REGINA — Between a changed game day, family visitors and a reunion I was not able to attend the last two home games. Watching the loss to the Lions Friday night was torturous. The game did highlight some Rider problems that I believe will be improved, if not corrected, by their next game in two weeks.
Craig Dickenson and Mario Alford share responsibility for the worst play of the night — Alford’s ill-fated effort to return the wide 38-yard field goal attempt on which he was tackled at the two yard line.
Dickenson said in the post-game news conference that he had left the decision up to Alford on whether to return the kick. He continued:
“I probably should have told him to just take a knee. I’ve learned over the years when you give the returner the option, he’s probably going to bring it out every time.
The previous week Alford returned a missed 61-yard field goal attempt by the Argos for a 112-yard touchdown. That decision to return was a good one as it was the last play of the half.
On Friday night there were multiple reasons to take a knee. It was not late in the quarter. A 38-yard attempt is bound to go deep into the end zone making the return even to the goal line a significant distance. The Riders had already dodged two points by the missed field goal. The single point was insignificant.
As to Alford he has enough experience to know it is poor odds to return a kick deep into the end zone. He knows the kicking team can more quickly cover a kick from 38 yards. And he attempted to make the same return he had run against the Argos the previous week. He started up the middle and then hesitated and tried to go wide right. The Lions were clearly ready for the move. While hard to tell it also appeared from the location of his blockers it was planned to be a return to the left.
The defensive line desperately needs Pete Richardson, A.C. Leonard and Garrett Marino. Without Richardson and Leonard it has been left to Charleston Hughes to provide an outside pass rush. He has his moments but he cannot make up for the injured guys.
When injured it was estimated Richardson would be out four to five weeks. As he was listed as questionable for the Lions game I anticipate him being available for the game against the Elks.
Leonard’s shoulder injury is less clear as he is on the six-game injury list. He can be removed early but the Riders need to credit his salary while on the list against the salary cap. If he is healthy enough, I am sure he will play against the Elks.
Marino’s fourth game of his suspension is the Elks game. He will be eligible to play the following week against the Lions.
I expect the missing trio to be available for the second half of the season. If they are in the lineup the Rider defence will return to being one of the best in the league.
The schedule timing finally turns in the Riders’ favour with their first bye and no more games for the rest of the season with only five days between games.
There have been five games this year in which one team had five days between games. Of these five games only the Lions, in a narrow 34-31 win over the Redblacks on Canada Day weekend, have won. The Riders with two losses, the Redblacks and the Tiger Cats have all lost when they had only five days between games.
It is impossible to understand why games are scheduled with only five days between them unless it is for the purposes of TSN. I appreciate it was bad luck with COVID that forced the change by the Riders against the Argos in their second game but the other four games were scheduled for five days.
We shall see if the schedule hampers the Blue Bomber juggernaut. They will be playing the Alouettes this Thursday which will be five days from their last game.