Continuing with the CFL Talking Points series, Last Word On Canadian Football writer Thomas Gunther is back to cover the latest match-up between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Redblacks. With Ottawa pushing to keep control of the East and the Riders looking to continue their winning streak the game was hotly contested right from the opening kickoff. Ultimately the match would go to overtime where the clutch kicking of Tyler Crapigna would give the Riders a 32-30 win. Gunther addresses the big questions raised by the game as well as his overall impression of each team. For last week’s recap, you can click here. Let’s get started with the key takeaways in the CFL Week 16 Talking Points.
CFL Week 16 Talking Points
Questions and Takeaways
1) The Riders have won four straight and suddenly look like a competitive football team. Have the Riders turned their season around?
Thomas Gunther: Fans of the Green and White should certainly take this opportunity to enjoy the play of their football team for the third consecutive week. While the Riders are still committing frustrating penalties in critical situations they are also rising above them, something they were unable to do before. With the defence looking more and more like the Chris Jones‘ defences of old and a suddenly potent ground game, the Riders are set to reclaim a measure of respect in the CFL.
2) With the Redblacks grasping for momentum head coach Rick Campbell made a switch at quarterback, taking out Trevor Harris and inserting Henry Burris. Was this the correct call?
TG: It would have been crazy to think Harris would ever be pulled for lack of production after his hot start to the season, yet that’s exactly what happened tonight. Despite having four 1000 yard receivers and a reliable ground attack Harris struggled to get the ball out against an ultra-aggressive Saskatchewan defence. With Darian Durant and the Rider offence slowly picking up steam Campbell played his wild card and subbed in the 41 year-old Burris. The results started off poor as Burris tossed a pick shortly into his first drive, but then the future Hall of Famer caught fire and pushed his team to within 2 points of an unlikely victory. For this game at least the switch was undoubtedly the right move, but next game, that will be something fans debate all week.
3) With only four games left for each club, what does the playoff picture look like for the Riders and Redblacks?
TG: It’s important to state this clearly before the hype gets out of hand, it’s nearly impossible for the Riders to make the postseason. While not mathematically eliminated the Riders require the Edmonton Eskimos to lose out while winning out themselves, and this only matters if the third place team in the East doesn’t surpass seven wins. On the flip side, the Redblacks are the best of a bad bunch in the East with no team able to claim a winning record through 16 weeks. That said, the Redblacks are still #1 in the division and should make the postseason if they can get at least two more wins.
4) Top Takeaway for the Redblacks.
TG: This team has all the pieces, but is missing the glue to keep it all together. Everywhere you look on the Redblacks there is an ample supply of talent. The offence consists of two top shelf quarterbacks, productive running backs, and a full-on arsenal at receiver. The defence is stocked with several promising play-makers in Zach Evans, Aston Whiteside, Jerell Gavins, and Antoine Pruneau. Thus, it has to frustrate fans when the Redblacks can’t seem to put it all together at the same time. The switch to Burris seemed to pull the team together, and perhaps going forward it will continue to do so. Yet for the second week in a row the Redblacks have let a winnable game get away from them when they so desperately needed it.
5) Top Takeaway for the Riders.
TG: The script was finally flipped for the Riders and their late game gaffes. Taking the lead with only 48 seconds left on the clock the Riders just had to make one stop to win the game. Instead, a bad punt followed by several consecutive penalties and an Ottawa score had Rider fans thinking “here we go again.” This night would be different, however, as the Riders defence planted it’s feet and forced a bad Christopher Milo field goal. A few plays later Crapigna would come in and work his magic for the win. It may have just been one game, but this time the Rider’s self-inflicted wounds did not prove fatal.
TG: Tonight it was the kicker and the backup as Crapigna for the Riders and Burris for the Redblacks take home the Top Performer nominations. With the suddenly resurgent Rider defence stifling the Ottawa offence early in the game, Crapigna built up the Riders lead with six field goals on seven attempts including the game winner in overtime. Across the field Burris injected life into the dormant Redblacks offence, standing tall in the face of pressure to deliver fast balls to his play-makers and nearly bring his team back from the edge.
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