The good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ ridiculous 12-11 win over Edmonton

Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Just when you think you’ve seen it all in the CFL, the Riders and Elks gave us a genuinely absurd finish that Hollywood’s best writers couldn’t have come up with — even if they weren’t on strike.

Saskatchewan pulled off the ultimate magic trick with a game-tying drive in the final minutes of the game, followed by a mind-bending rouge from kicker Brett Lauther on the kick-off to win the game.

It was one of the ugliest performances we’ve seen from the Riders in the last few years and yet somehow they found a way to win. This was the type of contest they’d often lost in the past, but they got away with it this time. They’ll need a few of them over the course of a season.

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

The good

I’m not going to lie, for much of the night I didn’t know what I was going to put here. Perhaps the good news was that this game was over on a Thursday night with the rest of the weekend open for Rider fans.

In the end, the bright spot was the play of Regina-born receiver Mitch Picton. The former Regina Ram isn’t the fastest, strongest, or most talented receiver on the roster, but more often than not, the guy makes plays when the team needs him to.

He did it again against Edmonton, finishing with 76 yards, including a game-high 39-yard reception, and a touchdown — his team’s only major of the game.

Over the last couple of seasons, I’ve had a mantra when it comes to the Riders’ offence: keep throwing to the Canadian receivers and good things will happen. I was proven right once again.

The bad

Lots. A lot was bad in this game.

On a night where the offence managed just three points through 58 minutes, it took a complete team effort to be that inept. Trevor Harris threw an interception in the end zone, execution was off on some critical plays at the goalline early in the game, and receivers had more drops than you’d like to see.

The play-calling left a lot to be desired as well, as offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey stubbornly kept with the run even when it clearly wasn’t working. As a team, the Riders only managed 78 yards rushing against one of the league’s worst run defences.

The defence itself was fine, which is enough against a team like Edmonton but a few plays earlier in the game could have helped them make it more comfortable. A somewhat questionable holding penalty on a missed field goal return by Mario Alford also wiped six points off the board, ensuring that the special teams had their say in the sordid affair.

These sorts of things happen but what’s most concerning is that this is yet another game during the Craig Dickenson era where the Riders were unable to put a bad team away. When your opponent only manages 11 points and hasn’t won a game all year, it should be a no-brainer win.

Of course, the Elks are professionals too, but just once you’d like to see the Riders put their foot down in a game like this. It’s great that they can compete with the good teams, but a truly great team takes care of business against the bad ones more often than not.

The dumb 

If you are a fan of sickos football, then the final two minutes of this football game were for you.

All together now — yes, ha ha ha, yes.

It’s not too often that Chris Jones getting hit by an official and taking a penalty for it is out-dumbed, but it happened.

With about a minute left in the game, after the Riders had just tied it thanks to Picton’s touchdown and a completed two-point convert, Lauther unleashed a kick-off that bounced deep into Edmonton’s territory.

Inexplicably, Elks’ returner C.J. Sims let the ball roll into the end zone, eventually conceding what ended up being the game-winning rouge.

It was a completely insane finish that is nearly impossible to wrap your head around. Did Sims not know the rules? Was it just a brain fart? The CFL even changed the rouge rule on the kick-off this year to include any kick that goes out the back of the end zone untouched, so even if the ball had enough juice to get out, that wouldn’t have helped the Elks either.

If the Elks still had Sergio Castillo on their roster, I could see some logic in conceding the rouge as the kicker would be likely to make just about anything on the Riders’ side of the field. Getting closer to that point isn’t necessarily a bad idea with a big leg at your disposal. With 36-year-old Global rookie Dean Faithfull, Edmonton would have had to get to basically the 30-yard line, and he already missed a 32-yarder earlier in the game.

Whether it was Sims’ mistake or a coaching error, it will now live on in CFL lore.

Frankly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what we just saw.

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