You knew it was going to catch up to them but you just didn't know when. I'm relating the reality of the slow starts in games by the Toronto Argonauts and how it had to stop as you can't always depend on fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
The Argos have had an excellent year. At 9-4, they control the East and, unless they implode, should have the East Final at home. That's a major advantage but they need Ricky Ray back. Zack Collaros has been entertaining and exciting and has established himself as a player in this league. But he is not Ricky Ray.
Henry Burris completed his first seven passes and created an early lead. As important as it is to have come-from-behind skills, it is just as important to have 'create-a-lead' skills and Ray has both.
Getting a team ready to play is a process and takes a week. Why the Argos don't begin games better is a mystery but I do know what it takes: perfect preparation, emotional intensity and the combination of the two creates a unique and genuine level of focus. But the key factor is it has to be everybody; not just the starters but all 42 that dress for the game.
In some ways, when the ball is kicked off, the vast majority of the work for coaches is over. But for the player, the important part has begun; seeing if your preparation and emotional intensity which creates your focus is there. This is by no means heavy psychological stuff, quite the opposite. It is easy to master if you're aware and make the effort over and over again.
The Argos are a very good team that can be great if they would start games fast and hard and finish the same way.
In Saskatchewan, it is a brand new season. The 31-17 win over the B.C. Lions breaks a four-game losing cycle and makes those four games complete history. And what is even more important is that it puts the Riders in second place and re-energizes the fact they still can host the 101st Grey Cup at home come November 24th.
I'm not sure about the trade. Patrick Neufeld is going to have a long career in CFL football but Alex Hall could be gone by next season. I know in other sports you "rent a player" for a block of time and it works but I am not sure it works in football. One is Canadian, one is American. There are countless football players of quality in the United States. In Canada, sometimes I think I can count them. I realize offensive line depth is a strength for Saskatchewan but I'm still not sure who will win this deal as time moves on.
The last two games on Saturday were painful to watch. Montreal took apart the Eskimos and Calgary did the same to the Blue Bombers.
On the positive side, Mike Reilly played, survived and will play again. I'm happy about that because the Montreal defence is intimidating. To me, Kyries Herbert and Chip Cox are the best two defensive players on the field at the same time on any team. You add Shea Emry and an excellent player in Mike Edem and the Alouettes can steal playoff games because of the hitting ability on that side of the field alone.
The Calgary Stampeder are a complete team. In just about ever aspect of football, Calgary is as good or better than any team. One of their least recognized performers is kicker Rene Paredes. He has made almost every field goal that you can make and by doing so, either wins the close games or keeps the games close. You can't underrate his value.
Let's be honest, with four games left in the regular season, Winnipeg and Edmonton are building for 2014. I realize it is not over until it's over mathematically but the lack of energy expressed by both teams on Saturday was distressing. Not all players but for some, it came accross as a practice game, not a regular season battle.
With four games left, teams are looking to host at least one game at home in the playoffs. During the regular season, home field is not as big an advantage as you might think. It is an advantage, but in an eight-team league, it's not always a game-changer. In the playoffs? Oh yes! In the West, first place is no guarantee but the energy of playing at home in the Semi-Final, Final or Grey Cup Game is a feeling you never forget. The next four games mean everything to give yourself the best possible chance to win it all.