Aggressive Play Calling Pays Dividends

On a beautiful fall afternoon in Winnipeg, the Ottawa Redblacks gutted out a win and ensured their first winning season in franchise history by scoring a late touchdown and hanging on to beat the Blue Bombers 27-20.


– Before Ottawa even took the field, the Montreal Alouettes and BC Lions did them a huge favour, beating the Argos and Ticats, leaving first place up for grabs

– Gotta love that game day vibe

– R-Nation is everywhere

– Historically, Oct. 24th has been a great day for Ottawa’s CFL teams

– Moton Hopkins (#95) pays tribute to former Renegade and Blue Bomber coach Richard Harris

– Redblacks make one roster change, inserting the recently re-signed Jamill Smith (#84) in place of the injured Reggie Dunn (#3)

– It’s a whiteout in Winnipeg

– Ottawa wins the toss and will receive

1st Quarter:

– On the 1st play of the game, Henry Burris (#1) hits Chris Williams (#80) for a 15 yard gain and moves past 60,000 career passing yards. On the next play, William Powell (#29) picks up 6 but three plays later Burris is hit as he throws and his pass is picked off.

– Winnipeg QB Matt Nichols strings together a couple completions to set up a 42 yard FG attempt but the kick sails wide. Smith fields the ball in the end zone and returns it out of the end zone to the 12 yard line.

– Powell rumbles for 6 before Ernest Jackson (#9) moves the chains with an 8 yard catch. After getting sacked for a loss of 6, on 2nd and 16 Burris again hooks up with Jackson, this time for 22 yards. Catches by Williams, Greg “The Duke” Ellingson (#82) and Brad Sinopoli (#88) pick up 4, 14 and 5 yards but eventually the drive stalls. Ronnie Pfeffer’s (#15) punt sails 60 yards into the end zone for a rouge.

– Justin Capicciotti’s (#93) 9th sack of the year forces a punt

– The Redblacks go two and out

– Brandyn Thompson (#25) reads Nichols’ eyes, jumps the route and snags an interception

– The offence moves down the field as Sinopoli and Ellingson make back to back 16 yard catches. Runs from Powell and Burris move the ball down to Winnipeg’s 9 yard line.

2nd Quarter:

– Following an incompletion, Ottawa is forced to settle for a 16 yard Chris “Money” Milo (#30) FG.

– Capicciotti’s second sack of the night forces another Blue Bomber punt

– On 2nd and 10 Burris hooks up with Sinopoli for a 41 yard catch and run. Another Sinopoli catch picks up 14 before three straight Powell runs go for gains of 7, 6, and -4. The Redblacks drive ends when Powell gets hit and fumbles on his 4th straight carry.

– Under heavy pressure, Nichols throws up a prayer and is picked off again by Thompson.

– Burris hits Ellingson for a 37 yard gain before giving the Bombers the ball back with his 2nd turnover of the night.

Neither team seemingly wants to keep the ball as Winnipeg immediately puts the rock on the turf and Abdul Kanneh (#14) swoops in to recover the fumble.

– The Redblacks go on a 6 play, 42 yard, TD drive. Powell picks up 12 on the ground and 12 in the air, Williams makes a 16 yard catch and the drive is capped off by Powell’s 2 yard TD run. Milo’s convert attempt travels directly into the stands, the stands beside him. Ottawa leads 10-0.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Ottawa Redblacks

– A DPI call on Kanneh leads to a 36 yard TD pass to Darvin Adams. Winnipeg also fails to make the convert, hitting the upright.

– On the ensuing kick off, the ball bounces into the end zone for a rouge.

– Burris moves the sticks twice, connecting with Sinopoli and Jackson for gains of 11 and 13 yards but the drive stalls following a drop by Williams and an incompletion.

– A 50 yard catch and run leads to a 42 yard FG and a tie game.

– Jackson picks up 19 before Burris lobs a deep bomb and hits Williams in stride for a 51 yard TD strike. Burris is shaken up on the play as Jamaal Westerman decides to dive, elbow first, into his left knee. OC Jason Maas is beyond furious and has to be restrained by OL Coach Bryan Chiu. Burris eventually gets up and walks off the field as the extremely classy Bomber crowd serenades him with boos. Thomas DeMarco (#17) enters for the two point convert but his pass falls incomplete.

– After 30 minutes of play



– Just like a pregnancy test, the stats don’t lie

3rd Quarter:

– The Winnipeg kick off is fielded by Smith who darts his way to Ottawa’s 52 yard line.

– Powell picks up 11 and 3 on the ground but Burris’ 2nd down pass falls incomplete. Pfeffer’s punt sails into the end zone for another rouge.

– Keith “I like Hittin’ People” Shologan (#74) and Moton Hopkins (#95) meet at the QB for the Redblacks’ 4th sack of the night and force a punt.

– Powell gets stuffed for no gain and Burris throws another incompletion and Ottawa goes two and out. Pfeffer’s shanked punt travels 29 yards and is returned to Ottawa’s 43 yard line.

– The Bombers go nowhere fast but still pick up a 46 yard FG to make it a 17-13 game.

– Powell picks up 11 and 2 on ground but Burris’ 2nd down pass is dropped by Sinopoli, which is as rare as seeing a unicorn.

– Kanneh gets beat deep for a 43 yard gain and three plays later Nick Moore caps off the BLUEGOLD drive with a 7 yard TD pass. Following the convert, Ottawa trails 20-17.

– Burris hits Williams for gains of 11 and -1 but for the 4th straight drive, his 2nd down pass fails incomplete.

– A Shawn Lemon (#52) sack forces the Blue Bombers to punt

– Catches by Maurice Price (#7) and Powell set up a 3rd and 1 but HC Rick Campbell chooses to punt the ball away. Pfeffer’s punt soars 52 yards and is fielded by Troy Stoudermire, who is immediately hammered by Nigel Romick (#47).

4th Quarter:

– Capicciotti and Lemon sandwich Nichols who is shaken up on the play. Brian Brohm enters at QB and does what he does best, quickly throwing an incompletion.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Ottawa Redblacks

– Two runs from Powell fail to move the sticks and the Redblacks go two and out

– Winnipeg goes two and out and the ensuing punt travels 14 yards directly out of bounds

– A 20 yard catch by Powell and a 14 yard catch by Sinopoli set up a 46 yard Milo FG. With 7:01 left in the game, we’re tied at 20-20.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Ottawa Redblacks

– Capicciotti explodes into the backfield and tackles the ball carrier for a loss of 8 yards

– Sinopoli picks up 6 and 14 yards before Ellingson hauls in a catch for 21 yards. On 1st and 10, Powell rushes for 9 and on 2nd and short, Burris sneaks behind his offensive line for a gain of 4. On the next play Powell rushes for 6 before bursting through the defence for a gain of 19 yards. Two plays later Jackson’s 5 yard catch moves the ball down to Winnipeg’s 1 yard line and sets up 3rd and 1 with less than a minute left in the game.

– After taking a time out to debate the situation, HC Rick Campbell decides to leave his offence on the field and puts the game in their hands. Burris and company reward their coach by getting the job done, plunging into the end zone for the go ahead score. Milo nails the convert and it’s a 27-20 game with 45 seconds left.

– Ottawa’s ugly special teams woes rear their ugly head as the coverage unit allows Stoudermire to return the kick off to Winnipeg’s 51 yard line.

– A couple of quick completions and an accidental DPI flag on Forrest Hightower (#23) move the ball down Ottawa’s 23 yard line. On the final play of the game, Nichols’ end zone pass is batted harmlessly to the ground by Jovon Johnson (#2).

Final score:


Key stats:

Burris completed 29/43 passes for 413 yards and 1 TD and 2 INTs

Powell carried the ball 22 times for 117 yards and 1 TD

Sinopoli caught 8 passes for 120 yards

Capicciotti made 5 tackles and 3 sacks

Pfeffer punted 9 times for 421 yards, averaging 46.7 yards per kick

Closing thoughts:

What a gutsy win. It wasn’t always easy and at times it was downright sloppy, but the Ottawa Redblacks did what they needed to do in order to ensure a critical win and move into a tie for 1st place in the East.

Offensively, it was a tale of two halves. In the 1st half, Burris moved the offence at will, putting an exclamation mark on his opening 30 minutes work by throwing a 51 yard TD strike to Williams. On the play he was hit low and shaken up. Though he came out for the 2nd half and didn’t miss a snap, he was clearly playing more tentatively and perhaps is indeed injured. Despite the offence’s struggles down the stretch, when he needed to, Burris managed to guide the team down the field for the tying and go-ahead scores. Even being shaken up, Burris hit 6 different receivers and completed 67% of his passes. He also rushed 4 times for 11 yards, including the last minute TD plunge. Can we just give him the MOP already?

Speaking of that last minute QB sneak, huge props to Head Coach Rick Campbell for having the stones to trust his offence to win the game, many coaches would’ve trotted the FG unit and made the safe play, but by coaching aggressively, Campbell showed his team that he believes in them, and they rewarded that trust by getting the job done.

For the second consecutive week, William Powell averaged over 5 yards per carry (5.3 to be exact). Behind good blocking from his offensive line, Powell made the most of his heavy workload, repeatedly spinning and juking his way to extra yards. Also like last week, Powell was a big time receiving threat coming out of the backfield, catching 4 passes for 39 yards. OC Jason Maas leaned heavily on Powell in the second half as he tried to protect Burris from further injury, and Powell did a fantastic job, rising to the occasion.

As for the receiving group, Brad Sinopoli’s 120 yard effort made him the second Redblack in team history to cross the 1000 yard receiving mark. Williams finished the night with 7 catches for 96 yards and a TD and Ellingson and Jackson finished with 87 and 67 yards respectively. Of the “Fab Five”, the only receiver who wasn’t a factor was Maurice Price who finished with a single reception for 4 yards.

Defensively, the Redblacks were led by an impressive effort from Canadian DL Justin Capicciotti. Capicciotti spent the game in Winnipeg’s backfield, terrorizing Nichols and blowing up run plays for a loss. Kanneh deserves an honourable mention for always being around the ball too, as his 6 tackles show. Ottawa sacked Nichols 6 times, moving their total to a CFL leading 51 takedowns and generated 3 more turnovers; 2 INTs and 1 fumble. Yet again, the Redblacks did a fantastic job shutting down the run, limiting the Blue Bombers to a measly 19 yards on the ground.

As for special teams, this was probably the best all around kicking effort the Redblacks have gotten all season. Despite shanking a punt for just 29 yards, Pfeffer finished the night averaging 46.7 yards per kick and for the most part, the coverage units did a good job limiting Winnipeg’s dangerous returners. Milo was perfect on both FG attempts though he did miss a convert. The insertion of Jamill Smith into the lineup can be deemed nothing other than a success, he finished the night averaging 22.5 yards per kick off return and 7.8 per punt return, which though it doesn’t sound like much, is in fact higher than Williams’ punt return average.

By hanging on for win, the Redblacks become the first Ottawa CFL team since 1978 guaranteed to finish with 10 wins and more importantly, move into a tie with Hamilton for 1st in the East. Much will be made of Burris’ health going forward but another significant injury is Jerrell Gavins, who never returned after half-time. With a banged up Burris, the last two weeks of the season promise to be tense ones for R-Nation, as Ottawa can finish as high as 1st or as low as 3rd, it all boils down to a home and home vs the Ticats that starts in Hamilton next week.


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).