TD Place Finally Lives Up To Its Name

On a beautiful summer night in front of another sold out house, the Ottawa Redblacks took on the BC Lions at TD Place for their season opener. Thanks to stellar offensive performances from QB Henry Burris (#1), WR Brad Sinopoli (#88) and a stout defence, the Redblacks remain undefeated and improved their record to 2-0.

Pre-game:




– Leading up to kick-off, the vibe around the city was incredible

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– Die-hard members of R-Nation travelled from far and wide to be in Ottawa for the game

– The Ottawa Senators held their development camp this week and the prospects were on hand to soak in the atmosphere at TD Place

– R-Nation tailgated in style, in and around Lansdowne Park

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– A beautiful new flag was unveiled that will fly high over the stadium on game days

– In a nice tribute to our Southern neighbours, both national anthems were sung

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– Former Ottawa Rough Riders QB JC Watts’ pre-game video pumped the crowd up

– Ottawa wins the coin toss and chooses to receive

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1st Quarter:

– An efficient and promising opening drive with catches by Sinopoli, Maurice Price (#7), Ernest Jackson (#9), Chris Williams (#80) and hard running from Chevon Walker (#29) goes for naught when Price bobbles a pass and pops it up for BC’s Solomon Elimimian.

FBO CFL Lions Redblacks

– Despite being in perfect position, Brandon McDonald (#22) gets beaten deep for a 50 yard gain. A pass interference call sets the Lions up on Ottawa’s 4 yard line but the defence holds as Lions QB Travis Lulay throws two incompletions. BC opens the scoring with a chip yard FG to go up 3-0.

– Walker runs for 5, Sinopoli makes a 10 yard catch, Price makes a 13 yard catch, Walker picks up 3 on the ground, but on 2nd down Price’s 3 yard catch fails to move the sticks. Anthony Alix’s (#15) coffin-corner punt pins the Lions on their own 2 yard line.

– BC moves the chains once thanks to a flag but otherwise goes two and out. The ensuing punt is shanked and Ottawa gets great field position, starting their drive on BC’s 42 yard line.

– Lions defenders get their hands on both of Burris’ passes yet fail to pick them off. Lucky to avoid a turnover, Ottawa is forced to punt.

FBO CFL Lions Redblacks

2nd Quarter:

– NFL vet but CFL rookie Austin Collie gets walloped by Jovon Johnson (#2) but hangs on to move the chains. Three play’s later Williams electrifying 100 yard TD return is wiped out by a phantom holding call.

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– A short Walker run and a Burris sack lead to another two and out.

– The Lions put together a 9 play, 51 yard drive and despite working their way into the red zone, again settle for a short FG

– Ottawa responds with a 6 play touchdown drive of their own, as Walker rumbles for a gain 21 yards, Williams makes a 27 yard catch, Burris scrambles for 13 yards on 2nd down and Sinopoli caps off the drive in style with a 7 yard TD. Alix’s convert is good and the Redblacks take a 7-6 lead.

CFL OTTAWA REDBLACKS, BC LIONS

– LB Malik Jackson (#10) hammers BC’s Andrew Harris as the Lions go two and out. The ensuing punt rolls through the end zone for a rouge and we have a tie game.

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– Two Walker runs go for gains of 18 and 4 but on 2nd down, Burris is sacked and fumbles. Fortunately J’Micheal Deane (#64) is Johnny on the Spot and recovers.

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– Lions get flagged for too many men in the huddle and quickly punt.

– Sinopoli makes a 21 yard catch and gets tackled with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. BC thinks the half is over and heads to the locker room but Delbert Alvarado (#48) eventually nails a 46 yard FG to give Ottawa the lead after 30 minutes.

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Half-time:

– The out of town scoreboard shows that one of Ottawa’s other football teams, a semi-pro one, is also up on their opponents.

– Mr. Shoe Beer checks in

3rd Quarter:

– BC receives but Jerrell Gavins (#24) quickly gets the ball back for Ottawa as he does his best Odell Beckham Jr. impression and makes an incredible one handed interception. His interception return is wiped out when the refs decide he was down by contact and the Redblacks are pushed even further back when McDonald throws the ball into the crowd and is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

– Jon Gott’s (#63) snap sails over Burris’ head and is recovered in the end zone. After a review, BC is awarded a safety.

– Things continue to go downhill for Ottawa as BC returns the kick for a touchdown, but thankfully it’s called back due to a flag

– On 2nd down, Marlon Smith (#98) cuts through the offensive line and drags Lulay down for a 7 yard sack.

– The Redblacks go on a 10 play drive that heavily features Walker, who gets it done on both the ground and in the air. Alvarado’s 28 yard FG is good, extending Ottawa’s lead to 13-9.

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– Antoine Pruneau (#6) and Gavins come together and hammer a BC wideout, but Gavins is flagged for a horse collar tackle. Six plays later Collie gets behind Gavins and hauls in a 26 yard TD. Following the convert the Lions lead 16-13.

FBO CFL Lions Redblacks

– Mr. Shoe Beer does his thing

4th Quarter:

– Proving that anything BC can do, he can do better, Burris leads the Redblacks down the field with a 10 play, 68 yard drive and caps it off with a beautiful (and somewhat lucky) 30 yard strike to Greg Ellingson (#82).

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– R-Nation makes itself a factor as crowd noise causes confusion for the Lions offence and Lulay’s passes fall incomplete.

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– On the next Redblacks’ possession, Walker is held to no gain, Sinopoli picks up 13 yards, Williams gets 7 yards, Walker runs for 2 yards and on 3rd and 1 Head Coach Rick Campbell forgoes the punt and instead Walker picks up 2 from a run out of shotgun. On the next play Williams gets behind everybody and hauls in a 39 yard pass. After Walker gets a short gain on the ground, Burris finds a wide open Jackson in the end zone for an 11 yard TD strike. Jackson proceeds to use the football as a chainsaw and cuts into the goal post, mimicking the loggers cutting a wood cookie in the end zone. Legendary Rough Rider QB Russ Jackson is on hand for the game and is given the wood cookie.

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– Johnson nearly gets an interception and Ottawa’s swarming defence flies to the ball, gang tackling and forcing the Lions to punt.

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– Ottawa moves the chains once but is forced to punt when a risky throw from Burris nearly sets up Williams to be decapitated and falls incomplete.

– With 3:02 left in the game and trailing 27-16, BC faces a 3rd and 1 on their own 51 yard line. After taking a time out to set up, and with the deafening roar of R-Nation shaking the stadium, defensive lineman Zack Evans (#92) blows up the middle of the Lions offensive line, gets penetration and stuffs Andrew Harris for a one yard loss.

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– A steady diet of short Walker runs and 2nd down catches by FB Jordan Verdone (#33) and Price allow Ottawa to run out all but 5 seconds of the clock.

CFL OTTAWA REDBLACKS, BC LIONS

– On the final play of the game, instead of risking an injury BC lines up in a victory formation and takes a knee

Final score: 27-16 for the good guys

Key Stats:

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Burris went 23 of 29 for 296 yards, with 3 TDs and 1 INT

Walker had 24 carries for 103 yards

Sinopoli made 9 catches for 99 yards and 1 TD

Munoz made 6 tackles and had 1 sack

Alvarado was 2/2 in FG attempts

Final thoughts:

For the first time since 1996, a CFL team from Ottawa beat the BC Lions. As for the last time an Ottawa team started 2-0 you’d need to go to 2004 when the Renegades began their year 3-0. While not a perfect game, the Redblacks did a ton of good things as they matched last season’s win total.

Offensively Burris had his best game in a Redblacks uniform. Aside from three early throws that were just bad reads and lucky not to be picked off, Burris was on the money all night long, hitting his receivers in stride. In addition to boasting a 79% completion percentage, Burris also got the job done on the ground, scrambling 6 times for 30 yards and repeatedly extending long drives with his good pocket presence. SirVincent Rogers (#55) and company deserve kudos for keeping Burris upright and giving him a clean pocket.

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After only putting up 52 yards last week, Walker responded with his first 100 yard performance of the season. Though at times he still struggled to run up the middle, OC Jason Maas called a number of sweeps and pitches to allow Walker to run in space, which is where he excels. Walker ran hard all night and it was good to see him bust a couple of 20+ yard gains. Once again, the offensive line deserves major props for opening big lanes.

At wide receiver, former Ottawa Gee-Gee QB Sinopoli couldn’t have dreamed of a better homecoming. Not only did he set a career high in receptions and yards, but he did it in front of friends and family. Even more impressive was that the majority of Sinopoli’s catches came on 2nd down and were initially short of the first down marker until he made a defender miss to pick up the necessary yards. Williams and Price also had strong games, and it’s quickly become apparent that teams will be forced to pick their poison. After a whale of a game in Week One, Jackson was “limited” to two catches for 19 yards and a TD. Going forward as defences shift their coverage, it will allows other players to step up. It’s a nightmare situation for fans trying to play CFL Pick’em or fantasy football, but an ideal one for the Redblacks offence.

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Defensively, the Redblacks picked up right where they left off. The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, picking up a couple of sacks and effectively shutting down any semblance of a running game that BC tried to set up. Munoz led the way with 6 tackles and a sack but the entire unit played swarming football, flying around and gang tackling. The secondary in particular stood out and Gavins deserves major credit for his incredible interception. Twice the Lions marched into the red zone and twice the Redblacks shut the down, forcing them to settle for field goals. The defence also pretty much ensured the win with a 3rd and 1 stop late in the 4th quarter.

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In terms of special teams Alix had another strong game punting and Alvarado make both of his FG attempts. In particular it was nice to see him nail the 46 yarder right before half-time. Kick coverage was strong all night and the one time BC did bust a big return, it was called back for a hold. Williams would’ve finally gotten his first TD return but an inexplicable flag (I challenge you to show me a replay of a hold), wiped out another impressive 100 yard return.

With the win, the Redblacks sit alone atop the Eastern Division and become the first team in the CFL to reach two wins. It was an overall impressive performance as Ottawa controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game, set the tempo, and basically imposed their will on the Lions. The energy at TD Place was electric, and the sell out crowd of 24,376 definitely got their money’s worth.

Next up for the Redblacks is a date with the Eskimos in Edmonton on Thursday night. The Redblacks will head into the game riding their first two game winning streak in franchise history and the Eskimos will be without their starting QB.

@RedBlackGade

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