The bad, the worse and the dumb of the Riders’ 23-8 Labour Day Classic loss to the Bombers

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders/Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ winning streak came to a screeching halt on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium at the hands of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the form of a 23-8 loss.

Normally in this space, I’d write about the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ game, but there wasn’t much good to say about this one.

Instead, here’s the bad, the worse, and the dumb of the Riders’ first loss of the season.

The Bad

Just about everything. The end.

OK, OK, I’ll actually write something.

It’s safe to say the fears regarding the offensive line before the season came to life against the ferocious Blue Bombers’ defensive front. The patchwork line simply did not hold up for more than a drive or two against the likes of Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat.

The bottom line is you’re not going to win many football games when your quarterback is taking hits, running for his life, or rushing throws.

Football can be a complicated game, but at its core, it comes down to play in the trenches. The Riders simply were not good there.

While the offensive line will deservedly take heat for their play, the defensive line wasn’t a whole lot better. Some pressure was applied to Zach Collaros at times, but he handled it better than Fajardo (more on that in a bit). Andrew Harris was also able to rumble for 95 yards on 18 carries.

There has been discussion in the past about whether defensive tackle Micah Johnson is still worth it but I think his absence makes it abundantly clear that he is.

The question going forward is whether this is a cause for concern or simply a one-off bad game? Only time will tell.

The Worse

What is a concern is the Riders’ production or lack thereof in their last two games against the Blue Bombers.

In both this game and the 2019 Western Final, the Riders’ offence was unable to find the end zone against the Blue and Gold. Both games were eerily similar in that the defence did all they could to keep the team in it but they ultimately didn’t get much help. They even set them up with an interception and fumble recovery, but no dice.

Both of those games featured Cody Fajardo at quarterback as well.

Fajardo faced real pressure for the first time this year and did not look good. It was easily his worse game as the Riders’ starting quarterback. He was picked three times and only threw for 211 yards. The face of the franchise admitted he did not play well after the game and will need to be better for the team to succeed.

If the Riders are to reach the Grey Cup for the first time since 2013, they’ll have to figure out this Bombers puzzle.

The Dumb

Oh boy, was this one dumb.

This game got so weird at times it was entertaining in a sick kind of way. Especially toward the end of the first half.

It started with a review on a hit on Collaros. The replay showed that there was contact to the head, which is usually a black and white call. Instead, the call stood as no penalty on the field. I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision, but it feels a little inconsistent to the standard the league has set.

Then it got really goofy.

The Bombers attempted a 47-yard field goal and it was no good. As kicker Marc Liegghio finished up his kick, he made a move into the play and was tripped, followed by having one of his teammates thrown onto him. For some reason, Makana Henry was flagged for roughing the kicker.

It was hands down one of the most hilariously bad calls we’ve seen in some time. It eventually got overturned upon review.

The return from that missed field goal gave the Riders a chance to score before the half. After a 12-yard gain by Jordan Williams-Lambert, head coach Craig Dickenson inexcusably didn’t call a time out. The Riders got lined up but never really got another play off before Dickenson did call a timeout with seconds left to allow Brett Lauther to attempt a field goal before the half.

The whole thing was such a rodeo that Alberta premier Jason Kenney granted it an exception to his province’s new 10 p.m. last-call COVID rules.

Bonus Dumb

You couldn’t help but laugh during the Riders’ last offensive possession when Fajardo hit the crossbar.

Fajardo, of course, hit the upright at the other end of the field at the end of the 2019 West Final. This one was obviously far less consequential but still funny nonetheless.

The good news is Fajardo laughed it off after the game when asked about it, joking that he’s now hit both sets of goal posts, so he should be good now.

The Unrelated Good

You can chalk up another win for players saying what they want in the media leading up to a game.

Earlier this year, Alouettes’ defensive lineman Almondo Sewell said ahead of their matchup with the Edmonton Elks that Trevor Harris folds when he gets hit. The Als won that game.

This week, Bombers’ defensive lineman Willie Jefferson told reporters in Winnipeg that the Riders essentially aren’t for real yet as they haven’t played any good teams. The Bombers won.

It hasn’t been a good year for “bulletin board” motivation in the CFL. The league could use more talk like this heading into games.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.