Burris Sizzles but Flags Cost the Redblacks a Win

If two CFL teams play an entertaining game but nobody’s on hand to watch, are the standings still affected? That’s what the Redblacks might be asking themselves after letting a chance to pull into a tie for 2nd place in the East slip through their fingers, falling to the Argos in Toronto 30-24.


– Road game? Doesn’t matter, R-Nation is everywhere!

– With the Argos electing to wear their white Signature Look uniforms (you know, the ones that cross Alvin the Chipmunk’s trademarked A with the Tennessee Titan’s road uniforms), the Redblacks come out sporting their black home jerseys

– The future of R-Nation is in good hands

– Hybrid DL/LB Justin Phillips makes his return from 2014’s broken fibula

– The CN Tower provides a stunning backdrop

– Ottawa shuffles their RB depth chart

– Toronto wins the coin toss and elects to receive

1st Quarter:

– The Argos receive but quickly go two and out as Damaso Munoz (#45) sacks Trevor Harris and Brandon McDonald (#22) tackles Diontae Spencer short of the first down marker

– Henry Burris (#1) and the offence come flying out of the gate as he hits Greg Ellingson (#82) for a 12 yard gain before Jeremiah Johnson (#27) bursts up the gut for 11 yards. After first down yards are gained Nolan MacMillan (#66) gets flagged for finishing his block and on 2nd and 19, Burris’ pump fake fools everyone, the camera man included, as he hits Ellingson for 16 yards. Newly signed Andy Wilder’s (#41) punt pins the Argos on their 18 yard line.

– Jovon Johnson (#2) appears to open the scoring for Ottawa when he picks off Harris and strolls untouched into the end zone, but an offsides flag against Jacques Washington (#28) wipes out the score. The Argos string together a few first downs before a Malik Jackson (#10) sack and an incompletion force Swayze “Patrick” Waters to punt.

– After Johnson picks up 5 on the ground, Burris hooks up with a slightly offsides Ernest Jackson (#9) on a 55 yard bomb. Two plays later Burris connects with Jackson again, this time for a gain of 21. Johnson caps off the 5 play 85 yard drive by running into the end zone from the 3 yard line to put Ottawa up 7-0.

– The Argos complete two short passes but fail to pick up a first down as Ottawa forces a quick two and out.

FBO CFL RedBlacks Argonauts 20150823

– With nobody open and the pocket collapsing around him, Burris scrambles for gains of 3 and 4 yards but doesn’t pick up enough to move the sticks. Wilder’s punt is returned to Ottawa’s 49 yard line.

– Harris settles into a rhythm and marches the Argos down the field, capping the drive off with a 15 yard TD pass to a wide open Kevin Elliot.

2nd Quarter:

– Burris hits Jackson, Brad Sinopoli (#88) and Maurice Price (#7) for gains of 12, 5 and 10 yards respectively. The drive stalls when Johnson only gains a yard on the ground and Chris Williams’ (#80) short catch only picks up 2. Wilder punts and races down the field to recover his own kick, but officials wipe out the recovery by throwing a no yards flag on the Redblacks.

– The Argos settle into a pattern of completing 9 yard passes and then QB sneaking for a fresh set of downs. This continues until they march into field goal position and Swayze “Patrick” Waters nails a 22 yard FG to put Toronto ahead 10-7.

– Sinopoli gets 4 yards on first down but following an incompletion Ottawa is forced to punt, where they are again flagged for no yards.

– The Redblacks defence flexes its muscles and forces a two and out.

– Despite Sinopoli making back to back catches for 25 and 7 yards, on 2nd and 3 Johnson gets stuffed for a 1 yard gain and Ottawa has to punt as the drive stalls.

– Jerrell Gavins (#24) has perhaps the worst drive of his professional career, getting flagged for unnecessary roughness, then illegal holding and then allowing Tori Gurley to blow by him and sit wide open in the end zone until Harris spots and hits him for a 17 yard TD strike. Following the convert, the Argos lead 17-7 with 37 seconds left in the half.

Tori Gurley

 – The Redblacks seem interested in trying to pick up points before the half ends, but after Johnson gets stuffed for no yards on first down, Head Coach Rick Campbell gives the order to simply kneel to kill the half.

– After 30 minutes, the Ottawa trail Toronto 17-7.



– The 10,000 or so in attendance pull out their phones to check the score of the Jays game

3rd Quarter:

– Ottawa receives to start the 2nd half and Burris wastes no time in marching the Redblacks down the field. Williams starts things off with a 23 yard catch before a holding call on MacMillian wipes out a Sinopoli catch that would’ve gone for a first down. Backed up, Burris tosses a deep bomb to Ellingson, who wins the jump ball and hauls in the pass for a gain of 31 yards. A few run shorts and another Williams catch, this one good for 15 yards, set up a 37 yard FG attempt, which Chris Milo (#30) nails, cutting the Argo lead to a touchdown.

– On 2nd and 9, Justin Capicciotti (#93) bursts through the Argo offensive line and sacks Harris, who fumbles but manages to recover.

– Price catches a short screen, pirouettes and gets tackled for a loss of 4 yards. On 2nd and 14, Burris again looks deep for Ellingson, who makes a spectacular 47 yard catch. Catches by Williams and Sinopoli aren’t enough to overcome an illegal block flag on Jon “Dangerbeard” Gott (#63), so the Redblacks are forced to punt.

– Though he fails to get to the QB, Capicciotti gets his arms up and knocks down Harris’ 2nd down pass, forcing another Swayze “Patrick” Waters punt.

– Catches from Jackson, Johnson and Williams and runs by Burris and Johnson bring the ball down to the Argo 2 yard line as time expires in the third quarter:

4th Quarter:

– Johnson dances his way in from 2 yards out for the touchdown. Milo’s convert is good and we’re tied at 17.

Trevor Harris’ 275th pass of the season is picked off by Gavins, who reads his eyes the entire way, jumps the short route and scampers 30 yards for the touchdown. In 39 seconds the Redblacks have put up 14 points and lead 24-17.

– The Redblacks defence forces an Argos punt and all the momentum is in their favour when McDonald takes an objectionable conduct penalty for chirping as he walks off the field. Given new life and a fresh set of downs, the Argos take advantage and eventually Harris hooks up with Vidal Hazelton for a 15 yard TD pass to make things even at 24.

Vidal Hazelton, Jerrell Gavins

– Johnson bumps into Burris who luckily recovers but on 2nd and long Burris gets flushed from the pocket and sacked. Wilder’s punt travels only 32 yards and falls on top of his cover team, drawing a no yards flag.

– Despite starting on Ottawa’s 30 yard line, the Argos can’t muster any offence and settle for a 34 yard FG to lead 27-24.

– Burris does his best to respond, hitting Sinopoli for a gain of 20. Following a 7 yard catch by Jackson, the Redblacks are inexplicably flagged for too many men while making substitutions. An irate Burris gets ignored by the officials and on the next play Burris gets hit and the ball pops out and is recovered by the Argos at midfield.

Henry Burris, Jon Gott, Vincent Desloges, Daryl Waud

– Heavy pressure from the Redblacks defensive line leads to two incompletions and an Argo punt.

– Starting at his own 10 yard line, Burris hits Johnson for a short gain of 1 yard before looking deep for Price but just overthrows him. Wilders’ punt again travels only 32 yards and drops in the middle of the coverage unit, drawing another no yards flag and setting up the Argos on Ottawa’s 29 yard line.

– An Aston Whiteside (#91) sack limits the damage to a 36 yard FG, extending the Argos lead to 30-24.

– With 2:04 left in the game, Burris tries one last time to march down the field and score, hitting Sinopoli, Johnson and Price for gains of 18, 15 and 14 yards. A goal line pass to Ellingson is dropped and on 3rd and 12 Burris is sacked.

– The Argos take over with 41 seconds left and kill the clock to win the game.

Final score: 30-24 for the Double Blue


Key Stats:

Burris completed 32 of 36 passes for 426 yards

Johnson had 12 carries for 40 yards and 2 TDs

Jackson made 6 catches for 114 yards

Capicciotti had 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass knockdown and forced a fumble

Wilder punted 8 times for 280 yards, averaging 35 yards a kick

Closing thoughts:

After getting plastered last week in Calgary, it was great to see the Redblacks bounce back with a strong effort in Toronto. Offensively, Burris had his best game in an Ottawa uniform as he completed a stellar 88.8% of his passes for 426 yards and effectively used his legs (4 carries for 20 yards) to keep drives alive. Not only was Burris accurate and decisive, he also finally managed to get the deep ball going, connecting with Jackson and Ellingson for huge gains. It’s not every day that your starting QB posts numbers like Burris did and your team still finds itself on the losing end of things.

As for the ground game, the coaching staff made the decision to start Johnson over Chevon Walker (#29) and though he didn’t post eye popping numbers, he did rush for two touchdowns and created energy with his hard, downhill running style. The offensive line deserves props for doing an adequate job opening holes on the ground and keeping Burris upright for the majority of the night.

At receiver, pretty much everyone got in on the action. Jackson led the way but Ellingson made a number of fantastic catches and Sinopoli continued to be clutch on second down, hauling in 7 passes for 85 yards, often fearlessly going over the middle and fighting for YAC (yards after the catch). After being called out on Twitter by former teammates, Price responded by making 4 grabs for 28 yards.

Defensively, when he wasn’t getting flagged for running his mouth, McDonald hit everything in sight, racking up 8 tackles. The unit as a whole did a fantastic job pressuring Harris and keeping him uncomfortable in the pocket. Though Ottawa only had three sacks, heavy pressure led to a number of rushed throws. In terms of turnovers, Gavins interception return touchdown was a thing of beauty and though Capicciotti forced a fumble, the Redblacks were unable to recover. Aside from two blown coverages, both of which turned into Argo touchdowns, the defence was solid, limiting Toronto to only 44 yards on the ground.

In terms of special teams, Ottawa once again struggled mightily. After watching backup QB Thomas DeMarco (#17) punt last week, GM Marcel Desjardins went out and signed Andy Wilder to punt. Unfortunately he actually winded up with worse numbers than DeMarco, averaging an atrocious 35 yards per punt, and that’s before factoring in flags. Late in the 4th quarter, Wilder shanked two punts that dropped onto of his cover team, compounding the short kicks by tacking on no yards flags. Those two punts set the Argos up inside Ottawa’s 30 yard line and led directly to two field goals, which was exactly how much the Redblacks lost by. The return of Chris Williams improved the punt return game in the sense no fumbles were lost, but he failed to generate any kind of meaningful return yardage.

Aside from Ottawa’s not so special teams, the other thing that cost them the game was flags. Simply put, when you take 20 penalties for 228 yards, you probably aren’t going to win, no matter how great your QB plays. Not only did the Redblacks take a lot of flags, they also took flags at the worst possible times, wiping out positive plays such as Jovon Johnson’s pick six and totally swinging momentum in the Argos favour, like McDonald’s objectionable conduct flag.

Overall, there’s a lot of positives that Ottawa can take from this game and they’ll be kicking themselves that they left Toronto without a win. The offence clicked on all cylinders and the defence played aggressive, fast and continued to generate sacks and turnovers. If the Redblacks can clean up the undisciplined play then they shouldn’t have any trouble winning games going forward. Next up is an already sold out home date vs the winless Saskatchewan GREENWHITES.


Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).