Redblacks lay an egg against Alouettes

So much for all that bye week rest eh? Fresh off a 13 day break, the Ottawa Redblacks played an uninspired game in front of the largest regular season crowd in team history (24,907). Appearing listless at times, the Redblacks were dominated in every aspect of the game by a hungry Montreal team. Here are my thoughts on the blowout loss.

1) It’s the elephant in the room, so let’s address it first. Duron Carter did indeed suit up for the Alouettes, two days after having his appeal with an arbiter in Montreal. Though he inspired some awesome fan made signs, Carter did more than enough to silence R-Nation’s boos with 5 catches for 126 yards and 2 TDs, Although he was not the reason the Ottawa lost, Carter came up with momentum swinging catches when called upon. While R-Nation is justifiably angry about his 67 yard TD pass in the 2nd quarter (and more on that later), his 2nd TD pass of the night was a thing of beauty. The only thing that I find baffling about the entire Carter situation is that the CFL and arbiter had 48 days from when Carter ran into Rick Campbell to decide if they were suspending him. Why push the hearing all the way back to the game before Ottawa, only to still delay in either lifting or upholding the suspension?

2) 21/31 for 322 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT isn’t a terrible stat line by any stretch, but that won’t do much to stop the QB controversy raging amongst fans and media in the nation’s capital. While Henry Burris was far from perfect, he didn’t get much help for his teammates or offensive co-ordinator. Considering that his offensive line did their best swiss cheese impression all game long, it’s miraculous that Burris still managed to complete 67% of his passes and hit seven different receivers. In my opinion, Burris didn’t lose the starting QB position with this performance, but he did waste a golden opportunity to shut the door on all the talk about the team needing to make a change. What I’d like to ask those clamouring for Trevor Harris is, do you honestly think he’d have done any better last night behind that offensive line?

3) As for the offensive co-ordinator, Jamie Elizondo’s play calling continues to be erratic. Elizondo called 6 running plays all night long compared to 37 pass attempts. That’s unacceptable, even if Ottawa was trailing for the majority of the game. On a night when his offensive line couldn’t pass block, Elizondo failed to take some heat off his QB by pounding the ball. At half-time the Redblacks trailed by a single touchdown yet in the second half, Ottawa called just one running play and put up a whopping 3 points over the last 30 minutes of the game. Overall, the offence went two and out 8 times, mustered 351 yards (6.4 yards per play) and turned the ball over six times (two fumbles, an interception and three turnovers on downs)

Montreal Alouettes' Chip Cox (11) celebrates his team's turnover against the Ottawa Redblacks late in second half CFL action on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Montreal Alouettes’ Chip Cox (11) celebrates his team’s turnover against the Ottawa Redblacks late in second half CFL action on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

4) There’s no polite way to say this, so I’ll be blunt. The Redblacks offensive line was terrible. While the final tally was 7 sacks conceded, the reality is that Burris was under siege nearly every time he dropped back to pass. Guards Jason Lauzon-Séguin and Alex Mateas really struggled, which in turn allowed Montreal to collapse the pocket with ease. J’Michael Deane’s veteran presence was sorely missed and the sooner the injured Nolan MacMillan returns from a broken wrist, the better.

5) Ernest Jackson continues to be Ottawa’s most reliable receiver. On a night when Greg Ellingson didn’t manage a catch (though to be fair he was only targeted twice), Jackson picked up the slack, finishing with 7 receptions for 120 yards and a TD. While many will focus on his 48 yard Hail Mary catch, to me, the most impressive aspect of Jackson’s game last night was the 71 YAC (yards after catch) he racked up. As for the other receivers, both Brad Sinopoli and Chris Williams had uncharacteristic drive killing drops but still combined for 11 receptions and 137 yards. As for Khalil Paden, he turned his two targets into 39 and 10 yard catches.

6) The decision to attempt a fake FG on 3rd and 4 was baffling. It was the opening drive of the game and the offence looked crisp in marching the ball down to Montreal’s 32 yard line. It wasn’t throwing a pass to your defensive tackle kind of bad, but it wasn’t a well executed fake by any means. Ultimately, the three points wouldn’t have been a difference in the blowout loss, but getting stuffed and coming away with no points immediately gave Montreal a boost.

7) Ottawa’s defence did a decent job against the run, holding Montreal to 62 yards on the ground. They also managed to take down the QB 5 times. But that’s where the positives end. Not only did Ottawa give up a season high 43 points, they also allowed 5 TD passes, nearly doubling the 7 they’d allowed up to this point in the season. Kevin Glenn shredded the Redblacks’ secondary, completing 83% of his passes and ended the night with only five completions to go along with his 382 yards and 5 TDs. Time after time, Ottawa failed to get a stop on 2nd down, allowing Montreal to convert 14/22 second downs. The defence also failed to adapt and was repeatedly burned by a simple slant pattern across the middle of the field. Nik Lewis in particular feasted on the route, hauling 8 passes for 102 yards and a TD. 68 of Lewis’ 102 yards came after contact as he ran through weak arm tackles with ease. LB Antoine Pruneau often found himself matched up with Lewis but struggled to bring him to the ground. Pruneau wasn’t the only Redblack missing tackles though, as many in the secondary were guilty of not wrapping up.

8) The 13 penalties called on the Redblacks were all deserved, but the (non) call that will stick with fans is Duron Carter’s first touchdown of the game. On the play, Carter grabbed DB Abdul Kanneh’s facemask, pulled him to the turf with it, ran down the field and was spotted all alone by Glenn, who hit him in stride for a 67 yard TD strike. Head Coach Rick Campbell challenged the play for offensive pass interference, but whoever runs the CFL Command Centre decided that Carter did nothing wrong. Mind boggling.

9) Former Redblack Jovon Johnson had a very solid game for Montreal, making 5 tackles and sacking Burris once. Kyries Hebert, the last ex-Ottawa Renegade in the league, also had a strong game, posting an identical stat line.

10) Days after the announcement of his jersey retirement, it was cool to see Alfie at TD Place. The cross promoting of Sens at Redblacks games makes me wonder if its all leading up to an outdoor game at Lansdowne next winter.

11) Stefan Logan carved up Ottawa’s cover units. His 8 returns went for 198 yards, which works out to an average of 24.7 yards per return, talk about flipping field position. As for the rest of Ottawa’s special teams, Tristan Jackson showed why he’s Ottawa’s best returner, averaging 19.9 yards per kick return. In terms of the kicking game, Zach Medeiros had a heck of a night, averaging 48 yards per kick (though when you factor in Logan’s return, field position barely moved). Chris Milo made both FGs he attempted but shanked a convert.

12) As a result of the loss, things in the East division suddenly become a whole lot more interesting, with first and last place separated by just three points. Should make for exciting football down the back stretch of the season.

13) Did the Redblacks look past Montreal with an eye on their next opponent? On Thursday night, the BC Lions head to TD Place for a game that now features two teams coming off blowout losses. BC has been tough on the road all season long and with Jonathan Jennings’ high powered arm and that fierce defence, the Redblacks will have to be at their best if they want to get back into the win column.

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).