Ottawa’s Edmonton Drought Continues

On beautiful summer night, the Ottawa Redblacks headed into Edmonton looking for their first win at Commonwealth Stadium since 1983. Unfortunately, not only was it not to be, but after a sizzling start the Redblacks quickly faded, never catching up as the Eskimos put on a show for their fans in their season opener. With the loss, Ottawa CFL teams have now lost 20 straight games (over 32 years) in Edmonton.

Pre-game:




– Despite the late start time, members of R-Nation gathered at Hometown to watch the Redblacks in action

– Ottawa came out for warm ups wearing the best road uniforms in the league

– TSN shows just how different this squad’s is compared to last year’s through two games

– HC Rick Campbell gets the team fired up

– Ottawa wins the coin toss and chooses to receive

1st Quarter:

– The Redblacks come out flying as Brad Sinopoli (#88) makes a 16 yard catch, Chevon Walker (#29) takes a screen 12 yards (after getting stuffed for a gain of 1 yard on the ground) and Jock Sanders (#19) makes a 16 yard catch. Following a 3 yard run by Walker and an incompletion that Head Coach Rick Campbell unsuccessfully challenges for PI, Ottawa comes away with nothing as Delbert Alvarado’s (#48) 43 yard FG dings the upright and falls to the turf.

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– A short run is snuffed out by Antoine Pruneau (#6) and heavy pressure from a now healthy Jonathan Williams (#75) forces Eskimo QB Matt Nichols’ pass to fall incomplete. The speedy Chris Williams (#80) fields the punt and returns it 21 yards.

– After a 6 yard catch from Sinopoli, the pocket collapses around Henry Burris (#1) who decides not to take the sack but fails to throw the ball out of bounds. His sidearm toss across the field is intercepted and returned 57 yards for a pick six. Following the convert, the Eskimos are up 7-0.

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– On 1st down Burris is sacked and Williams’ 9 yard catch isn’t enough to move the sticks, so Anthony Alix (#15) comes out for his first punt of the night. Poor coverage leads to a 23 yard Eskimo return, setting them up at Ottawa’s 42 yard line.

– Twice the Redblacks get the Eskimos in 2nd and long but two illegal contact flags keep the drive alive. Adarius “Redblack Killer” Bowman makes Ottawa pay with a 9 yard TD catch. The 32 yard convert is good and the Redblacks trail 14-0.

– OC Jason Maas digs deep into his bag of tricks, but a double sweep to Sanders get stuffed for no gain and Ottawa’s forced to punt when Burris’ overthrows Williams on a deep route. Malik Jackson (#10) flies downfield to limit the return but is flagged for a horse collar tackle.

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– Marlon Smith (#98) gets great penetration and blows up a running play for a 4 yard loss. On the next play, the Eskimo’s try to run a screen up the middle but the pass falls incomplete. Luckily for Edmonton, DL Zack Evans (#92) inexplicably gets called for pass interference (PI). A couple of play later, the drive is again kept alive by a PI flag on Brandon McDonald (#22) in the end zone, which moves the ball to Ottawa’s 1 yard line. On first down, Nichols fumbles the snap and is fortunate to recover. On second down Jovon Johnson (#2) doesn’t fall for the play action fake and has Nichols’ pass hit him square in the hands, but he can’t hang on and make the catch.

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Somehow, not a pick

2nd Quarter:

– On 3rd and 1, Eskimo QB Jordan Lynch gets into the end zone by sneaking off the left side of the line untouched. The convert is shanked and the Eskimos lead 20-0.

– Walker runs up the middle for a 0 yard gain, SirVincent Rogers (#55) gets flagged for procedure and Burris misfires on another deep pass.

– Poor tackling leads to huge gains for the Eskimo offence as they cover 53 yards in 4 plays to go up 26-0. Edmonton kicker Grant Shaw misses another convert.

– Ottawa tries in vain to get something going on offence. Walker runs for a 1 yard gain, Eskimos get flagged for being offside, Sinopoli makes an 8 yard catch but two incompletions force Alix to punt. The cover team again fails to contain the returner and the punt is brought back 49 yards to Ottawa’s 29 yard line.

– Andrew Mashall (#90) makes his presence felt with an 8 yard sack and following an incompletion, the Eskimo’s settle for a 44 yard FG.

– The Redblacks again go two and out after Williams drops a pass and Walker runs for 5 on 2nd down.

– Jerell Gavins (#24) blitzes and gets flagged for unnecessary roughness. Two plays later Kalonji Kashama (#97) gets flagged for roughing the passer.

– Just when it looks like the Eskimos will march down and score again, Zack Evans (#92) makes a magnificent play, getting great penetration, intercepting Nichols’ forward pitch and rumbling 65 yards to the house. A Greg Ellingson (#82) catch makes the 2 point convert good and Ottawa finally gets on the board, trailing 29-8.

– Momentum seems to be in the Redblacks favour as Johnson picks off Nichols’ first pass of the drive, but the interception is wiped out by an illegal contact flag on Abdul Kanneh (#14). On the next play Bowman beats perfect coverage by Pruneau to make a 51 yard catch and two plays later Nichols finds Cory Watson for a 9 yard TD strike.

– Burris finally settles down and proceeds to hit Ellingson, Williams, Price and Sinopoli for gains of 8, 7, 11 and 12 yards. On 3rd and 10 Sinopoli makes a 14 yard catch to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Alvarado’s 42 yard FG is good.

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– After 30 minutes the Eskimos lead 36-11.

Half-time:

– A former Ottawa Renegade All-Star kicker and two time Superbowl champion checks in

– AJ drops truth bombs

3rd Quarter:

– Ottawa’s defence quickly forces the Eskimos to go two and out

– The Redblacks benefit from three questionable flags on three separate 2nd downs, moving to Edmonton’s 26 yard line. As the Eskimos blitz and the pocket collapses around him, Burris shakes and bakes his way past a couple of would be tacklers and picks up 7 yards. Two plays later Alvarado’s 16 yard FG makes it 36-14.

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– A 26 yard catch made using the ground + an objectionable conduct flag on the Redblacks bench + a 28 yard catch by Bowman + an 11 yard run through arm tackles = another Eskimo touchdown.

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– Ernest Jackson makes his first catch of the night setting up 2nd and 3, but Walker loses 2 yards when he tries to run up the gut, leading to another Alix punt.

– TSN interviews Alvarado’s wife Fallon Taylor, who’s on hand to take in the game

– Smith sacks Nichols for an 8 yard loss and proceeds to “mock” the Eskimos by doing a roll, seemingly forgetting his team is losing 43-14.

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– HC Rick Campbell ignores his depth chart, bypassing Thomas DeMarco (#17) and instead inserts Danny O’Brien (#5) at QB. O’Brien’s two passes are knocked down and overthrown, so the Redblacks punt again.

– A blitzing Kanneh sacks the QB and forces a fumble which is recovered at Edmonton’s 37 yard line by Gavins

– Catches by Walker, Price and Williams move the ball down to the Eskimo’s 8 yard line.

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4th Quarter:

– Facing 3rd and 4, O’Brien puts no mustard on the ball, which is criminally under thrown and falls incomplete.

– James Franklin enters at QB for the Eskimos.

– A bad snap sails over Franklin’s head and Kanneh wastes no time in diving in to recover it.

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– O’Brien gets good protection but can’t decide whether to throw the ball or run. As he’s deciding he gets hit and fumbles, but thankfully Jackson knocks the ball out of bounds. Price’s 2 yard catch sets up a 31 yard FG attempt which Alvarado nails. Eskimos lead 43-17.

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– Ottawa’s defence continues to play half heartedly and sloppy tackling allows the Eskimos to  tack on a 30 yard FG of their own.

– A PI flag against Edmonton moves the chains but O’Brien’s 2nd down pass is nearly picked and falls incomplete.

– Evans continues his strong game as he sacks Franklin for a 5 yard loss. On the ensuing punt, Deon Lacey picks up and suplexes Williams to the turf, sparking a melee. Edmonton winds up with 3 flags for 40 yards, setting Ottawa up on Edmonton’s 18 yard line.

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melee

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– DeMarco enters at QB for the Redblacks and after having his first pass knocked down by an untouched blitzing defender, looks for Williams deep. A good idea in theory but Williams cuts off the route short and DeMarco’s pass is picked off in the end zone.

– Eskimos pick up one first down then punt.

– Walker busts his longest run of the game, 13 yards, and follows it up by getting stuffed for no gain.

– Edmonton finally runs out the clock.

Final score: 46-17 for not the visiting team

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Key stats:

Burris went 20 of 36 for 162 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT

O’Brien went 6 of 11 for 34 yards

DeMarco went 0 of 2 with 1 INT

Walker had 6 carries for 16 yards

Sinopoli made 5 catches for 53 yards

Zack Evans made 3 tackles, had 1 sack and 1 INT return for a TD

Alix punted 9 times for 394 yards, averaging 43.8 yards per kick

Final Thoughts:

This game was ugly in all phases for the Redblacks. Offensively, Burris and company were rolling early but momentum shifted to the Eskimos following a horrible decision by Bad Hank who, while under heavy pressure, failed to throw the ball away and instead threw a pick six that the offence never recovered from. It was shades of 2014 for Burris who struggled mightily with accuracy as Ottawa went two and out six times. In the 3rd quarter Burris got the mercy pull and in came O’Brien. It was a strange decision as on every depth chart this season DeMarco has been listed ahead of him at the number two spot. Despite being gifted with great field position thanks to back to back turnovers, O’Brien also failed to move the ball, under throwing most of his passes. DeMarco got in late in the 4th but never found any rhythm as he seemed to be on a different page than his receivers.

As for the running game, what running game? Walker had possibly his worst game in a Redblacks uniform and though he finished with 16 yards, he picked up 13 of those on a single carry on the Redblacks final possession. A more accurate stat line is that after 58 minutes of play, Walker had 5 carries for 3 yards. Against a defence like the Eskimo’s Ottawa needed Walker to decisively pound the ball up the gut, but instead every time he got handed the ball he stutter stepped and got tackled for a loss or no gain.

At wide receiver Sinopoli continued to find holes in the zone and make catches and Williams made a couple of guys miss, but overall the WR core was not good. Numerous times receivers failed to fight back to the ball and allowed Eskimo defenders to cut in front of them for easy knock downs.

On the offensive line, SirVincent and company got taken to the woodshed. The group as a whole was under siege all night, failing to both open holes in the running game and giving Burris, O’Brien and DeMarco no time in the pocket. In the Redblacks first two games, the offensive line was a strength, last night it was a liability.

Defensively, if I told you before the game that you’d limit the opposing starting QB to only 12 completions, you’d probably think you’d played well. Not so much in this case. Though Matt Nichols only had a dozen completions, he made the most of each one, benefiting from great field position, undisciplined flags and piss poor tackling from Ottawa’s defenders while racking up 212 yards and 3 TDs.

As a unit, DBlock had their worst performance of the season, failing to wrap up and instead going for the kill shot. Abdul Kanneh and Jovon Johnson were especially guilty of trying to shoulder check Edmonton’s RBs and WRs, who merely shrugged off the hits and kept going. Speaking of Johnson he had an opportunity to make an end zone interception while the game was still in reach, but failed to secure the catch. Later, he did make a clean interception but it was wiped out by a flag.

The Eskimo’s game plan seemed to be to find Adarius Bowman (who torched the Redblacks to the tune of 5 catches for 120 yards and 1 TD) and screens up the middle. Edmonton called the middle screen at least six times, and the only time it didn’t result in a 1st down was when Zack Evans made an incredibly athletic play, picking off the pass and rumbling 65 yards the other way for a touchdown.

In terms of special teams, after his first FG attempt rang off the upright, Alvarado settled in and made the rest of his kicks. Maybe he wanted to put on a show for his wife, who was in the stands. You didn’t miss TSN’s Rod Black mentioning that every couple of minutes, did you? Alix got a lot of punting practice but though he averaged 43 yards per kick, the coverage team was porous, conceding huge returns. The net result was Ottawa losing the field position battle, gifting the Eskimos with great starting position every drive and forcing the defence to play on a short field. Overall it was a sloppy game from the special team units.

In terms of penalties, the Redblacks were flagged 13 times for 139 yards and too often those flags kept Eskimo drives alive or wiped out positive plays such as Johnson’s interception.

Depsite being beaten in all phases, Ottawa will have a chance to show that this game was a fluke, as their next opponent is these same Eskimos who visit Lansdowne next Friday. While some members of R-Nation seem to be channeling their inner Sens fan, (going from being ecstatic and thinking the team was a Grey Cup favourite, to the sky is falling, we’re horrible and is the same 2014 team) realistically, if you’d polled them before the season started, every single person would’ve taken a 2-1 start. Ottawa needs to improve as last night’s effort was unacceptable but in the end the loss must be taken with a grain of salt. Ottawa had 3 days of practice and preparation to Edmonton’s 11, as Edmonton was coming off their bye week. With the full force of R-Nation behind the team, and a chance to lick their wounds and get in a couple of solid practices, expect a much better performance from the Redblacks at TD Place on July 17th.

@RedBlackGade

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