You may have noticed that the game recaps that we have been doing didn’t come out for either game on Saturday. That is because we have decided to stop doing those and instead do takeaways from the game. Here are six takeaways from the Saskatchewan Roughriders 23-10 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks.
Note: Game leaders for stats and 13th Man Sports Player of the Game will continue as normal at the bottom of this article.
Matt Nichols Not To Blame
One of the most popular takes on social media during the game was that the Redblacks either made a mistake by going with Matt Nichols in the offseason or that they should bench him in favour of Dominique Davis, the same quarterback that fans wanted to be shot into the sun in 2019. To me, there are a bunch of different people that should be blamed for the Redblacks’ offence, but Nichols isn’t at the head of that.
Nichols absolutely wasn’t perfect on the night. He made mistakes including a really poor decision to throw a 50/50 ball up between Nate Behar and Ed Gainey, a matchup that quite clearly favours the Roughriders. To me, Nichols looked alright otherwise. He was 19/24 passing for 176 yards and made a couple of nice throws down the field that he couldn’t make in week one. He looked healthy again.
Some fans continue to believe that he isn’t healthy on the basis of his inability to move outside of the pocket, but that’s never been something he has been good with. That’s where having an offensive line that can block and receivers that can get open come into play. No quarterback is ever going to look good when neither of those things happens, and no, putting Davis in likely won’t change anything when the opposing team can rush three and still get pressure on the QB. Nichols has been sacked 11 times in two games this season. There’s not a quarterback in the world that can look good while that happens.
Riders’ Offence Can Be Stopped
The Roughriders came into this game looking virtually unstoppable on offence, but we saw in this game that they can be slowed down. In many CFL games, you should be able to win if you can hold your opponent to fewer than 25 points, but that obviously isn’t the case for the Redblacks who can’t find anything offensively. Of course, the Redblacks do have a very good group on the defensive side of the ball, but they have built the blueprint on how to slow down Cody Fajardo and the Roughriders’ offence.
The Redblacks tackled well, stopped the run, and didn’t give up the big plays. That’s not something that is easy to do against a team like the Roughriders with how good they are on offence. In any other situation, the Riders may have been in some trouble. Any other offence in the CFL right now (other than potentially Hamilton) would have scored some points and possibly won the football game.
It was Ottawa and they were able to coast to the finish knowing that it would take a small miracle for them to score two touchdowns with how they looked on the day, but they probably won’t be so lucky the next time. Nothing was really working for them offensively, and they will need to work on some things before Winnipeg comes to town in week five.
Redblacks Can Hang With the Big Boys
While the Redblacks’ offence struggled big time in this game, there are a couple of positives for the team to cling onto right now. One of those being that in this game, they proved that they can compete with one of the best teams in the league, and if they can figure things out offensively, they might be able to be a decent football team.
“We faced a really good football team,” said Redblacks’ Head Coach Paul LaPolice in his post-game media availability. “We had to overcome some adversity and we gotta score more points. We actually were in scoring range a couple of times and we took ourselves out of field goal range twice and we could have put at least six more points on the board if we just didn’t take a sack, so those are mistakes we can’t make.”
“As I told the player, I’m not happy with what happened, but I’m proud of this team. Defensively, we did a great job against [the Roughriders]. Offensively, when we had multiple injuries, DeVonte Dedmon went in and did an outstanding job with very limited reps at tailback when [Timothy] Flanders went down.”
Things to build on for sure for LaPolice and the Redblacks.
Redblacks’ Offensive Line Isn’t Good Enough
This goes without saying for a group that has given up 11 sacks in two games and connects right back to Nichols’ struggles. I’m no expert on offensive line play so I won’t try to diagnose exactly what’s wrong or who is to blame exactly, but I will say that it needs to be better and leave it at that. You can’t win games if your quarterback is constantly under duress, just ask the Kansas City Cheifs and Patrick Mahomes what happened in the Super Bowl last season.
Riders Are Currently the Best Team In the CFL
We haven’t put out our power rankings for this week yet, but here’s a bit of a spoiler, the Riders were ranked number two last week, and they moved up a spot. They have a defence capable of winning their team games as we have seen in all but one half of football against the B.C. Lions in week one and one of the best offences in football, although that can be slowed as we now know. Most of the questions we have about the Roughriders have been answered, and they now look like Grey Cup favourites three games into the season.
Passing Yards: Cody Fajardo (SSK): 321
Rushing Yards: Cody Fajardo (SSK): 42
Receiving Yards: R.J. Harris (OTT): 101
Touchdowns: Cody Fajardo (SSK), DeVonte Dedmon (OTT): 1
Tackles: Avery Williams (OTT): 9
Special Teams Tackles: Randall Evans (OTT), Tyron Vrede (OTT), Matthew Thomas (SSK): 2
Sacks: Garrett Marino (SSK), Jonathan Woodard (SSK): 2
Interceptions: Ed Gainey (SSK): 1
13th Man Sports Player of the Game
POTG: Brett Lauther
5/5 on field goals, long of 44