Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who IS The Real Tino?

Despite reports that Darian Durant could be activated for the last game or two of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' regular season, let's face it, there's still a reasonable chance that it won't happen, and that the defending champs' playoff run will be on the shoulders of Tino Sunseri.

I think we all hope to see Durant's return, but only if he's indeed 100%, and not putting the remaining 4-6 years of his career in jeopardy by coming back too soon.

With Tino, we've seen glimpses that show us the Riders are still in good hands without Darian, and also glimpses that say, the Riders will finish 9-9 and lose the cross-over game.

His sample size is still small, but as of now, he's been lights out in the second half compared to the first, and better at home than away.  He's also looked better coming off the bench than he has starting.  He took over for Darian at half time in B.C., led them to victory in the second half.  Took over for Darian at the Banjo Bowl, narrowly hung on for the win, entered the game for Seth Doege in the second quarter against Calgary on Friday, erased a 24-point deficit before losing on a late penalty and touchdown.  Then there's the ugly - his two road starts, in Hamilton and Edmonton, where he led the Riders to a combined three points.

The comeback vs Calgary has us excited despite the loss, but I'm still even wondering if we're over-reacting.  Really, the offence was effective on three series.  Not to take anything away from an incredible stretch that saw him guide the Riders downfield for three consecutive touchdowns, ALL capped by successful two-point converts - but minus the interceptions, he didn't really do a whole lot more than Doege in the previous quarter and a half.  The touchdown drives were also aided by inept tackling on Dan DePalma, and a pair of pass interference calls in the end zone.  This was also against a defence that obviously softened up while protecting what was a three score lead, at one point.

STILL, give the guy credit for going down field.  I'm not sure the first PI call on Dressler was a catchable ball, but the second one was a touchdown had Jamar Wall not jumped, screened, and knocked Weston on his back.  You had to like the 57-yard bomb to Getzlaf, the three strikes to Swain over the middle, and a little bit of scrambling.  He took off for 13 yards once before hook-sliding, which looked like vintage Darian from last year's WSF vs B.C.  His other run, was 8.5 yards, in a case where 10 yards may have secured the win.  At live speed, in the middle of the field, it's not like you can look at the sidelines and know where the yard stick is, but given that he started right at his 50, he likely knew that Calgary's 50 was where he had to get to.  That play was one of the more scrutinized from that game, with some, including Sunseri, feeling he wasn't touched before sliding HEAD-FIRST, well across the Stampeder 50.  No he didn't hook slide, which means he has to be touched in order to be down, but I think one of the Stamps' linebackers got a hand on him, as tough as it was to tell for sure.  What you'd like to see in a desperate situation like that though, is the guy to drop his shoulder.  Tino Sunseri's not going to run over Deron Mayo, but maybe staying on his feet an extra split second, and forward momentum of being tackled, gets you an extra yard and a half, or enough of it to bring up 3rd and less than a yard, and a sure gamble.

*By the way, I love Corey Chamblin taking the bullet for not gambling, but it was 3rd and almost 2.  They've been stuffed in that situation before, including on their third touchdown that took two cracks from the one, and even that was debatable that Messam broke the plane.  Punting was the right call, I believe.  The issue(s) was/were, Milo's very average 40 yard punt, the 14-yard return allowed despite a good 'directional' kick to the sideline, the defensive series that ensued, and, yes, eventually the illegal substitution call on Peters.*

*Fun fact, Chris Milo hasn't attempted a place-kick (FG or convert) since overtime vs Ottawa Sep/21.  The bad snap that he tried to punch through the end zone (and got Chad Rempel a new job), so who even knows where his confidence is now… he hasn't missed one or made one for three weeks!*

A successful 3rd down conversion probably secures the win and a shot at first place, so I see why Chamblin's upset at himself.  Now, you can't argue that Calgary's locked up hosting the West Final.  They're three up on Edmonton and have the tie-breaker with 4 games left.  They're three up on the Riders with one head-to-head left.  Riders would have to win that ROAD game by 8 or more, and get two more wins than Calgary does in the three other games.  Not happening.  The Riders are now playing for second place, and I believe have to beat Edmonton twice at home for the right to host, probably Edmonton again, in the WSF.  The once 'gravy' looking cross-over scenario looks about as much fun as a root canal right now, to the point that I would now say that 3rd is a better spot to finish than 4th.  And, my previous blog which guaranteed a Western cross-over, suddenly looks like less of a sure thing (but I still think it happens).

Did anyone really think the Riders would have a shot at 1st this season anyway?  2nd is still possible, and it's far from a guarantee they'll get a playoff game in Calgary, but I'll take our chances if they do.  They're banged up too, especially at receiver.  Cornish is on the limp again, and they've got questions at QB with BLM also not back yet.  Watching this team have hissy fits with each other, Tate-Dickenson, Cornish-Tate, and… they probably don't play another meaningful game UNTIL the November 23rd West Final.  They've got a bye-week coming up, followed by 4 games that shouldn't affect their positioning, followed by another bye.  By then, if the Riders are still playing, they'll have the underdog role, and either a healthy Durant, or a Sunseri with half a season under his belt, and hopefully some positive momentum.

If we're still wondering who our starting QB is at that point, or who the real Tino Sunseri is, that won't be a game the Riders will be playing in.  It's a good thing they've got four important games ahead (five including playoffs) to figure that out.

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