July 31, 2012

Cauz: Riders let another slip away; what does it mean?

Two of the biggest storylines of this young season met on Saturday night in Hamilton’s 35-34 come-from-behind win.

You have the “How you like me now” comeback of Henry Burris, and the curious case of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

A Classic tilt?

Despite holding a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, the Roughriders couldn’t hold off a blistering Henry Burris attack, ultimately falling 35-34 at home.

Game Recap: ‘Cats come back
Video Recap: HAM 35, SSK 34

A CFL worst 5-13 in 2011, the Roughriders came out with a bang to start 2012, but have seen a very attainable 5-0 record derailed by two-straight fourth quarter collapses.

32,898 green and white-clad fans were witness to another virtuoso performance by Burris and yet another meltdown by their own defence. I’m guessing there were many smashed watermelons in the Mosaic Stadium parking lot after the game.
The final 15 minutes are a fascinating study in contrasts that is begging for over-analysis. Also, considering there are only two games going on this weekend I figure that now is the perfect time to pick the bones of the fourth quarter of Week 4’s Roughriders vs. Ticats tilt.

Come back with me to Saturday night, won’t you?

It’s the fourth quarter, the Mosaic crowd is going crazy, Hamilton is about to slip to 2-3 while Saskatchewan looks to head into their bye week with the best record in the CFL.

As a result of the loss, George Cortez and the Tiger-Cats will spend the next 12 days wondering what exactly is wrong with their defence, while at the same time having to deal with the indignity of being ranked below the Argonauts by some short, semi-obnoxious CFL writer who clearly needs to get his head out of his rear end.

On the flip side, all is right in Regina. The memory of the fourth-quarter collapse to the Stampeders is now a distant memory, and the loss will be blamed on something else and not on a dropped pass by Weston Dressler.

Moving on.

The fourth quarter kicks off with a bang. Darian Durant makes it look easy as he connects with Jock Sanders, who effortlessly breaks one poor tackle attempt on the way to scoring a 20-yard touchdown.

Durant did a great job buying time with his feet, giving Sanders all the time he needed to get open.

At this point, Durant has around 350 yards and two touchdowns – he’s atop, or somewhere close – to the CFL MOP leader board.

What could go wrong?

Cue Chris Cuthbert: “But there is another test for the Roughriders yet. Because they’re in very similar circumstances to a week ago. And now they get a chance to correct the mistake of a week ago in the 4th quarter.”

Don’t worry Roughrider fans; Duane Forde is very confident in your chances. I mean really what could go wrong?

Let’s count the ways.

14:02 – Henry Burris’ 52-yard pass to Samuel Giguere plus Odell Willis’ roughing the passer penalty.

Even though the pass was underthrown, this is an easy reception for the up-and-coming Giguere as DB Paul Woldu guesses wrong, stops moving and allows the receiver to come back and make the catch. That isn’t even the dumbest part of the play. That goes to Willis for using his helmet to whack Burris after the ball has been thrown.

12:35 – Burris to Onrea Jones (Yes THE Onrea Jones) for the 10-yard score.

Jones is so wide open that there was either a complete breakdown in coverage or a NBA style pick play has been executed to perfection.

As we investigate further, we discover that door no.1 is the culprit, as both defenders went with Chris Williams. Considering just how terrifying Williams is, I don’t blame them for leaving Jones wide open. On a side note this is the second time on the drive the Riders have allowed a big play on a second-and-nine.

Uh oh TSN has decided to flash up highlights from last week’s collapse to Calgary. I’m sure that’s what Roughrider fans want to see right about now. See Saskatchewan, I’m not the only one that causes you distress.

11:06 – Darian Durant’s lost fumble.

This is the moment when everyone in the stadium starts to officially get nervous. The play is set up by the hustle of Brandon Boudreaux who is initially blocked by Patrick Neufeld but sticks with his rush and manages to sack Durant and force the fumble right into the hands of Renauld Williams.

That fumble goes on Durant, he needed better ball security. By the way Forde just mentioned the word “collapse” … Roughrider fans watching on TV must be thrilled at this moment.

9:50 – Dave Stala’s 16-yard touchdown.

I wish I was smart enough to come up with new ways of writing “wide open”. Because this is already the third time where a big play is made by a receiver who is … let’s try “lonely”.

I’ll go with this analogy; Hamilton’s receivers remind me of an employee of a competing coffee/donut franchise that is next to a Tim Hortons. No one is around them, no one will order from them. Meanwhile, five feet away, there are four lineups all 25 deep with people bellowing double doubles. Let’s just say that during this fourth quarter, Giguere, Jones and Stala look like they’re working for Mmmuffins. Everyone is sitting down at a very quite Mosaic Stadium.

8:56 – Saskatchewan goes two-and-out.

The best way to stem the tide of a hot offensive team is for your own offence to go out, get some first downs give your defence a chance to rest and try to slow down the momentum. Naturally Durant & Co. go two-and-out. Durant has plenty of time to throw on second-and-10 but is forced to lob a long developing pass to Terence Jeffers-Harris for just eight yards.  Credit goes to DB Carlos Thomas who was one-on-one with Harris with a lot of wide open space.

Thomas was in perfect position and did not allow Harris to gain the extra two yards. At this point we all know that Hamilton is coming back, right?

3:26 – Burris with another touchdown to Onrea “Earl Winfield” Jones.

This is a massive gamble for Cortez going for it on third-and-goal from the five-yard line. Hamilton runs the Mmmuffins play as Chris Williams helps lay down the pick allowing Jones to be geographically isolated in the endzone for the easy score.  

Beyond Burris absolutely dissecting the Roughriders secondary (13 of 15 for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the quarter!) this drive was all about Williams.

With the possible exception of an out pattern to Nik Lewis, the most reliable play in the league has to be a Williams crossing pattern. You cannot stop it with man-to-man coverage; he is just way too fast for that.

What has come as a shock to no one, Hamilton now leads 35-33. 1:47 – A curious call by the Roughriders coaching staff on second-and-two.

There has been a whole lot of debate about this play. Why didn’t Saskatchewan run the ball? Kory Sheets had converted a second-and-short just two plays earlier. (By the way, for more on this sequence read Ron Vanstone’s excellent breakdown)

Instead, Durant rolls out and as a result of pressure is forced to throw high towards Chris Getzlaf. Yes, you can argue that Bo Smith should have been flagged but it was a close call.

You never want to rely on the officials to help you win a game. I could easily argue that Smith’s timing was perfect and that it was a simply a good play by Hamilton’s best defensive back.

:34 – Three incompletions from Durant to Getzlaf

On first down Getzlaf, was open in the seam … the ball was too high and behind.

On second down Getzlaf has no chance as Durant’s throw is low.

On third down Getzlaf again has to reach yet again for an impossible catch. Even if he had come up with
it he would have been two yards short of a first down.

Game over. Let the booing commence.

Saskatchewan will be kicking themselves for the next week about this loss. Careless turnovers and inaccuracy by Durant when the team needed him the most as well as numerous defensive breakdowns by the secondary were the root cause of this defeat.

Yes, the Roughriders could easily be 5-0 but these sort of mistakes are what turns a potentially very good team into one fighting to just make the playoffs.