pull than anything else.
It was only a matter of time before Fajardo had a rough outing. How he responds will tell us a lot about him.
He’s still earned the right to get another chance on the other side of the bye week.
3. Special teams sound
As mentioned, if there was one positive for the Riders, it was the play of their special teams — most notably their kick-off return unit.
Louchiez Purifoy returned the second half kick-off 68 yards, setting up the Riders’ lone touchdown of the game. He had another good return later in the half.
Ryan seems to be settling in as a punter in the CFL again and their cover units were fine.
No one will take much solace in their performance, though.
4. Coaching decisions
There were some decisions made by the coaching staff that left me scratching my head a little bit.
Given the situation, head coach Craig Dickenson probably should have challenged the pass interference call on defensive back Solomon Means. I honestly don’t know if he would have won the challenge or not, but given how backed up Calgary was and how important that series was, it would have been worth the gamble.
Even though the game was likely out of reach anyway, the decision to kick a field goal down 20 with about seven minutes left wasn’t great. One fan made his feelings felt by loudly yelling “you need 20, you idiots.” Yes, in the CFL there was plenty of time left, but not at the speed the offence was moving.
Speaking of the offence, it wasn’t a banner night for offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo, either. After a pretty good start to the season, he fell back into some old habits. The play calling down in the fourth quarter especially left a lot to be desired since time was not on their side.
The number of people making their way to CFL games is a talking point across the league right now and Saskatchewan isn’t immune to it.
29,147 was announced as the paid attendance for this game, but the number of people at the game was probably lower than that. That’s also down about 1,000 people from the home opener against Toronto.
8:00 PM starts can be difficult for some and the Riders did make this a “premium” game, thus increasing the price of tickets. An already expensive outing is only made more pricey. Frankly, only one game a season should probably be a “premium” game at this point. Sell-outs are not the norm anymore.
It’s not a concerning number but it’s not a positive sign for what’s to come later in the season when numbers tend to drop in October and beyond. If numbers don’t improve around here, could be it a wake up call for the league?
6. Gainer is back (kind of)
I guess I lied, there was another positive. Gainer got another makeover, with a new set of eyes.
He looks much better now and the video the team rolled out pre-game to announce the change was well done.
That said, maybe the green eyes were the key to victory?