1) The video that the Redblacks put together of the Grey Cup traveling from the Prime Minister’s office, down the canal with the LumberJoes to arrive at the stadium was so uniquely Ottawa that it almost didn’t matter that the City of Ottawa “spoiled” the announcement the day before by confirming what everyone already knew. While some fans around the league may grumble that their city has waited longer to host the Grey Cup, having the 105th Grey Cup in the Nation’s Capital during the country’s 150th anniversary was simply a no brainer.
2) In his first game back since tearing a ligament in the pinky finger of this throwing hand, Henry Burris looked like a guy who hadn’t played in a month and who wasn’t fully healthy. Let’s not beat around the bush. Last season’s MOP hasn’t suddenly forgotten how to play at a high level and he still has all of last year’s weapons at his disposal. Burris’ performance last night wasn’t Father Time catching up with him, it was instead a QB who was just a bit off with his timing and who was clearly not on the same page as his receiving corps. Ellingson, Sinopoli and Williams, were all victims of overthrows and wobbly passes with little zip on them. After 30 minutes, Burris was extremely fortunate that his interception count was only at one, as the Argos dropped two gifts. In the latter half of the game, though Burris was better, his performance was still a far cry from the MOP level R-Nation was treated to last season. To his credit, Burris made no excuses after the game and completely owned the loss.
3) As much as Burris looked rusty, he certainly wasn’t helped by his offensive co-ordinator. Jamie Elizondo called an absolutely horrific game. The Redblacks rarely stretched the field with deep passes and it seemed like every second play was a hitch screen. If Elizondo wore Hawaiian shirts you’d forgive R-Nation for mistaking him for former Renegade Head Coach Joe Paopao, who never met a situation he didn’t call a screen in. If intention was to protect Burris by calling short passes because he wasn’t completely healthy, I’d have much rather seen Brock Jensen play, because he could’ve thrown hitch passes all night and Burris would’ve had an extra week to heal. Furthermore, I hate seeing guys like Greg Ellingson, Chris Williams, Brad Sinopoli and Ernest Jackson catch passes while standing still and perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. It means they aren’t using their speed and instead need to wait until the pass arrives, for blocks to be set up and then make someone miss, before moving forward. Having four 1000 yard receivers and calling non-stop hitch screens is like having four Ferraris and never shifting out of second gear. Elizondo needs to start drawing up plays that feature vertical routes instead of screens and out routes and don’t back a defence off or push the ball down field.
4) Coming off a single catch, 14 yard performance, Chris Williams had another unremarkable game. Though he finished the night with 6 catches for 55 yards, Williams was a non-factor for the majority of the evening. Much of that had to do with play calling, as he only received a single deep target which rolled off his fingertips, but after being thrust into return duty, Williams once again showcased why his days as a returner should be over. While he might be the fastest man in the CFL, it is obvious that he does not like contact and would rather slide to the ground or step out of bounds instead of trying to read his blocks for a cutback lane. Williams was also extremely lucky that the Command Centre ruled his fumble an incomplete pass.
5) How does the Command Centre possibly rule that Greg Ellingson’s 2nd quarter TD catch was an incomplete pass? Ellingson, who was pushed out of bounds on the play, never let the ball hit the ground. Replays clearly showed he maintained possession yet after being ruled a touchdown on the field, CFL officials in Toronto ruled it incomplete. Mind-boggling.
6) Another call I hated was the DPI call on Aaron Berry. Berry hit Ellingson right as the ball arrived and though there was no initial flag, Rick Campbell’s challenge overturned the call on the field. Though it worked out in Ottawa’s favour, I’m not a fan of any call that needs to be reviewed in nano-seconds to justify a flag. To me, if you need a frame by frame replay to see if contact was made just before the ball arrives, it shouldn’t be a penalty. Defenders have it hard enough without referees and fans splitting hairs.
7) Continuing what has a been a season long trend, OL J’Micheal Deane finished the night with three holding calls. While they might not have all been completely deserved, clearly Deane is trending in the wrong direction and needs to get right, as each one of the those flags killed a drive.
8) Another game meant another trio of injuries for the Redblacks to deal with. After losing DB Jerrell Gavins and return man Tristian Jackson in the 1st quarter, by the start of the 3rd quarter DB Adbul Kanneh was also on the sidelines and on crutches. For a team that was already dealing with a slew of injuries, losing half of the secondary while playing a rookie QB clearly didn’t help. Forced to juggle his secondary, DC Mark Nelson moved safety Jermaine Robinson to corner (to fill Kanneh’s spot), while Imoan Claiborne replaced Gavins at halfback and John Boyett entered the game at safety. Boyett wasted no time in reminding the Argos of why he’s known as a physical, hard hitting safety, finishing the night with five tackles. Another player in the secondary worth mentioning is the recently signed Mitchell White. White had a fantastic game, finishing the night with one interception and two pass knockdowns. If Kanneh and Gavins are out for any length of time, he will be counted upon in a big way.
9) Here’s a weird stat for R-Nation to chew on. With the win, Logan Kilgore becomes the 5th QB to beat the Redblacks in his rookie start. Kilgore joins Dan Lefevour, Jonathan Crompton, Trevor Harris and Mitchell Gale as other rookies who earned their first career wins against Ottawa. Maybe DC Mark Nelson struggles to game plan for a QB that he has no film on?
10) Chris “Money” Milo’s rollercoaster season continues. After struggling with misses in three straight games, Milo bounced back in a big way, hitting 50 and 55 yard kicks. Maybe the Redblacks should start taking delay of game flags on shorter attempts to make sure all FG attempts are 50+ yards, since Milo doesn’t seem to miss those.
11) Punter Zack Medeiros had a fantastic game. When he wasn’t booming 56 yard punts, he was smartly tucking the ball and scrambling for a first down on a broken play. Given Medeiros’ recent play, it begs the question, when Ronnie Pfeffer returns from injury, does he even still have a job?
12) Speaking of special teams, while I don’t mind faking a field goal, does Danny O’Brien throwing a pass to DL Zack Evans really give you the best odds of conversion? Though it was still the 2nd quarter when the attempt failed, considering the fact that Ottawa went on to lose by three points, the call does loom large, especially when you take into account that the Redblacks were all the way down on the Argos’ five yard line.
13) Having the chance to meet so many members of the 1976 Grey Cup winning Ottawa Rough Rider team was fantastic. OSEG deserves credit for arranging the come together and for making it easy for fans to get autographs and pictures before the game started.
14) While it’s nothing out of the ordinary, last night was another sell out crowd at TD Place. This time is was 24,894 members of R-Nation on hand to watch the battle for tops in the East. It truly is a testament to Ottawa as a football city that even a Sunday night game on a long weekend was a clear sell out.
15) Back to back losses against Saskatchewan and Toronto have dropped Ottawa out of top spot in the East Division. With their next three games at home (sandwiched between a bye week), the Redblacks need to quickly end their cold streak.