Vanstone: Latest Leader-Post-mortem is suitably sombre
The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ most-recent game was so excruciating to watch that it should have been blacked out … on the MaxTron.
At the risk of belabouring Saturday’s 23-17 CFL loss to the previously feckless Montreal Alouettes, we will, er, belabour Saturday’s 23-17 CFL loss to the, etc., etc., etc.
Here is the weekly, and well-named, Leader-Post-mortem …
THREE’S A CHARM
The Roughriders’ defence is routinely lacerated when head coach Chris Jones opts for a three-man pass rush. However, Saturday’s game demonstrated that the strategy can work.
When Montreal rushed with three men, Saskatchewan’s quarterbacks (Brandon Bridge and David Watford) were a combined 2-for-10 for 24 yards, with an interception. The Roughriders’ first six passes against the three-man rush fell incomplete.
Jones, by the way, scaled back his three-man rushes considerably on Saturday. In those situations, Montreal was 2-for-3 for 49 yards (including a 48-yard reception by B.J. Cunningham), with two quarterback scrambles netting five yards.
Bridge and Watford were a write-off when their passes travelled 10 to 19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. On those throws, they were a combined 1-for-8 for 13 yards, with three interceptions. (Question: Was anyone getting open?)
Compare the Roughriders’ intermediate-range struggles to the accuracy demonstrated by Zach Collaros on June 15 during a season-opening, 27-19 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts. In that game, he was 7-for-8 with a touchdown on passes in the 10-to-19 range. His first seven throws of that description were completions.
Overall, Collaros is 8-for-11 with a touchdown in that territory. Bridge and Watford are a combined 5-for-14 with three picks.
Memo to offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo: Build an offensive scheme that actually takes advantage of Bridge’s skills, such as his mobility. The square-peg, round-hole approach is not working.
The Roughriders’ offensive futility is underlined by using a statistical model known as the Positive Plays Percentage (PPP).
The PPP, a means of evaluating the consistency with which the Roughriders execute on both sides of the ball, debuted in the Leader-Post-mortem last season.
Per this formula, a win is awarded to the offence or defence on each play from scrimmage. A positive outcome for the offence is defined here as a touchdown, a first down, a first-and-10 play that gains at least five yards, or a second-down play that creates at least a third-and-short opportunity.
On Friday, the Roughriders’ offence had a PPP of 35.8. In other words, Montreal’s defence “won” 64.2 of Saskatchewan’s plays from scrimmage.
With Bridge at the controls for the first half, Saskatchewan had a PPP of 26.7. The PPP improved to 43.2 under Watford.
ON A PPPOSITIVE NOTE …
Saskatchewan’s defence posted its best PPPerformance since we began keeping track of this stat, which was first inflicted upon the reading public at the outset of the 2017 season.
Montreal’s offence managed a piddly PPP of 30.0. Or, if you prefer, the Saskatchewan defence achieved an acceptable outcome on 70 per cent of Montreal’s plays.
The previous low for an opposing offence was 34.7 — registered Oct. 20 when Saskatchewan defeated the host Calgary Stampeders 30-7.
That, of course, was the game in which Roughriders receiver-turned-cornerback Duron Carter registered a 43-yard pick-six against Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell.
Carter also played cornerback on Saturday, when he was repeatedly roasted by Montreal’s mercurial Chris Williams. When the Alouettes weren’t lighting up Carter, the Roughriders’ defence actually enjoyed an exceptional game.
It would be infinitely more sensible for Carter to be targeted by his own team’s quarterbacks. But these are confusing times.