The sun came up this morning, but the misery remains. The Rider Nation is returning from Calgary in a state of disbelief and people everywhere are discussing the 4th quarter meltdown that cost the Riders their second Grey Cup in three years. Yes, it was a 4th quarter meltdown. This game was not lost on the too many men on the field penalty. There are many what ifs that could be asked. It ranges right from Luca Congi's first missed field goal right down to that last play.
When I look at that 4th quarter, I would think you have to agree that all three phases failed to operate with the efficiency they had in the first three quarters.
Offensively, miscommunication between Darian Durant and Andy Fantuz resulted in a bad interception being thrown. An interception that gave Montreal some more momentum which is something they didn't need. Many are bemoaning the last two offensive plays, but I will defend Paul LaPolice and Ken Miller on this one. We all know when you are hanging on to a lead, that you run the football to kill the clock. You see it in the CFL, the NFL, the NCAA, the CIS. You take as much time off the clock as you can and you hope there are no turnovers. I can only imagine the scrutiny LaPolice and Durant would have been under had Darian thrown an interception. All the good he did this year would have been forgotten on one play.
Remember the end of the 2007 game, there was less than a minute to play when James Johnson intercepted Ryan Dinwiddie to give the Riders the game. They still had to kill the clock and they managed two on a pair of Wes Cates' runs. In 2007, they did it, in 2009 they couldn't--its that simple. The pass in the flats to Rob Bagg was like a run. It was his duty to make a move on the defender and perhaps get that first down---one that would have ended the game. It didn't happen. On that series, Montreal was the better team.
Defensively, you can't ignore the fact the Riders led this game 27-11 with 10 minutes to go. Yes, this was Anthony Calvillo and the high-powered Alouettes, but a championship defence must come through and the Riders didn't. Calvillo did what he had to do three times in those final 10 minutes. He has to be given some credit for bouncing back. He showed us why he is one of the top 10 if not top 5 quarterbacks to play in the CFL.
The play of the special teams---well that has been debated enough and will continue to be. Charlie Brown always screams why couldn't McCovey hit the ball three feet higher. Rider fans can scream why didn't the punt team recover Brian Bratton's fumble. Kavis Reed is taking a majority of the heat, but give this to Reed. He manned up when it was over. He admitted it was his fault. He didn't throw a player under the bus. He could have said this guy or that guy wasn't supposed to be on the field, but he is taking the blame himself. I find that very admirable. We will always wonder who the player was, and in some ways I wish he would identify himself and do some manning up on his own, but then I think of the Paul McCallum incident in 2004 and say perhaps its better that this player keep his mouth shut ---at least in public.
The bottom line is that while yesterday's game leaves a mark and makes it a very tough winter wondering what could have been, one can sit back and go what a great year it was. The team finished first for the first time in 33 years. They got to their 2nd Grey Cup in three years. They found a quarterback who can hopefully lead them for years in Darian Durant, they proved they have the best Canadian talent. They did it all with a general manager confined to his home. The positives this year far outweigh the negatives. No one knows what will happen between now and June when training camp opens, but you can be confident in knowing this team is more than capable of being at and winning Grey Cup 2010 in Edmonton.
The Alouettes say they never forgot the feeling of losing at home to Calgary last year and that it served as a motivator. Montreal has no idea how the Riders will feel when Ken Miller blows that whistle for the first time next year. There is a mission next year and it starts for many who were on that field last night wearing green right now.
BTW: If you want to find someone to blame, blame Blue Rodeo. THEY WERE AWFUL!! That was the lamest half-time show for a Grey Cup in years.