Riders follow similar script for fifth straight win (and 10 other thoughts)
Every Roughriders game is different, every Roughriders game is the same.
That’s pretty much how you can start to sum up the 2019 edition of the green and white. You probably could have used that same slogan for last year’s team. Unlike last year, where the team found a lot of ways to win games they perhaps shouldn’t have, it’s a good thing this year.
Other than one game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who some will still put down because it was their first game without Jeremiah Masoli, the Riders haven’t beat “anyone” yet.
That’s not really their fault, the schedule is what it is.
Here’s what they have done though, they’ve beat a bunch of teams that they were supposed to beat (something they haven’t always done) and done so pretty convincingly, eventually and that’s a good thing.
Every week, the Riders seemingly take control of the game at a certain point. Things then tend to tighten up a bit before they pull away and leave the fans feeling pretty good about their team.
It’s a recipe that’s worked to date. They’ve won five in a row for the first time since the early part of the 2014 season.
We’re about to find out if it’s a recipe for ultimate success or not.
Here’s some other thoughts on the game.
Taking advantage early
A big reason the Riders had their patented mid-game lull in this one was their outrageous start thanks to simply awful play from Redblacks quarterback Dom Davis. He threw three straight picks in the game’s opening quarter, leading to 20 Riders points.
That just so happened to be enough to win this football game if nothing else happened.
It’s not unusual for games to go flat for a while following starts like that. The team winning naturally lets off the gas a little and the losing team is pretty deflated.
So far, the Riders have been pretty good at picking it back up again, eventually.
Another thing the Riders have been this year is mentally tough.
Just about every game during this streak, there’s been moments where things easily could have swung in the other team’s direction despite the Riders early success.
That happened again against Ottawa when Jonathon Jennings hit Dominique Rhymes for a 75-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. That brought the Redblacks to within nine following a missed PAT from Lewis Ward. I don’t get why Rick Campbell didn’t go for two there, but that’s another story.
Instead of letting it get to them, the Riders once again steadied the ship and held Ottawa to just two field goals the rest of the way.
Flags, flags and more flags
The Riders biggest opponent in this game may have been themselves.
They took far too many penalties. 16 of them for 186 yards, to be exact. Some of it was minor but there were some poorly timed infractions (holding that wiped out a big gain to Manny Arceneaux) and there were some that were downright stupid (L.J. McCray punching a guy, for example.)
It’s hard to point the finger at Al Bradbury and his crew, as bad as they can be at times, the Riders flags were earned.
Special teams struggles
For as improved as the offence has been this year, I think it’s safe to say the Riders special teams units have not played to the level they did last year.
Marcus Thigpen, a guy who should know better, made a poor decision fielding a punt deep in his own territory and then made it worse when he started running backwards nearly resulting a safety. He got away with it. A good team is going to punish you for that.
I’m sure Craig Dickenson would like to see the cover teams tighten up a bit still.
Another offside call on a kickoff isn’t good, especially when it could have pinned Ottawa really deep. A kickoff out of bounds isn’t good either.
And yes, we’re going to talk about Jon Ryan again. One of his rouges, along with a face mask call, set the Redblacks up for a field goal. The other put Jennings in a better spot to throw the long TD pass.
On the flip side, his big leg came in handy a few times when the Riders had to punt deep in their own territory. The pros and cons of his game right now. I don’t put the returns on Ryan, but at some point the field position lost via the rouge is going to hurt them.
Odds and ends
Cody Fajardo wasn’t brilliant again but he didn’t need to be. His spin move to beat the blitz and find Naaman Roosevelt in the end zone was pretty great, though.
No one Rider receiver stood out, but they did have four receivers with at least 40 yards. Spreading the ball around like that can only lead to good things long term.
It’s good to have Brett Lauther back. He was three-for-four including a couple of longer kicks that were made with ease.
The wave returned on offence. Stop it. I’m saying that led to an offside that wiped a second down conversion off the board.
Also end the chip sponsored tug of war game. It seems like no one actually plays it on their phone.
The Riders now have a big play chain. Unlike other chains that are play specific, it seems this one can go to any one who has a big play either on defence, offence or special teams. Is this another example of a new relaxed atmosphere under Dickenson? Seems so.