One of the great things about following sports is it allows for high levels of delusion without affecting your real life.
You can spend all your time convinced the Blue Jays have what it takes to compete with the Yankees and Rex Sox and it really won’t affect your bank account.
But if you have multiple maxed out credit cards and you decide now is the time to start up that Jet Ski rental business to make some “serious cash,” well that’s a brand of delusion that leads to bankruptcy and hunger.
Let’s examine one of my favourite sports delusions, the one where a fan base believes their team is actually really good and is just being held back by a bad coach or the play of one guy.
Now let’s take that example and focus it on the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The easy answer is to blame Greg Marshall or to single out Darian Durant. Fans do this all the time. In their collective minds their team of choice is loaded with talent and is thiiiiiiiiis close to becoming a powerhouse. All you need is a quick little fix and poof let the Grey Cup Championships roll!
With the Roughriders starting out 0-3 and getting outscored by nearly 20 points per game, I understand the desire to panic, and naturally when things are bad you look at the coach and the quarterback.
That’s how it works in football, they get too much credit and they are the target of abuse when things are bad.
Now let’s focus on the sexier of the two. No offence to Marshall, but in this case, Darian Durant and the lack of offence he has been able to produce to this point is the sexier topic.
I went back and watched every failed second down conversion by Durant and every time he was sacked, fumbled or threw an interception. To help me find each particular play, I went back to the game log and cut and pasted every play on a word document.
In case you haven’t checked out a game log here is what it would say for Durant’s first interception against Hamilton:
(12:42) D. DURANT Intercepted Pass S38, R. WILLIAMS Interception, R. WILLIAMS Interception Return (32 yds), Tackle: D. DURANT
The play descriptors are fascinating to look at in a vacuum. They give you the cold hard stats but they really don’t tell the whole story do they? So let’s take a lot at all the missed opportunities for the Riders offence and try to figure out the following:
What does each descriptor tell us?
What does each descriptor not tell us?
How much blame does Darian Durant deserve?
1: (12:42) D. DURANT Intercepted Pass S38, R. WILLIAMS Interception, R. WILLIAMS Interception Return (32 yds), Tackle: D. DURANT
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Darian is looking to break the single season interception record. Maybe the Roughriders should have found a way to keep Renauld Williams on the roster.
WHAT DOES IT NOT TELL YOU: This was a well designed play by the coaching staff to isolate Efrem Hill one-on-one. This interception goes on Hill. The ball was delivered slightly behind him but was more than catchable. Instead it ricochets off of him right to Williams who made a nice play on the ball. No blame on Durant here. This will not be the first time a wide receiver lets Durant down.
2: (10:24) D. DURANT Incomplete Pass intended for W. DRESSLER
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Durant could not keep the drive alive. It’s punting time. (A common theme throughout)
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: This one is on the quarterback. The offensive line did their job giving Durant more than ample time. The wide-outs also executed the play properly. It looked like this was a designed pick play with Hill rubbing off on DB Bo Smith to give Dressler separation. Everything was done correctly except for a poorly thrown ball by Durant.
3: (6:36) D. DURANT Incomplete Pass intended for C. GETZLAF
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Durant and Chris Getzlaf could not keep a drive alive.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: This play was all about miscommunication between receiver and quarterback. Getzlaf had difficulty breaking free from the coverage as Markeith Knowlton had a great jam on him.
Durant thought Getzlaf would be further down field and badly misfired. I put the onus (slightly) more on Getzlaf. It’s your job to get open and be in the right spot at the right time, the best passing attacks are based on timing and spacing. However, Durant should have read what happen and adjusted accordingly.
4: 2:04) D. DURANT Team Loss (7 yds), M. KNOWLTON Sack (7 yds) , Tackle: M. KNOWLTON
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Markeith Knowlton, one of the best in the league, collects his first sack of the season.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: Durant held on to the ball too long. He had enough time to pump fake and look for secondary options. Sometimes you got to either throw it away for use your legs to gain positive yardage.
5: (12:26) D. DURANT Incomplete Pass intended for W. CATES
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Saskatchewan is just not getting it done, offensively. This is the fifth-straight two-and-out.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: This was an inaccurate throw by Durant as he did not give Cates a chance to make a play. This was a rushed throw and overall a bad decision because even if Cates had caught the ball there were several defenders in the area.
6: (5:42) D. DURANT Incomplete Pass intended for W. CATES
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Durant can’t work the short stuff.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: This was all about the brilliance of Jamal Johnson who correctly anticipated the screen pass. Johnson smacked one blocker out of the way and was right with Cates the whole way. This play had no chance to work.
7: (1:56) D. DURANT Run (0 yds), S. BAGGS Forced Fumble , D. DURANT Fumble , M. KNOWLTON Fumble Recovery HAMILTON CHALLENGED THAT THE BALL CARRIER WAS NOT DOWN BY CONTACT. AFTER REVIEW, THE PLAY ON THE FIELD WAS OVERTURNED – THE BALL CARRIER FUMBLED AND HAMILTON RECOVERED.
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Durant’s carelessness stopped the Riders best chances of getting a touchdown in the first half.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: This was the strangest play of the entire game. While getting tackled the ball came free from Durant but it sure seemed like it was after the whistle. The announcers and the players had no idea that it was a fumble. It wasn’t until Hamilton challenged the play. What a heads up play by Marcel Bellefeuille and his staff to ask for a replay!
Credit to Justin Hickman for forcing the ball out right before Durant’s knee hit the ground. Luck and football smarts were both on Knowlton’s side as he came up with the recovery. Good on him for just instinctively picking up the ball, but I’m convinced that Knowlton wasn’t even aware of the magnitude of the play until after the replay.
In the end this is another example of poor ball security, a trait that has dogged Durant throughout his young career. By the way, at this point he is really starting to look frustrated on the sidelines.
8: (00:49) D. DURANT Incomplete Pass intended for E. HILL
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Another two and out. The Roughriders are just not getting anything done. On the plus side Eddie Johnson is getting a terrific cardio workout.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: There is absolutely no rhythm right now in the passing game and Durant and his wide receivers have zero feel for one another.
9: (14:04) D. DURANT Completed Pass to E. HILL S42 (11 yds), Tackle: M. YOUNG
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: The Roughriders are equally as deficient converting long yardage situations as they are the short and medium stuff. We’re a minute into the third quarter and this is the 2nd longest completion Durant has had all game!
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: This drive ended as a result of a dumb time count penalty putting the team in a long yardage situation. Durant was just hoping that Hill could make a play as the pass was completed well short of the first down marker.
10: (9:38) D. DURANT Intercepted Pass H37, B. SMITH Interception, B. SMITH Interception Return (0 yds) , Tackle: C. GETZLAF
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Durant has now thrown his 2nd interception of the season while Bo Smith has his first pick of 2011.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: The offensive line did a fantastic job giving Durant all the time he wanted. This play was about Smith’s ability to recover at the last second and rip the ball away from Getzlaf. Durant under threw this pass as Getzlaf had beaten his man. A good throw and this goes for good yardage. Terrific comeback story for Smith who tore his Achilles last year.
11: (2:32) D. DURANT Incomplete Pass intended for E. HILL
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Maybe you should turn the channel if you are currently wearing green and white face paint.
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: The blame for this play falls on LT Alexandre Gautheir as Durant just got killed by Jamall Johnson, not the first time that Gautheir was beat trying to pass protect.
This breakdown looked more like a mental lapse as he was more concerned about Hickman and left Johnson alone for a beat and a half. Unfortunately for Durant that slight moment of indecision gave JJ a clear shot at the quarterback forcing the bad throw. To be fair to Gautheir, there may have been some miscommunication between himself and Gene Makowsky.
12: 13:34) D. DURANT Intercepted Pass S44, M. YOUNG Interception, M. YOUNG Interception Return (24 yds) , Tackle: W. DRESSLER
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU: Durant has the hat-trick! Marcel Young has his second interception of the season
WHAT IT DOES NOT TELL YOU: Just a horrible throw. But give credit to Bo Smith for his jam on Chris Getzlaf, disrupting the play. However Durant has to recognize that his receiver has failed to get open. This will be the last play for Darian.
Analysis: Looking back at these 12 plays the main culprit has to be Darian Durant. That may not be fair but it comes with the job. Unfortunately for the team and for fans the blame does not just fall on Durant. If it did, the team’s problems would be easier to correct. But I saw a running game that was ineffective, missed assignments by offensive lineman and most importantly a group of wide receivers who were unable to threaten Hamilton’s secondary.
Yes, I know we are only three games in but this team looks and feels like it has some serious fundamental flaws. I hate to say it but the Roughriders are in for a long season. I’m sure I am not the only one that shares this opinion. So without any further ado let the panic and chaos begin!