As the old saying goes, winning cures all ills, but coming off a two-point victory over the basement dwelling Edmonton Elks, there are few in Rider Nation who believe that.
Friday’s win extended the team’s streak of victories to three straight games, but none have come by more than a five-point margin. With the offence struggling, receiver Duke Williams has had to haul in an onside kick recovery in each stay on top and the ever vocal fanbase have made their concerns known.
“We’re still getting criticism. It wasn’t like it was all nice last week after the Montreal game,” quarterback Cody Fajardo admitted after sneaking past the last place Elks.
“It’s still tough to go on social media even when we are winning, which sucks, but I’m just very proud of this team. We find ways to win and it is close and it is tight, but at the end of the day, we’re winning football games and we have a chance to host a semi-final game.”
Much of the criticism has been directed the way of Fajardo and the offence, with that side of the ball being out-gained by their opponent in every contest. The offensive line has struggled over that stretch and a consistent deep passing game has yet to materialize despite the return of star receiver Shaq Evans and addition of prized free agent Williams to the lineup.
Nevertheless, Fajardo believes the value of the team’s hard fought wins has been undersold by those watching.
“I think it’s very big for us and especially all on the road, which isn’t easy. I don’t think a lot of people give us credit for that,” he insisted. “Tonight, Edmonton was in their home stadium for the last time. We knew that they were going to give us everything they had and they played well and it came down to the wire, a typical CFL game.”
While far from pretty, those types of victories against adversity do tend to unite teams and are usually forgotten in the final accounting, which is why Fajardo won’t be losing any sleep over the razor thin margins.
“If we were losing the games, I would be very much concerned, but we’re finding a way to win. So yes, we know we can help our defence out, we can help the team out by scoring and going up two or three scores, but at the end of the day, it’s all depends on wins and losses. When people look back on this season, nobody’s going to dive into the analytics of it,” the quarterback predicted.
“They’re just going to look at what kind of record this team had and for us to continue to win games, that’s pretty remarkable in these ways. That builds character in that locker room and builds trust within each other. Hopefully it’ll help us out as we continue to play these last couple of games with some more added pressure.”
On that point, both Fajardo and his critics can agree. Even if the armchair quarterbacking occasionally rubs him the wrong way, he’s thrilled to return to the welcoming embrace of Mosaic Stadium next week.
“It’ll feel good to have the cheers of our fans again, a little bit more of that running out of the tunnel excitement, and I think the guys are looking forward to it.”