Another Saturday night thriller led to another loss. While Craig Dickenson shared the responsibility between the offence, defence and coaches it has become clear to me that the Riders will not be a good team unless the offence improves significantly.
The defence has been giving up 21 points a game. In the CFL a good offence should be able to score more than 21 per game.
The defence has flaws but, except for Winnipeg, has kept the team in every game.
Penalties, especially roughing after the whistle, had been an issue in recent games but Saturday night the defence had only two penalties.
In their second game against Calgary they struggled against the run in giving up 117 yards. While a significant number they were not dominated on the ground. Micah Johnson said Calgary was doing things off play action that helped them. At the same time he said they needed to tackle better. He said giving up that many yards on the ground was the most disappointing thing to him for the defence takes pride against stopping the run.
At the same time the defence forced three turnovers.
Any time a team gains three more turnovers than the other team they should win.
It takes a more consistent offence than the Riders have at this time. Fajardo, coming off a week in which he spoke of frustration with the receivers and then confidence in the receivers, still looked out of sync on the passing game. Too many passes were not on target.
Having four of the five starting Rider receivers (Schaffer-Baker, Lenius, Picton and Louis) all in their first full season with the Riders has meant Fajardo has been working with a rookie receiving corps. Adding Duke Williams will give experience in the CFL but not with Farjardo. I consider it pivotal that Shaq Evans returns after the bye week. While he has driven Rider fans crazy on occasion with dropped passes he is desperately needed to give Fajardo a dependable target especially on slant and deep routes.
I considered the pivotal moments in the game were the possessions after a fumble and an interception in Stampeder territory.
After the fumble the Riders looked to have scored a touchdown on a pass to Brayden Lenius until it was ruled his heel came down out of bounds. Lenius said he knew he could out jump anyone on the Stampeders for the ball and thought he had kept his foot in bounds. Those couple of inches were the difference between touchdown and field goal.
On the second turnover the Riders stalled when Fajardon overthrew running back William Powell near the goal line on a corner route. It was an unusual call as few routes have a running back going on a route over 30 yards down the field. Fajardo mentioned there was some miscommunication and he does not throw deep often to running backs.
Shortly after the last Rider field goal in the fourth quarter Dickenson had a major decision on third and one from the Rider 36 yard line. He punted and the Stampeders moved the ball for the tying field goal. He said he was not sure of the distance, thinking it was closer to two yards, and concerned about giving up the ball in Rider territory. I was a touch surprised by the uncertainty for spotters and the lining up of the ball should have shown him it was a yard. I give him credit for stating in hindsight he wished he had gone for the first down. There are very few Head Coaches I have encountered who, in a post-game press conference, will admit they made a mistake. Dickenson always gives honest answers.
The Riders had one last drive which stalled when Fajardo was stopped on second and ten after running for six yards. He said it was a designed draw. I thought it was another unusual call to send the quarterback on a running play when they needed 10 yards.
I had anticipated the offence coming together by mid-season. Their next game, the 10th this year, would mark the start of the second half of a regular 18 game season. In this COVID year they are well over the half way point.
The 2021 Roughriders are Cardiac Cowboys and I do not see any change coming in the last third of the season.