The natives are restless. They demand answers. I can't really blame them. The Riders laid their second consecutive 4th quarter egg as they lost to Hamilton in a game they could have won. This team could be 5-0. They're not. They are 3-2 and I think they are a football team that can contend for first in the West, but work needs to be done. Here are some thoughts at what transpired yesterday
--Richie Hall is taking a lot of the heat for what happened. I understand that. The inability of the defence to stop those crossing patterns with Chris Williams and the fact that Dave Stala and Onrea Jones were constantly open in goal-line situations is very frustrating. However, injuries are taking its toll on the secondary and its starting to show. Nick Graham struggled, Paul Woldu was in this bloggers opinion giving way too much of a cushion to Williams and it didn't seem as if he was meshing well with Terrell Maze. While this was happening, three defensive backs were sitting on the sidelines injured---Eddie Russ, Woodny Turenne and Tristan Jackson. The Riders are scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the secondary and against a receiving core that Hamilton has perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Henry Burris had his way with them. That being said, the d-line didn't make life miserable for Hank.
--Say what you will about Henry Burris, but he is making the Stampeders look bad for making that trade as he is playing some of the best football of his CFL career. Four more TD passes yesterday gives him 15 on the year. Ever since he got yanked for throwing an INT late in the first half in Vancouver, Burris has turned it around. So have the Ti-Cats for that matter
--I'll give credit on this one to Matt Dominguez, but I agree with him totally. Dominguez (who is outstanding in his role on CKRM and CTV and would be better on the TSN panel than Milt Stegall) said after the game that he thinks Kory Sheets needs to touch the ball more. The guy has an explosive capability to his game and Dominguez thinks the Riders need to do what the Eskimos do with Hugh Charles and give Sheets at least 15 touches a game whether it be running or receiving. Dominguez feels Sheets could be that number 3 weapon behind Dressler and Getzlaf. I don't disagree.
--Darian Durant is taking some heat for his performance. Yes, he once again had a costly fourth quarter turnover when he fumbled which I thought was the key play of the game as the energy got sucked out of the stadium, but when you put up 34 points, you should win the football game. Durant did enough to get his team the win, but the defence let the team down. I didn't like the last series of the game when Durant threw all three times unsuccessfully to Chris Getzlaf, but you would have to look at the film to see who else was open. He might not have had any choice. I also thought Darian had some opportunities to run yesterday and he didn't.
--When Taj Smith gets the ball into the endzone, should we refer to it as a "Taj-down". Sorry, that was rather Vanstonish of me! Apparently, we both Tweeted that at almost the exact same time yesterday. He sits a few people away from me in the pressbox so I guess its a case of great minds thinking alike right Rob?
--It had to be a tough night for Chris Milo. He said after the game to pin this one on him seeing the guys put him in a position to win the game. What had to make it tougher for Milo is the guy whose job he took was sitting on the other sidelines. 47 yard field goals are tough no matter if you are in the CFL, NFL, CIS or NCAA, but missing the 38 yarder earlier in the game was one he should have had. Milo has been a little inconsistent this year. That needs to improve.
--Warren Woods of Global and I are thinking the same thing on this. When a team is called for no yards in the endzone as was the case in the game yesterday, they should not get a point if the other team declines the penalty. In what sport does a team get a point when they are penalized. The CFL should change that rule saying there is no point and simply giving the offence the ball at the 20 yard line. Of course, they could go one step better and just eliminate the "rouge" altogether.
--After a 3-0 start, this team is certainly in need of going into pit row to get the oil changed and the tires rotated, but there is no need for an overhaul. Despite the two game losing streak, the Riders are still first in the West at 3-2 and its a great improvement over what we saw last year. The CFL has had many close games this year and there is nothing to suggest that won't change. I'm guessing we will be in for a few more nail-biters this year with games coming down to the final seconds and that is great for the league, but emotionally nerve-wracking for the fans. Get ready, this ride is a long ways from being over. Buckle up!