Riders trick, but don’t treat fans in loss to Montreal

October 24, 2016 - 3:48pm

First off, a shout out to a couple of Bomber fans, Superbomberfan whatever and Bombersjets@Gbushchrist who tweeted after my column last week that I forgot to mention Winnipeg’s back to back wins against the Lions in commending the Riders for reaching the easier, or Winnipeg part of the schedule.

Superbomberfan felt my column had everything he hated about Rider fans.

First overcoming my shock that Bomber fans read, I decided the only rational thing to do was to thank them for reading and urge them to continue supporting their team. In case they didn’t notice, this is a Rider column.

Of course supporting the Riders proved difficult on the weekend, especially if you were sitting in a small wading pool of water watching the Riders pay tribute to Ethel Mermen in a 19-14 loss to Montreal. The loss to first time starter Vernon Adams Jr continued a proud Rider tradition of folding when facing a first time quarterback and dropped their record to 5-11 which may be enough to ensure they get to pick first overall since Montreal and Toronto traded their first round picks to BC and Winnipeg respectively.

Maybe that was the plan in this season of #neverendingtrainingcamp but if that was the case, they could have cut ticket prices accordingly to reflect that. The Riders were confident, probably overly cocky heading into the Montreal game but quickly moved into incompetent with a plethora of turnovers, sacks and dropped passes.

It may be easy to blame the weather for the poor performance, but Rider GM and Head Coach Chris Jones may want to ponder the uncomfortable truth his team is not yet mentally tough enough to compete on a regular basis with the top teams in the CFL.

The Rider defense with its offside penalties and missed tackles seemed to show that it expected Montreal’s offense to be a poorer cousin of Toronto’s offense whom the Riders throttled the week before. The weather then made footing a bit of a problem by making defensive players less eager to commit in case they missed their initial tackle and gave up a big play.

Of course that didn’t stop the Riders from jumping offside and making the field somewhat shorter for Montreal play with. The Riders managed to make high school football look appealing with a truly offensive offensive showing, again highlighted by fumbles and dropped passes and an offensive game plan that didn’t seem to work until Darian Durant decided to run in the fourth quarter.

The Riders brought in Randy Chevrier, a former Stampeder who hated the Riders, to become their new long snapper and while Chevrier would ride mercilessly any kid who showed up in his gym class in Rider gear, he was singing the praises of coming to Riderville to do the long snapping.

The reason for the signing became apparent Monday morning as Dan McDonald, who had handled the long snapping from Jurgen Hus, who went down with an injury, retired because of his concussion history. The Riders seem determined to make the 100 players on their roster in 2016, but in this case, injuries make it completely understandable.

However, the defense was saying before the game Adams would be shaking making his first start in front of a Taylor Field audience, but whether that was bravado designed to gin up fan expectations or genuine bravado that sadly did not live up to expectations is a question for future historians to ponder.

The Riders had six sacks, could have had more, but more importantly had several missed tackles that contributed to the success Montreal had offensively. Adams is a small quarterback who is pretty elusive and helped by the watery mess that was the turf, but the Riders defense had no excuse for multiple offside penalties.

This is where it gets interesting from a generational standpoint. If you are a competent confident team, you have no real reason to blow your horn since your play on the field would do all the talking or taunting that you would need. The Riders winning streak could be read as a sign that continuity helped the players surprise teams, but once you removed the element of surprise, the Riders had to rely on intelligence to beat their opponents, but the steady stream of gaffes matched the raindrops and in the end both went down the drain.

The initial plan was to have the Riders rotate their quarterbacks through, but the inability of the Riders to get rolling until the last third of the game meant Darian Durant was in for perhaps longer than necessary. Jones alluded to the Riders needing to know how to win and throwing a new quarterback in the rain and expecting a win was not fair to whatever quarterback made it in.

The bottom line is the Riders played down to their opponents and while there are teams that do that now and then, for example Calgary, they also have the continuity, experience and players to rise above that, as much as it may pain me to say that.

So with two games against BC, the Riders may look to reexamine what their goals may be for those games. The last game at Taylor Field is this Saturday, and after having sat through a frigid October rain, my enthusiasm is somewhat muted.

The Riders marketing staff would like to see a win or the prospect of a win to salvage sales from this season, but with BC beating Edmonton, BC have their sights set on catching Winnipeg, who beat them twice and who play Ottawa twice in the race who gets to host the western semi-final.

If the Montreal game was about the Riders playing down to an opponent, this final game at Taylor Field is about playing up to an opponent who has a reason to show up at the field besides playing out the string. The Riders had a nice little streak surprising opponents that ended Saturday, now they have the twin pressures of winning the last Rider game at Taylor Field and helping the Bombers by beating the Lions.

Seeing how the Riders have not played up to expectations this year, better not bet the farm on Saturday.

 

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