Plenty of blame to go around in Redblacks’ collapse (& 12 other thoughts)

If you want to, you could point to individual plays.

You could note that if RJ Harris hadn’t been tripped by SirVincent Rogers (his own teammate), he would’ve scored and put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter.

If quarterback Trevor Harris had killed a bit more time and not snapped the ball with six seconds left on the play-clock on the first play of Ottawa’s final possession, time would have run out before Toronto’s game winning touchdown throw.

You could recall that Diontae Spencer’s drop on second down gave the ball back to the Argos with 1:45 left, or the inexplicable PI call on Jonathan Rose that gifted the Argos 10 yards on their game-winning drive.

But the fact of the matter is, when you hold a 24-point lead in the third quarter of a game, winning and losing shouldn’t come down to a handful of plays.

The Ottawa Redblacks lost 42-41 to the Toronto Argonauts because they collapsed in epic fashion, not because of what happened a single play.

This loss isn’t on just the offence, the defence, the special teams or the coaching staff but rather the Redblacks as a whole. As a group, they failed to get the job done, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) Trevor Harris is a polarizing figure in R-Nation. To some, he’s an elite quarterback and among the league’s best at slinging the pigskin. To others, he’s a guy who puts up big numbers but comes up short in the clutch. His performance against the Argos will fuel the arguments of both groups. On one hand, there’s no denying that Harris was in the zone against Toronto. He completed 77 per cent of his passes (27-of-35) for 381 yards and two touchdowns and an interception and finally showed chemistry with some of his big-play receivers.

Even with those gaudy numbers, Harris’ detractors will point to the fact that he led five scoring drives on fourteen possessions and went two and out six times. That despite completing 77 per cent of his passes, Harris’ third-quarter interception (a result of a terrible throw across his body) helped sparked Toronto’s rally. That on Ottawa’s final possession, with the team desperate to chew some clock, he went 0-for-2 on his pass attempts.

Ultimately, the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Harris didn’t cost the Redblacks the game by any stretch but if he wants to be regarded as elite, he needs to do the things he does with ease in the 1st quarter, late in the fourth.

2) On paper, Ottawa’s offensive performance looks good. A team doesn’t average 7.7 yards per play and put up 423 yards of net offence by accident, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see that the longer the game went on, the worse Jamie Elizondo’s group performed.

Let’s start with the positive, Elizondo deserves full credit for finally finding ways to get Diontae Spencer involved. Whether it was deep routes or bubble screens, Elizondo made sure one of his best playmakers often had the ball in his hands. Elizondo also orchestrated six long drives that moved the ball more than 50 yards.

But that’s where the positives end. In reality, although Ottawa finished with 41 points, 14 of those came from special teams. Elizondo’s offence converted 12-of-22 second down opportunities (55 per cent), only mustered two field goals (and didn’t have a drive of more than five plays ) over the game’s final 30 minutes. Most damningly of all, the run game was non-existent. Despite at one point holding a 24-point lead in the second half, Elizondo only called his running back’s number six times in the second half. Even worse, with the Redblacks needing to kill time late in the game to hold off Toronto’s rally, Elizondo ignored traditional convention and instead of keeping the ball on the ground put it in the air. Two incompletions later the Argos got the ball back with plenty of time to go down and score the game winning touchdown.

3) William Powell is in a serious rut. Although he’s still second in the league in rushing, that’s largely due to a few huge games early in the season. In recents weeks Powell has struggled to find open space on the field. Typically, even when his rushing production is low, Powell contributes as a pass catcher, but not last night. Against the Argos, Powell had 14 carries for 35 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and just two catches for nine yards. To be blunt, the Redblacks need more out of their lead back.

4) I haven’t been shy in recent weeks to call out Diontae Spencer for underperforming. So full credit to him for his massive game against his former team. Spencer dominated and showed exactly why expectations are so high. Coming into the game, Spencer had only made two catches longer than 20 yards all season. He doubled that total against the Argos while averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Spencer hauled in a total of eight passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a punt 87 yards for another touchdown. Let’s see if this performance serves as a catalyst for his season.

5) As for the rest of Ottawa’s receiving corps, Brad Sinopoli continued to roll (seven catches for 89 yards and a touchdown) and RJ Harris looked good too, (five catches for 73 yards) and would have had a touchdown if not for a trip by his own teammate.

Surprisingly, Canadian fullback Brendan Gillanders had more catches (three) and yards (39) than both William Powell and Greg Ellingson. Ellingson also had an untimely fumble as his subpar season continues.

6) Given everything Noel Thorpe’s defence has shown this season, you’d be forgiven for having assumed a quarterback making his first career start would be in tough. While that may have been in the case in the first half, following some half-time adjustments, McLeod Bethel-Thompson owned the game’s final 30 minutes. Ottawa’s defence simply couldn’t get off the field.

Despite the fact that only three of Bethel-Thompson’s passes travelled more than 15 yards through the air, thanks to a defence-wide display of poor tackling, Toronto was repeatedly able to string together first downs and keep drives alive. Of their seven second half possessions, the Argos scored on six of them, generating five touchdowns and a field goal. The Argos also had their way with Ottawa on third down, averaging 6.2 yards per third down play, converting on 4-of-5 attempts.

Losing a game in which you held a 24-point lead in the third quarter is bad. Giving up the game’s final 17 points over the last 6:23 is worse. Thorpe’s unit seemed stunned by Toronto’s rally and soft coverage and sloppy tackling allowed the Argos to hang around and gut out a win.

The defence also did themselves no favours in terms of penalties, being flagged seven times for 80 yards. All in all, Monday’s film study won’t be fun.

7) Since the Redblacks have entered the league, they’ve developed a disturbing trend of losing games to quarterbacks having their first starts. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is just latest in a list that includes the likes of Logan Kilgore, Mitchell Gale, Dan Lefevour and Trevor Harris. Perhaps Ottawa is lucky that they play Montreal next week, as it will likely be Johnny Manziel’s second start.

8) In terms of special teams, there were a few bright spots. Lewis Ward extended his streak of made field goals to 19, Spencer scored his first return touchdown of the season and Antoine Pruneau’s hustle led to Anthony Cioffi’s end zone fumble recovery.

All that said, Bob Dyce will likely chose to focus on the fact that for the majority of the night, his normally solid cover team was shredded by Martese Jackson. Jackson regularly flipped field position in Toronto’s favour and busted off long returns of 46, 47 and 70 yards.

9) Even though they all returned to the game, it was still worrying to see players like Kevin Brown, Antoine Pruneau, Justin Howell, Anthony Cioffi, Corey Tindal and Diontae Spencer all shaken up and needing help to leave the field. Full credit to each of them for returning and playing through pain, but you have to wonder if any will have lingering issues down the road.

10) Not a great night for the officiating crew. Al Bradbury and company weren’t at their finest and a few questionable calls went against Ottawa.

First, there was the unnecessary roughness flag on MLB Avery Williams that kept an Argo scoring drive alive in the fourth quarter. Despite delivering a forearm to the receiver’s shoulder and never touching his head, Williams was penalized. Then there was the pass interference flag on Jonathan Rose on Toronto’s final drive.

The problem with that explanation is that Armanti Edwards was clearly the player in the trailing position and Rose was seemingly flagged for existing when Edwards ran into him. Finally, how does it take an eternity (seven-ish minutes) for a review to determine if a quarterback’s knee was down before he threw the ball? The review that wouldn’t end sucked all the life out of an otherwise exciting finish.

11) Feels like kicking a dog when it’s down but what will it take for the Argos to attract fans? Just 11,857 spectators were on hand to witness a wild back and forth affair that showcased exactly what makes this league so great. There’s really no excuse anymore for the pathetic crowds that Toronto pulls in. The weather has been fantastic, their stadium is state of the art, they’ve played good teams at home, tailgating continues (unofficially), they have public transit (a GO Train stop) right outside the stadium and ticket prices have been slashed. Obviously rebuilding the Argo fan base will take time but at some point, Torontonians need to step up.

12) With the loss, Rick Campbell’s squad falls to 4-3 and misses a golden opportunity to take an early stranglehold on the East. The Redblacks would be sitting pretty at 5-2 but instead are only a game above .500 and have set themselves up needing a win next week against Montreal to placate their fan base. Although Ottawa has shown moments of brilliance, they’ve yet to play a full 60 minute game in all three phases. Until that happens, the natives will be restless.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (225 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

16 Comments on Plenty of blame to go around in Redblacks’ collapse (& 12 other thoughts)

  1. Then stop kicking the dog! Give credit to the fans who were there.There are many who still care. Also give credit to the team for bending to the point of breaking….but finding a way to win!!

    • yes I have to say the fans that were there (I wish I could have been among them) made their presence felt, loudly. Good for them.

    • Great comment. Why does everyone care how many people attend the games in Toronto. It was a 15% increase in attendance and those fans that attended had a great time. I just love the way everyone across Canada dumps on the Argos for attendance. Why do you care so much? The team has very stable ownership and it is a long range plan. As for the game, one of the most bizarre comebacks I can remember and it came out of nowhere. Maybe it is a good kick start for the Argos.

    • FreakinBeavers // August 5, 2018 at 12:11 pm //

      Ottawa loyalists were given all sorts of credit for “showing up” dying our down years.

      It got us two folded franchises.

  2. Bill deHoog // August 3, 2018 at 3:28 pm //

    Hard to argue with those comments.I think Trevor had a pretty good game considering.I question the play calling in the second half…calling so many runs on first down when Argos are loading up the box.Tough converting second and long continually. Also, why was the defence playing so soft in the second half. Maybe Gillanders needs more touches, or give Madu a start.
    Needed more pressure up front, Thompson had all day to throw expecially on that final fateful play.
    What is up with Greg E? Is he injured?
    I was in Toronto for the game and the crowd is pathetic. No buzz anymore around the stadium. The city do not deserve the Argos!
    Need to rev it up for JM next weekend…cannot to afford to lose another game that we should be winning.

  3. As much as a Redblacks fanatic I am and it hurt that loss, I somehow have a feeling that this is the kick in the pants that’s needed to show them how to play a complete 60 minutes of football…relax REDBLACK fans this loss hurt but will prove very very valuable come November…watch!!!

  4. Really good article

  5. Evil Empire // August 3, 2018 at 4:37 pm //

    That was an epic meltdown. Though, I believe Campbell is a good coach. He is far too conservative, imo. He seems to have zero confidence in his offence.

    He lost a Grey Cup with that conservative BS.

    I would lose my mind if Campbell was the HC of the Eskimos. I don’t want a D coordinator as our HC, ever again.

    Apart from Hebert. Ottawa has good honest players, and a good front office. And, good fans ( until this year ). Unless the are playing the Eskimos. I like to see them win.

    For better, or worse. You need to trust your offence at certain points. A prevent D only prevents you from winning. Campbell needs to grow a set.

  6. Frank Nigro // August 3, 2018 at 4:45 pm //

    Nice read, well said!

  7. Great article and great insight!! Keep ’em coming.

  8. Redblacks didn’t choke…….they quit! And there is nothing worse than a bunch of quitters. This was all about coaching….bad coaching. Campbell appears too soft and is not holding his team accountable. As for the absence of a running game with a guy who is among the top backs in the league…’s simple…..their offensive line just isn’t good enough, mean enough or tough enough. They allow defensive lines across the league to bully them and push them around. This is what happens when you are hell bent on putting CND O lineman on the field who aren’t suited to a power game. Want a run game? Get some big, aggressive roadgraders who can intimidate the other team; (see Winnipeg). As for Greg Ellingson, if he isn’t injured, then it is obvious he doesn’t have it anymore. If he is injured, why is he on the field? His contributions aren’t helping at all. Lastly, Thorpes defense was badly exposed last night. Without Newsome and/or a healthy Ellis, AC Leonard is the only D lineman who can get to the QB. So, QBs around the league are able to settle in nicely and pick apart the secondary. All of the above has exposed this team for what it really is. Very, very average. Let’s face it, they were very lucky to get wins over Hamilton and BC and could very easily be 2 and 5. Settle in folks, it is going to be a very long season with these quitters.

  9. gocatsgo // August 3, 2018 at 5:49 pm //

    Well most experienced football people, which I do not claim to be often state that a football game can be won or lost on 5 or 6 plays. 3 of those plays were mentioned by Mr Filoso at the start of his article and I’m sure there are another 2 or 3 out there that went Toronto’s way, one for sure being the final throw and catch with one second left, anyways the end result was Ottawa scratching their heads and doing the shoulda speech ( Dionte Spencer ) and the Argos seizing the moment for a very cool CFL ending !

    • Good comment and games often do turn on a handful of plays. The fact that the Argos gave away 3 touchdowns (2 on special teams and 1 on a fumble at their own 18 yard line) makes the win even more remarkable. Add to that the fact that the Argos only had 40 yards passing in the first half and then explode for 35 points is even more incredible. Had those breaks gone the other way and led to Argo points it would have provided the explanation for the Argos but Ottawa managed to lose with all of those breaks.

  10. Some shoddy officiating allowed the comeback. The call for UR was botched. That was huge. The PI should not have been called. Not sure why the command centre didn’t overturn both.

  11. And while we are at it….how is it that Jalen Saunders wasn’t suspended for that vicious hit on a defenseless Kevin Brown last week. It was a deliberate attempt to injure if not paralyze Brown. As for last night, yes those two calls were shoddy incorrect calls that should have been overturned by the Command Centre in TORONTO. As a minimum, Ambrosie should have the fortitude to announce that those two calls were wrong and blown by the officials. All that said, those calls weren’t the reason the Redblacks lost. Simply put, they quit playing at half time.

  12. The only thing holding T Harris from being elite is Jamie Elizondo. He has to go. Is Greg Ellingson injured or believing his own press? If Campbell does not step up & get rid of Elizondo then maybe his head should roll.

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