The good, the bad and the dumb of the Riders’ 31-21 loss to Toronto

Photo courtesy: CFL

On a night where the power went out at the end of the game, you’d expect me to make a joke about the Saskatchewan Roughriders only mustering 165 yards of net offence.

Not today.

As the old saying goes, this isn’t the moral victory football league, but that game was about as close as you could get to one.

Yes, the Riders lost their second in a row to the Toronto Argonauts but if you’re a Rider fan, you probably shouldn’t be feeling too angry or upset. All things considered, with the number of players missing from this game due to injury, suspension, or COVID-19 — including starting quarterback Cody Fajardo — they should have been steamrolled by the Argos.

Instead, we got a wonderfully dumb and mostly entertaining football game that was worth attending or watching on TV. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ third loss of the season.

The Good

Coming into this game, I was told by some it would be difficult to find the good considering the Riders were without the likes of Fajardo, Duke Williams, and AC Leonard. The general expectation around Saskatchewan was that the home team was probably going to have a rough night.

Instead, they fought the double blue until the bitter end. I think it was pretty clear in the final few minutes of the game that the Riders didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to close it out, letting the Argos escape with the win.

While they missed Fajardo and company and their presence likely would have made a difference, the overall approach didn’t change too much. They were the same Riders we’ve seen all year, just not quite as good.

What I particularly liked was Craig Dickenson’s decision to go for it on third-and-three late in the first half with his third-string quarterback at the helm. Jake Dolegala ultimately ran for the first down and it led to the team’s first touchdown of the game two plays later.

Without that, I think the game could have spiralled out of control for the green and white. Instead, it was a needed confidence boost for a team that was hanging around but was definitely missing something.

The Bad

It’s not too often you struggle to find the bad in a loss, but that’s how I feel after this game.

It certainly wasn’t the best game the Riders ever played and under different circumstances, you’d look at some of the things that happened a little differently.

If there’s one thing you could point to that let the Riders down against the Argos, it was the running game.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve learned a lot about the Riders’ identity on offence. They’re going to play a heavy game, leaning on the defence, wearing them down. We didn’t really see that against the Argos.

Of course, the Argos knew the Riders were going to need their run game in order to be successful with their third-string quarterback under centre. They deserve credit too, but the sign of a truly good running game is one that can still run when everyone in the world knows they’re going to.

The Riders weren’t able to do that against the Argos, managing just 43 net yards of rushing.

If there’s one thing you should be concerned about, it’s that.

The Dumb

Oh boy, this one was dumb. It was a game for sickos like me who enjoy it when things get weird.

This game took a sick turn in the final minute of the first half when, for some reason, Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie decided to attempt a 61-yard field goal with one of the league’s least consistent placekickers. He did so against a team that had done little to nothing on offence to that point and was playing a good chunk of their practice roster on offence.

Simply put, there was no reason whatsoever for that field goal attempt. Either punting or going for it would have been a far better option.

Sometimes bad decisions work out and good decisions don’t. In the end, it’s the process that matters and making the right decision will eventually pay off in the long run.

In this case, the bad decision didn’t work out and you love to see it.

Mario Alford — who we’ll get back to — took the missed kick to the house and gave the Riders the lead heading into the half. At that moment, an understandably subdued Mosaic Stadium was alive and everyone knew it was game on in the second half.

On most nights, that would be enough for this section. Instead in the second half of this game, we were treated to a fumble return touchdown from Charleston Hughes being called back because he batted the ball forward — a play which would have stood had he kicked it instead. Dickenson had to throw the rare challenge flag for no yards, Dinwiddie challenged a spot in a pile where you could never see the football, Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was sacked on a flea flicker and the Argos turned over the ball five times, including a couple of short-yardage stands by the Riders.

The game fittingly came to an end on another dumb play. On the kick-off following the Argos’ go-ahead field goal in the final minute, Alford inexplicably kept running backward after what looked like a fine return at first. He eventually fumbled the ball fighting for yards and the Argos scored for the backdoor cover.

And then the lights went out. Literally.

Few sports can match football when it comes to pure unbridled dumb chaos. Sunday night at Mosaic Stadium was a perfect example. It was great.