Monday November 24, 2014

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Rider Insider

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The Grey Cup hangover is officially over. However does the honeymoon have to end as well?

The Rider Nation seemingly slept-walked through the opening six games of the 2014 season, perhaps enjoying one of the hottest summers in years. In case you didn't notice, the Riders went 4-2 in the opening third of the season.

However everyone's wide-awake now, as evidenced by the first sellout crowd of the year (33,427) which took in Saturday's 16-11 win over Montreal at Mosaic Stadium.

If you missed the game - and I can't imagine you did - the score was indicative of the play on the field. Much like the Riders' 23-17 win the week before in Winnipeg, the Darian Durant-led offense had its struggles moving the ball but a late-game 30-yard touchdown pass from Durant to Rob Bagg provided the winning points. It was a perfect throw.

However there were far too many 2-and-outs and some errant throws incited considerable anger amongst the rabid Rider fanbase in attendance and watching on national television. Kicker Chris Milo missed two field goals as well, one of which was returned 122 yards by the Alouettes' Duron Carter for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Hey, the team is not without its problems right now and they know that. They also know they're winning games and feel that should be enough to appease the restless fanbase.

"The offense is a concern," Rider coach Corey Chamblin admitted after the game on CKRM radio. "We want to be a high-flying offense, but we'll look at it and make the necessary adjustments.

"It was a tough game on offense. (Montreal coordinator) Noel Thorpe does a good job of defensive football. It was good defensive football, and both teams had troubles on offense."

It certainly seems to be the early-season trend in the CFL in 2014, along with questionable officiating. For the most part, there aren't many points on the board in football stadiums across the country and it's been reflected in the television ratings.

However the Riders aren't concerned with putting on a show. Yes, the game was bad. But it wasn't all bad.

"There will be a time when the offense is lights-out and we'll need the defense to pick it up," Chamblin continued, noting the length of the gruelling CFL season. "We'll come along offensively and we're playing really well on defense. I saw some sparks on offense. We'll work it into a flame."

Just how they'll do that remains a mystery but that's why they get the big bucks. Having receiver Weston Dressler magically appear from the NFL would certainly be a God-send but the Riders can't count on that. Who they have is who they have, and in all honesty, they're still pretty good. The off-field problems of embattled wide receiver Taj Smith have thrown a wrench into the process, along with first-year receivers Brett Swain and Ryan Smith who are still grasping the Canadian game.

People were upset when the team was losing early in the season and for some reason a lot are upset now that they're winning. However I've given up trying to figure Rider fans out long ago.

They want the perfect game. Every week. However any rational football observer knows that just isn't going to happen.

And as far as the heat on Darian Durant goes, the team continues to have his back. He is the reigning Grey Cup champion pivot after all.

"I think he's the best quarterback in the league," receiver Rob Bagg asserted on CKRM after Saturday's game. "Sometimes numbers don't tell everything but just his leadership in the locker room and his ability to make the play when it most matters. I think that speaks volumes about him. I would rather play for him than anyone else in the league so I'm not really complaining about our offense and as long as we're winning games I don't think anyone else should either."

Capiche?

(For daily Rider news follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)


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