EDMONTON – We’ve seen it all with the Roughriders in the opening third of the season.
There was a three-game winning streak that had a province full of Rider followers feeling positively giddy about their team’s chances. There were some concerns, but winning tends to cover up a lot of issues.
The Riders are headed in another direction after losing 28-20 to the host Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night. It was the Riders’ third straight defeat and those heady days of being undefeated seem so far away. The difference between Friday’s loss and the other two losses was the manner in which the Riders were defeated.
The Riders were in control of those two games heading into the fourth quarter. They surrendered consecutive double-digit leads while falling to 3-2. They had a lead on Friday, but no one felt secure with a seven-point advantage over the Eskimos. Well, the Riders proved once again that no lead is safe as the Eskimos roared back to pull out the win.
“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and learn how to play with the lead,” Darian Durant told reporters. “We were hurting ourselves all game — penalties, jumping offsides, time counts – you name it. We basically suffocated ourselves out there. We have to minimize our mistakes, especially when you’re playing a great defence like that.”
Durant did struggle at times on Friday, but overall he was OK. He was 24 or 34 for 401 yards and rushed for a 27-yard touchdown. There were two interceptions, but it was a fumble by Weston Dressler that hurt the most.
Joe Burnett returned the gift 44 yards for the game-changing touchdown. The Riders have committed three turnovers on Friday. It seems unfathomable that they started the season without a turnover in their first three games.
“I’ve got to do a better job securing the football,” said Dressler. “Ultimately, it ended up costing us the game. Our guys are playing hard and we’re doing a lot of good things out there. We have to find ways to win the close games instead of finding ways to lose them. They’re a good defence. There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 defence in the league right now.’’
Kory Sheets was the Rider’s best offensive player on Friday. It seemed like they were leaning on the first-year running back a lot. He had 17 carries for 78 yards and six receptions for 76 yards. Sheets proved he can carry a team as a receiver and running back. Terrence Jeffers-Harris played well, but concerns about what the Roughriders do if Dressler and Chris Getzlaf are taken out of the picture, are valid. The Riders receivers need to step up.
I’m more concerned about the defence. The defensive line had some pressure on quarterback Steven Jyles, but couldn’t do it down the stretch. There will be some complaining about the secondary, but pressure from the line is where it all starts. So it’s not all on the defensive backs.
So we have another week to study and dissect what went wrong with the Riders. Again. They had better start getting it right because the B.C. Lions are up next and they are a far better team than the Eskimos.