Make it 10 losses for the Riders this season, the latest a 22-7 defeat at the hands of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a Banjo Bowl that may be better soon forgotten.
The Riders may have lost again but why they lost was different than most games this season. Early on, the defence had easily its best game of the season but it was the offence that couldn’t keep up.
Through the first 30 minutes of play, the Bombers turned over the ball five times and the Riders only managed to put seven points on the board.
“Those situations happen. You have to take advantage of them and we didn’t today,” said interim head coach Bob Dyce.
The Bombers defence deserves some credit for keeping a high-scoring Riders offence at bay. However, as they have been many times this year, the Riders were their own worst enemy.
An old problem returned with the Riders being flagged 14 times for 114 yards, with a good portion of those flags coming on offence. Passes were dropped, kicks were missed.
“We’re not good enough at this point to win a game when we don’t take advantage of all of our opportunities,” said Dyce.
It appears the lack of finish by the Riders on this night gave the Bombers some life.
The home team was definitely the better team during the second half after a sluggish opening two quarters for both teams.
Despite the strong start defensively, a weak Bombers offence did start to figure out the Riders defence as Matt Nichols became more comfortable in his first start with his new team.
“A couple coverage breaks down and they found the holes. That’s a couple a couple of big plays,” said defensive back Terrell Maze.
It’s safe to say that rookie quarterback Brett Smith had the worst game of his young career in the CFL.
Smith never really looked comfortable on Saturday night with only 114 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions. The second interception was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, a play that essentially sealed victory for Winnipeg.
“We couldn’t get anything. It was frustrating out there. Just a lot I need to improve on,” said Smith.
According to Smith, the Bombers’ defence was very effective when it came to presenting him with different looks.
Even though Smith didn’t have his best game, there’s certainly plenty of blame to go around the offensive side of the ball. Receivers were hardly getting open, and Smith didn’t get a good enough level of protection as he was hurried a number of times and sacked four times.
“They bring the house. They did a good job. We did ok at times but well enough to win obviously,” said offensive lineman Chris Best.
Smith also didn’t get the support he did last week along the ground as the Bombers found a way to keep Jerome Messam in check. Messam was only able to rush for 41 yards. Anthony Allen wasn’t any more effective with just four yards on two carries.
With veteran Kevin Glenn eligible to return to the roster next week, the question now will be who starts next week against Ottawa. At 1-10, will Dyce opt to stick with Smith and try and develop his game or will they turn to a more-experienced option?
“You can’t make any decisions emotional right now,” he said.
“We’ll go forward and make decisions as we see fit.”
Smith actually led the Riders with 53 yards rushing on Saturday night.
Linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. had himself a game with nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. John Chick recorded two of the Riders four sacks in the game. Alex Hall and Chick both forced fumbles .
Ryan Smith was the team’s leading receiver with just three catches for 30 yards.
The Riders will likely return to practice on Tuesday before hosting the Ottawa Redblacks next Saturday night.