When the final whistle sounded, none of the 24,621 fans in attendance were sure how to feel. Some were confused, not even aware that a tie was possible, while others were ruing missed opportunities. The one thing everyone could agree on was that Ottawa remaining undefeated was a good thing.
In a matchup billed as a potential Grey Cup preview, both Ottawa and Calgary battled hard, made big plays and ensured that the game lived up to the hype. While both teams left a few golden opportunities on the field, Ottawa in particular will be wondering what would have been.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
– Trevor Harris had his *worst* game of the season, going a pedestrian 39/50 (78%) for 396 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. I say worst because coming into the game he was completing over 80% of his passes and had yet to throw an INT. But in all seriousness, Harris was once again fantastic and torched Calgary’s secondary all night long. If not for a few sacks, he easily would’ve crossed the 400 yard threshold and Ottawa likely wins the game.
– Speaking of the offensive line, Bryan Chiu’s unit struggled. Calgary’s front seven dominated the line of scrimmage and even when they didn’t actually manage to take Harris down, the pressure they applied was often enough to force an incompletion. The Stampeders managed to sack Harris twice but that total would’ve been much higher if not for his ability to use his feet to avoid the collapsing pocket. With injuries ravaging Ottawa’s offensive line, guys like Alex Mateas and Jake Silas really need to step up and play at a high level.
– Though his night will be defined by a goal line fumble, the newly signed Nic Grigsby had a solid debut for the Redblacks, gaining 65 yards on 14 touches and averaging 4.6 yards per run. Canadian Kienan LaFrance had Ottawa’s longest run of the night, a 24 yard romp that displayed power, toughness and agility . Considering the turnover the Redblacks have had at the position, it’s criminal LaFrance isn’t getting more touches (he finished the night with two carries).
– Chris Williams continues to amaze. A 10 catch, 130 yard, 3 TD performance brings his season totals to 25 catches for 493 yards and 6 TDs. His 493 receiving yards through three games is the most by any receiver in CFL history.
– It was nearly another 500 yard performance (498) for OC Jamie Elizondo’s offence which averaged 6.7 yards per play. That being said, I’m personally not a fan of the number of screens and outs to the wide side of the field that are being called. Sooner or later a gambling DB will turn one of those passes into a pick six. Another thing that really irked me was the shotgun runs on 2nd or 3rd and short. I just don’t comprehend how, in a tie game with a minute left and being on the opponents’ 1 yard line, anyone calls a run out of the shotgun formation. It’s the CFL, the defenders line up a yard off the ball, don’t re-invent the wheel, just call a QB sneak and go win the game! Seeing that play brought me right back to Mike Gibson’s time with the Redblacks and those aren’t memories any offensive co-ordinator should ever try to evoke.
– The Redblacks’ defensive line isn’t quite right. On one hand, they were extremely stout against the run, limiting Calgary to just 38 yards on the ground (2.4 yards per carry). That’s an impressive stat line against any team but doubly so against a Stampeder group known for pounding the rock. On the flip side, Ottawa can’t seem to get any pressure on opposing QBs. Bo Levi Mitchell had all day to go through his reads and pick apart Ottawa’s secondary. In 43 pass attempts he wasn’t sacked once and only seemed rushed a handful of times. Through three games the Redblacks have managed only three sacks. That needs to quickly improve.
– LB David Hinds’ diving 2nd quarter interception was a thing of beauty but would not have been possible without DL Connor Williams. Williams, who was well blocked on the play, did a great job of getting his hands up and tipping Mitchell’s pass.
– Considering the fact that the game ended in a tie, it’s hard not to look back at all the opportunities Ottawa squandered. There was the missed two point convert on the opening drive (though I like the aggressiveness of the coaching staff), to Chris Milo’s missed convert and two missed FGs, to Harris throwing an interception in Calgary’s end zone, to Nic Grigsby fumbling on the goal line with a minute left, to Jermaine Robinson dropping a gift wrapped interception in overtime.
– Former Redblack Roy Finch shredded Ottawa’s punt cover unit, averaging 16 yards per return. Special teams issues have plagued the Redblacks since their inception and last night was no different.
– Can we all agree that a tie is such an unsatisfying way to end a game? I get that it’s the football equivalent of seeing a unicorn but I don’t think any fans would complain if the CFL changed the OT format in the off-season to allow mini-games to continue until one side wins.
– While you can’t fault Campbell for playing for the tie, you have to wonder what could’ve been if he had decided to go for it on 3rd and 5 in the second overtime. It could have been the kind of call that sets the tone for a season. Even if they’d gone for it and failed to convert (thus losing), a strong message would’ve been sent to the players. All that being said, that extra point in the standings will absolutely come into play in the fall.
– Last night’s sellout crowd was LOUD. Giving away free thundersticks to everyone in attendance surely helped, but the cowbells, drums, horns were simply fantastic. TD Place has earned a reputation of being a tough place to play and last night, R-Nation again showed why.