The good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ 33-30 win over Hamilton

Photo courtesy: CFL

In the infamous words of a large Swedish furniture store company, start the car.

That’s what the Riders should be yelling after outright stealing a win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday evening at Tim Hortons Field.

For the second straight week, the Riders found themselves losing in the fourth quarter on the road, and for the second straight week, their opponents did their best to ensure the Riders would leave with a victory.

As the old saying goes, they don’t ask how. Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ second win of the season.

The Good

There’s no question that this team is mentally stronger than the editions we’ve seen over the last couple of years. Their depth may be better as well.

Coming back from double-digit deficits in back-to-back weeks on the road is no easy task. It’s something that even the best teams can’t accomplish often — mostly because they wouldn’t find themselves in that situation to begin with.

You need big-time plays from your big-time players to pull off late comebacks. With the game on the line, Trevor Harris made the throws and his receivers made the plays.

Jerreth Sterns sacrificed his body to get the drive going. Then, Canadian superstar Kian Shaffer-Baker took over with a couple of big catches in the game’s dying minutes, including the game-tying touchdown with some 40 seconds left on the clock.

Both Sterns and Shaffer-Baker finished the game with over 100 yards receiving each, stepping up following the injury to last week’s star Shawn Bane Jr. The goal is to have the big plays come from anyone at any time. So far, so good for the Riders’ offence.

The Bad

Head coach Corey Mace should sleep better thanks to this win, because a loss may have sat on his shoulders.

Coming into this season, a big focus for the first-year head coach was making sure the team didn’t take as many penalties as they did over the last two years — especially bad penalties at bad times.

So far, not so good on that front. Against Hamilton, Mace’s squad was flagged 11 times for 115 yards, which is higher than the six penalties for 84 yards the team racked up last week against Edmonton.

Mace suggested accountability would be required from those who were consistently penalized. To this point, nothing much has changed from previous years.

That’s not the only thing hanging over the coach. Last week, the Riders signed defensive back Marcus Sayles after he was released by the B.C. Lions. It was a rough night for Sayles and for the secondary as a whole, as Ticats QB Bo Levi Mitchell torched the Riders’ defence for several explosive plays.

It could have been much worse if Hamilton’s Tim White hadn’t dropped so many passes, including on the interception that led to Brett Lauther’s game-winning kick.

The defence wasn’t an issue against Edmonton last week, was a change in the secondary necessary? Was Sayles comfortable enough with the defence? When something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Mace is a rookie head coach, so there’s bound to be some learning for him along the way as well. These may be the first important lessons.

The Dumb

You can file this under something that isn’t seen every day.

A huge moment in this game came in the third quarter when Hamilton running back James Butler fumbled and C.J. Reavis recovered it. The Riders were poised to take over deep in Hamilton territory, except for one minor detail.

In the scramble for the ball, Reavis lost his helmet before recovering the fumble. After automatic review, the strong-side linebacker was flagged for illegal participation and Hamilton kept possession. Two plays later, the home team scored to once again make it a 10-point game.

It’s a weird wrinkle in the rulebook. Generally speaking, players shouldn’t continue playing without a helmet on for obvious reasons. But in a split-second moment at the bottom of a pile when the ball is already within reach, does it make that much of a difference? I’m not sure. Reavis is just as likely to get hurt there whether he goes for the ball or not.

The rule was correctly enforced and it wouldn’t have been what cost the Riders the game had they lost. It’s also unlikely to ever happen again. I’m not sure if it’s worth looking into a tweak to the rule, but maybe it is.

At the very least, it’s a good wake-up call for everyone to make sure your helmet is properly secured.

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