Saskatchewan all but loses chance for first in West
The Calgary Stampeders are the best team in the CFL.
Henry Burris, Joffrey Reynolds and company proved this fact last weekend by coming into a very hostile Mosaic Stadium and winning 34-26 in a place where the Roughriders had lost only once in the last calendar year.
This game wasn’t just any game. It was special. There was a great level of excitement in the air, as there always is when Burris, the former Rider quarterback, comes to town. The fans are always a little louder when Henry visits Mosaic and the stakes were very high for this game. The winner would come away with first place in the division and, very likely, the right to host this year’s Western Final.
The Riders jumped out to an early start and Darian Durant looked very sharp as he tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf. Joffrey Reynolds answered with an 11-yard touchdown scamper and the Riders led 14-7 after the first quarter.
The second quarter brought the game’s turning point and once again brought the Riders special teams problems to the forefront. Luca Congi lined up to attempt a 43-yard field goal, which was blocked by Dwight Anderson. Anderson was able to get to the kicker without even being touched. Congi’s leg looked mangled and he was unable to get off the field on his own. This was one scary play that brought a look of concern among many faces in the stands. Eddie Johnson was forced into field goal duty for the rest of the night and was successful on his only attempt.
The Riders led 19-10 at the half, but were unable to get anything going in the second half on either side of the ball. The Stampeders, on the other hand, looked sharp in all facets of the game. They brought a balanced attack and controlled the play for the entire second half.
Burris was 19/26 for 254 yards passing and Calgary running back Reynolds ran the ball down the throats of the Saskatchewan defenders, picking up 124 rushing yards. Jon Cornish complemented him in the backfield, adding another 53 yards on the ground.
On this day, the Saskatchewan Roughriders had no answers for the Stamps ground attack. The Riders could not make a tackle to save their lives. They appeared to be playing soft and failed to stop the run in the final minutes, allowing the Stampeders to come away with a victory.
The Riders expected a win on Sunday. They had a big opportunity to finish strong and get ready for the playoffs, but came away disappointed. It is clear that no lesson was learned from their loss last week to the Toronto Argonauts.
It is hard to understand why Ken Miller and his coaching staff are so reluctant to make changes. Why is Jim Daley still employed with this football team? Multiple special teams blunders all year long have cost the Riders valuable points in the standings. The return coverage has been poor and the Riders have rarely broken for any large gains on the return. There appears to be zero accountability within the franchise and they have become very complacent. The Riders appear to be playing the same record over and over. Changes will need to be made quickly if the Riders hope to find themselves back in the big game.
Another problem that is becoming more apparent week after week is the Riders’ total lack of a balanced attack. They have failed to utilize Hugh Charles all year and have become famous for their two-yard handoff to Wes Cates up the middle. The team has virtually no running game and find themselves going to the air time after time. As a result of this, the Riders have become the essence of predictability. Darian Durant was 15/28 and tossed 3 touchdown passes. However, this was all overshadowed by a costly fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by Corey Mace.
Keon Raymond also made an interception in the final minute, sealing the game for Calgary.
Many questions have also arisen in regards to injuries. Both Rob Bagg and Congi left the game with season-threatening injuries. The two will have MRIs Monday. Both injuries looked terrible. The Riders lose a deep threat in Bagg and their clutch kicker in Congi, two players that will be very hard to replace.
The Riders travel to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday to play the Edmonton Eskimos, who are 3-2-0 since the introduction of new GM Eric Tillman. The game is not at all a gimme and it is essential that the Riders get back on track in their last three games. They will likely play one of the B.C. Lions or Eskimos in the West semifinal at Mosaic Stadium on Nov. 14.
It is make or break time and we will soon see what this team is really made of.