The Saskatchewan Roughrider Plan: Death by a Thousand Screens

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Roughriders offence squanders opportunity

Despite going down 24-0 early to the red hot Calgary Stampeders, the Saskatchewan Roughriders defence added a pick six and kicker Brett Lauther was good from 56! yards to put the Riders within 11 going into the half. Hope was in the air. Just when Roughriders fans could get excited, offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo began a slow night of torture.

Screens, screens, and more screens

The riders offensive game plan in the second half was, to put it mildly, confusing. Macadoo ordered a mix of short yardage passes and running plays. Throughout the 3rd and 4th quarter Brandon Bridge completed twelve passes, six of which were under five yards on the initial throw and six for five or more yards before yards after the catch. While it doesn’t sound so bad, four of those “long” passes came with under three minutes remaining in the 4th quarter with the score forcing the riders to attempt to step up their passing game.

Lack of audacity disabled the run game

Intermixed with the myriad of screen and bubble passes was a healthy dose of rushing plays by the committee of running backs Marcus Thigpen, Jerome Messam, and Tre Mason. While the Riders run game found moderate success in the first half, it was completely ineffective in the second, with only 29 yards logged between the three backs. Macadoo’s insistence on returning time and time again to short yardage throws was mostly to blame for the poor performance. Because Saskatchewan did not challenge an intelligent Calgary defence with medium and deep throws, defensive coordinator Devone Claybrooks was willing to stack the box. This enabled an impressive defensive line led by Micah Johnson to close the majority of the running lanes. When a short pass or run rarely squeaked through to the second level, linebackers Alex Singleton and Jameer Thurman quickly halted any progress.

Why so many screen passes?

Macadoo’s offensive game plan must be questioned. Why did the Riders go back to short yardage passes throughout the second half when they knew it wasn’t working? Riders head coach Chris Jones may have given a hint during a pre-game interview with that the Rider game plan was conservative in order to limit mistakes. Jones likened playing the Stampeders to playing golf stating, “We gotta be like pro golfers. We gotta hit it right down the middle. You go watch pro golf and they don’t hit in the rough area much.”

The Last Word

Saskatchewan may not have hit it in the rough, but they sure did not hit it 300 yards off the tee. Simply running short yardage passes and relying on an excellent defence to keep the game within reach is asking for trouble in a league where momentum, and the outcome of games, often turn on a single play. Heading into a matchup with an average Eskimos defence that has shown signs of secondary weakness throughout the season, Riders fans should expect to see a more aggressive offensive game plan. If not, it could be a long night at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday.

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