We knew that at some point a loss was coming. We also probably looked at the schedule and thought that the game in Calgary loomed as the biggest obstacle to continuing the winning streak. However I think we all dared to hope the team would surprise us and continue on. Unfortunately things came back down to earth in a pretty convincing fashion. As disappointing as Friday was, let's look at the big picture. Did anyone expect to be 5-1 at the 1/3 mark going into the year? Did anyone think we would sweep the 2 games with the Stamps? This team has played 4 road games vs only 2 at home. The thought we have had an easy schedule is bunk. 3 games were against the better teams in the league and two of those were on the road. This team deserves the props it has gotten. Now it's time the ship and stop the losing streak at one aginast the Alouettes.
Projected starters: Riders - Durant, Alouettes- Calvillo. Not a bad season when Darian's "worst" outing looks like 20-32 for 279 and 3 TDs. He was 7-14 in the first half so the second half was really good. Yes, Darian got away with a pass that should have been picked off. But he threw deep while the receiver cut off his pattern. Maybe it wasn't Darian's fault so the missed int was meant to be. Did anyone think they would see the day when Darian would be ahead of Calvillo in every passing category. Calvillo's passer rating is 78.3. I know he's frustrated byt as a leader and THE guy on that team, he can't let it show as much as he is. He has almost as many interceptions (5) as TD passes (6). If we were comparing these QBs in terms of career, past decade etc, Calvillo wins hands down. But here and now, Darian is playing better football. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Sheets, Alouettes - Messam After that first half, did anyone think Kory Sheets would put up a decent numbers. Rob Vanstone pointed out that Friday marked the first fumble Sheets has lost as a Rider. Let's hope he keeps up that pace. Messam got his first real action of the season last week with Whitaker down and put up some pretty good numbers. He's a big back which probably has people nervous after what happened in Calgary this past week. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Dressler, Getzlaf, Simon, Smith, Bagg, Alouettes - Green, Bruce, London, Deslauriers, Moore. Same lineup for the Riders since week 4. One positive was seeing Chris Getzlaf get back to burining the Stamps. I can't see any Rider fans upset not to see Richardson in the lineup for Montreal. He has just destoryed our secondary during his time in Montreal. I have no idea who Moore is, and he has no stats to speak off. Want to know where the Als Canadian depth is? They just signed Bamba. SJ Green is the guy to be careful with. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Heenan, G - Best, Labatte, C - Picard, Alouettes - T - Bourke, Parrett, G - Ola, Bombien, C - Brodeur-Jourdain. It's strange to see the Als come to down without Scott Flory playing guard. One of the big reasons that Calgary won the game on Friday was that in key situations, their d-line got the best of our offensive line. I was specifically thinking of the 2 sacks leading to the safety. You would think that hurt their pride, and they will be looking to redeem themselves. On the bright side, the run blocking was back to form in the 2nd half. The performance by the Als line is very unlike anything we've seen over the last decade or more. They are around average in yards per run and in hte lower half of the league in sacks given up. Calvillo has been hit a lot this year. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - DE - Chick, Foley, T - George, Shologan, Alouettes - DE - Bowman, Lavarias. This side of the line also didn't have a great game againt the Stamps. A lot of it was some great game planning and execution by the Als. Hopefully the big sack by John Chick means that he's really getting going. He actually had a pretty good game on Friday. John Bowman is still a dangerous pass rusher off the edge. The Als have 20 sacks but most of those have come from blitzes from the backend. Thank goodness someone on our site posted Lavarias as the other DE for Montreal. Their website fo this game still showed Kuale. Fail!! Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - MLB - Williams, OLB - Butler, Brown, Alouettes - MLB - Emry, OLB - Hebert, Cox. This was the one thing that people feared with the Riders using two converted defensive backs at linebacker. Would we be gashed by the run? Well after a decent 5 games it happened. The Stamps did a great job of scheming to get linemen out on the linebackers. Even when our linebackers were in space, they missted tackles they haven't been missing all year. Craig Butler had a rough outing. Considering they played 5 good games to start the year, there's nothing to suggest this group can't bounce back. This is the strength of the Alouette defense. Moving Hebert to linebacker has been a success. He's among the league leaders in sacks, and he and Cox are in the top 3 in tackles. Actually, the Als are another team using two converted DBs. Just to compare size, Hebert is 6-3, 222 and Cox is 5-9 185. In contrast, Butler is 6-2 196 and Brown is 5-10 185. So the difference is the extra 20 lbs Hebert has on Butler. Maybe the solution is to insert Sam Hurl on first down. Edge Alouettes
Projected starters: Riders - CB - Harris, Miller, HB - Anderson, Maze, S - Brackenridge, Alouettes, CB - Tisdale, (Byron) Parker, HB - (Billy) Parker, Brown, S - Edem. I guess having all the starters back wasn't a great success for this week. We didn't give up any big plays passing but there were a couple of key stops that weren't made. I am specifically thinking of the third down pass to Lewis near the end of the first half where he was ridiculously wide open. The Als have a good back end. Geoff Tisdale has stood out to me as having a good year. He plays tight bump and run style coverage. Mike Edem might be the best rookie defender in the league. Edge Alouettes
Projected starters: Riders - Sanders, Alouettes - Carrier. No denying it, Jock Sanders made a big mistake fielding that ball on the goaline. That play definitely started swinging the game back in favour of the Stamps. Jock had a tough game returning punts, but a big part of that was the Stamps had great coverage. After Noel Devine fumbled three punts, it's not a big surprise to see him benched. Tyron Carrier will replace him. Carrier played week 1 and got a TD against the Bombers. His other returns that day were unimpressive. Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - MIlo, Alouettes - Whyte. Yeah, yeah, Milo's field goals continue to be short range. The bottom line is he still hasn't missed. Sean Whyte's been pretty good too hitting on 16 of 18. Slight Edge Riders
Projected starters: Riders - Schmitt, Alouettes - Whyte. There was nothing wrong with Ricky Schmidt's performance on Friday. His average is about a yard more than Whyte, but Schmitt's net is about 5 yards higher. Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
It's pretty easy to key in on what will be the most important factor in this game. This one really comes down to how the Riders handle the Alouettes pressure. The Als love to blitz their linebackeres. They will do this in all kinds of ways too. Sometimes Hebert will come late from his linebacker spot. Sometimes he and Cox will line up right on the line of scrimmage. That's right, expect to find Cox in the box on most occasions. You didn't expect me to completely stay away from that did you?? From this spot, sometimes one of them will rush, while the other drops, sometimes they will both blitz. Sometimes they both may drop out, and have Shea Emry blitz instead, if he's not to busy punching someone in the junk. The Als will also blitz Edem from the safety spot.
The Riders will have to identify where the rush is coming from and get hats on these guys. When we are in pass mode, Kory Sheets will be a big part of our pass blocking, as well the slotbacks coming down and picking up the extra guy. There will be times when the Als will simply try and outnumber the blockers. In this case it's up to Darian to see it coming and find the hot receiver, who hopefully will have read the play and be ready. One way to slow down the Als linebackres is to crank up the running game, especially with the two TE set and get bodies on them. Rather than just keeping them in the backfield, we mght be able to get Sheets and Sanders out for passe and get mismatches. There should be opportunities to get them out in space. Screen passes and draws, if executed propertly can lead to big gains. It's hard to forget the game in Regina last year when the Riders had a chance to win on the last play, and incredibly the Als got a jailbreak with a three man rush to get to Durant. The guy we want blocked up is Bowman. That's on Fulton and Heenan.
Remember Rob Bagg's TD against the Argos? Pretty cool moment and emotional for the team right? Why am I bringing that up now? Because that's the the last time the Riders scored a first quarter TD. In fact, after the opener in Edmonton, where the offense got TDs on the first two drives of the game, we've only had the one offensive TD in the subsequent 5 games. I think that is enough of a trend to be considered a concern. This is a trend we need to end. It's not as big a deal when the D is playing well. But when you throw in a turnover and a bad start for the defense like last week, it can lead to a hole in a hurry.
When the Alouettes have the ball
The big topic of conversation following the Calgary game and what happened on this side of the ball was have the Stamps provided a blueprint for the rest of the league on how to beat teh Rider defense. Well the answer is yes and no. Yes, the defense is most vulnerable when you are able to get big bodies on our outside linebackers. However the Riders were caught by a blocking scheme they hadn't seen before. Depending on your faith in our defensive coaches, there should be adjustments made to ensure that those runs don't occur again swith such ridiculous ease. There were signs in the third quarter that the Rides started adjusting and containing that play. I know this qualifies in the "well other than that, how did you enjoy the play President Lincoln" category, but other than the 53 yarder late, Cornish was shut down in the 2nd half. You hate to see Butler leave the field, but I wonder if we would consider inserting Sam Hurl on some first down situations to play the run.
Another thing to consider is the the Stamps have one of the top offensive linse and backs in the CFL. How many other teams have the talent to replicate that strategy? That brings us to this week's opponent. The Als have been big on running the ball this year, despite the fact that one of their wins was largely due to Whitaker getting 142. Jerome Messam will be the feature back on Saturday. He is that combination of size and speed that could give our defense trouble. If the Als try and duplicate the double TE set it will be fullbacks Patrick Lavoie and Steve Lambala that probably line up there. I am interested to see if the Als will incorporate that into the offense. They didn't have two weeks to prepare like the Stamps did and are in the middle of the transition from Hawkins / Miller to more influence from Doug Berry.
I already mentioned how much damage Richardson caused over the years. I expect a lot of SJ Green on Saturday. We are better equipped to deal with him this year than in the past with physical halfs like Anderson and Maze. MacKenzie had lots of speed but he always had a rough time against Montreal. Arland Bruce will have to be a bigger part of the passing game than he has been so far this year. Despite Calvillo not being up to his usual standards so far, don't count him out if he gets time to throw. Riders need to get in his face. This is one QB where the line doesn't have to worry so much about containing the QB and can jsut come after him. The Als aren't the well oiled machine they've been in the past. I don't think we need to fear coming after Calvillo with the blitz worrying about the big play. Last year the used the pass to the running back very effectively against the Riders. This is where the DBs at linebacker come in handy. That is not a mismatch.
A lot of eyes are on this game to see how the Riders react to a loss. You can actually sense the eagerness of some rival fans, wanting and expecting to see a repeat of last year where the team went on a tailspin after the first loss. It was tough to see a big loss in Calgary but it was nowhere near the stomach punch of gassing the big lead in 2012. This team should be able to bounce back mentally. That's why veterans were brought in during the off-season; to maintain an even keel and not overreact and panic to one loss. The team needs to do more than just show up to get two points. But I expect a focused and ready Rider team on Saturday. If they come out that way, the way the Als have played this year, the Riders should win.
My score: Roughriders 34 Alouettes 23
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