Rider victory provides great moments
By Greg Urbanoski
There were two great moments in Sundays 17-1 win by the Riders over the Eskimos that make me think this is going to be an interesting season.
The first came on the field when after defensive end Odell Willis got called for a penalty, the Eskimos huddled close to the line of scrimmage and Willis leaned over to overhear the Eskimos play. A couple of Eskimo linemen noticed him and pushed him away, but they were so concerned with what Willis was doing that Edmonton got a procedure penalty for taking too much time to get that play off.
The second took place on the sidelines in the first half when offensive line coach Kris Sweat when talking to his offensive linemen pounded the turf, swore and got their attention. And when you consider there were two Canadian rookies playing the offensive line after Brandon Labatte went out with a shoulder injury, the Riders responded against a strong Edmonton defensive line with enough plays to win.
From an offensive point of view, the game was probably boring. I told the people I was sitting with that this seemed more like a three hour tanning session than a football game until the last few minutes, but if you look at it from a defensive point of view, the Riders played almost perfect in just allowing one point, and offensively, playing after they lose their best offensive lineman went down, they did enough to win.
The significance of the win at this stage of the season cannot be overstated. With Calgary losing on Saturday and Drew Tate of the Stampeders going out with a shoulder injury, the Riders get a break in the race to host a playoff game, which at this stage is likely the western semi- final.
The Riders adjusted on the fly and despite putting in two new cornerbacks who have not played before against some impressive Edmonton receivers, the defense responded with six sacks (by my count) an interception, fumble recovery and a really impressive display of tackling. Now Edmonton has real problems at quarterback, namely they do not have one, and even if Jyles was injured and went back in after Kerry Joseph couldn’t move them, the Eskimos offensive line couldn’t protect them.
The Riders are not happy with the status quo. They are determined to be better even after an impressive win against Hamilton. The defensive performance against Edmonton was exceptional, with not just the pass rush, but the aggressive play by the defensive backs who did not give a cushion to the Eskimo receivers, the no-name linebackers who filled the holes well and the defensive line which got outside and inside pressure against Edmonton.
At first glance, changes for the next game against the BC Lions will likely come on offense. On special teams, Sinorce Moss suffered a lower body injury and was ok in punt returns considering nothing was fumbled. At wide receiver, Efrem Hill was not getting any yards after a catch, which was something being emphasized in training camp.
Justin Harper had a couple of catches, but he has yet to break anything despite his imposing size, but this brings up the chicken and egg argument. Was it Harper who was underperforming, or was it because Darian Durant was getting hit while the offensive line worked through Labatte’s injury?
I was surprised hearing after the game that Korey Sheets had 90 plus yards rushing. Sheets was in tough against a tough Edmonton defense, but overall he did well. Also doing exceptionally well was Patrick Neufeld who stepped in for Labatte and took some hard knocks before settling down and contributing to the winning touchdown run by Sheets.
Chris Mackenzie at defensive back looked like he was either cramping or had some kind of leg injury. He may not be in next week, but again, this is why the Rider coaches get paid the big bucks. After two games, the Riders are better conditioned than their opponents and this is allowing them to wear those teams down in the second half and clinch victories.
While there will be concerns about the productivity of the Rider offense, it should be noted with the changes on the offensive line and the quality of the Edmonton front seven, they did a good job of taking what the Edmonton defense was giving. The Riders got good performances from Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf, but they still need that speedster to open up deep routes against their opponents.
How that works against BC in a battle for first place is something else altogether. I expect next week to be another defensive battle, because the BC defense is just as good as Edmonton’s, if not better. The difference will be the BC offense, which is better than Edmonton’s and has a running game that must be respected. As good as the Rider defense performed on Sunday night against Edmonton, they will have to play better against the BC Lions because BC has more weapons and more importantly, they have a quarterback who can actually play.
And with that being said, a Rider win is definitely possible. BC has enjoyed a great run winning games, but in the second half against Hamilton, they let up at times and only a great drive at the end against Hamilton featuring their running game gave BC the win. If the Riders can counter the BC running game and get their passing game unleashed, the Riders could very well be in sole possession of first place in the west by 5 p.m. on Saturday.
And honestly, did anyone see that one coming?
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