Playoff spot, check.
The Riders accomplished their first goal this season as they officially clinched their spot in the 2021 CFL playoffs thanks to a 19-14 win over the Montreal Alouettes on a rainy Saturday night at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal.
Of course, the main goal this season is much bigger than just making it to the second season, but you can’t accomplish more if you don’t get there in the first place.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ seventh win of the season.
This game had a very familiar feeling, one from a time that wasn’t all that long ago.
It felt like much of the Chris Jones era in Saskatchewan. A time when the defence was far more dynamic and interesting than the offence. The team was carried by their defence and used the offence to basically give the defence led by the likes of Willie Jefferson a rest.
Is that a sustainable way to win football games long-term? I don’t know, but it worked in Montreal and it’s looking increasingly like the Riders might need to play that way down the stretch to give themselves their best chance at winning the Grey Cup.
At this point in the season, teams are what they are and I don’t see the offence suddenly exploding. I could be wrong, stranger things have happened, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
The good news for the Riders is that the defence does seem to be rounding into championship form. Earlier this year, it was fair to say they were very good with perhaps the odd deficiency.
As a group of new American defenders in the front seven get more experienced with the Canadian game, the unit led by defensive tackle Micah Johnson is becoming increasingly dangerous.
In all, the Riders sacked Alouettes quarterbacks Matthew Shiltz and Trevor Harris five times, they generated four tackles for loss and created four turnovers.
They needed all of it too, with the Riders being beaten in just about every offensive category including total yards, yards per play and time of possession.
If the defence can play at this level down the stretch and into December (which is weird to say) this team will be, at the very least, a tough out. If they can even get just a little bit more out of the offence, it might be enough.
This space has often been dedicated to the offence in recent weeks and with good reason, but this week feels like a good time to switch it up.
This time, the bad was the team’s clock management toward the end of the game. This is the second week in the row some dubious decisions in the final few minutes made a game that looked over far more interesting than it needed to be — though nothing like we saw in Toronto earlier in the day.
On the Riders’ final real possession of the game, on both second and third down the ball was hiked with more than 10 seconds on the clock. In all, some 20-30 seconds was gifted to the Alouettes. As it turned out, those seconds would come in handy as Harris tried to lead the Als to a game-winning touchdown drive in the game’s final minute. With fewer than 30 seconds left, the Alouettes still had a shot. This was time that easily didn’t have to be on the clock.
With the clock in mind, head coach Craig Dickenson declined a procedure penalty on the Alouettes on their final drive, opting instead to keep the clock rolling. But, with the teams already lined up and the clock previously stopped, that killed all of *checks notes* three seconds.
Harris ended up scrambling for a first down on the play. Five yards might have been more important than three seconds in that scenario.
These sorts of things happen from time to time, but two games in a row is a little concerning.
Time to have a little fun.
There are few things that stick more out like a sore thumb and cause a few chuckles than when a players name isn’t spelt right on the back of his jersey.
That happened to the Riders Gary Johnson on Saturday night.
Early on in the game, there was a long shot along the sidelines showing Johnson discussing something with a teammate following a flag on a special teams play.
All seemed normal, except for the fact that his name bar said “Johson.”
— REDBLACKS Caper (@lordele) October 30, 2021
Former Roughriders offensive lineman and current CJME analyst Belton Johnson wasn’t too pleased about it.
— Belton Johnson (@bjizzle56) October 31, 2021
I’m not sure if Johnson was extra annoyed by the fact that he shares a last name with the Riders linebacker.
.@bjizzle56 says he wouldn't have put his jersey on if they misspelled 'Johnson'. He can barely concentrate on the game he's so upset they misspelled it.
— Jamie Nye (@jamienye) October 30, 2021
The good news? It seems the rogue “N” was found by a fan.
We found it pic.twitter.com/xfEfMpu8hJ
— Chad (@neubian1) October 31, 2021
Stuff happens, you just gotta laugh sometimes.