Thirteen days after being completely embarrassed in front of their home crowd, the Ottawa Redblacks headed into Percival Molson Memorial Stadium and atoned (somewhat) for being blown out, edging the Alouettes 19–14. While it won’t receive any nominations for game of the year, at this point in the season, a win’s a win, even if it isn’t a work of art. Here are the rest of my thoughts on the game:
– Two weeks ago with Henry Burris at the helm, Ottawa’s offence put up 19 points against these same Alouettes but lost by 24 points. Last night, with Trevor Harris under centre, Ottawa still only mustered 19 points but hung on to win. While the defence deserves a ton of credit for much stronger play, their improved performance overshadows the fact that the Redblacks’ offence is still in a funk. The QB switch to Trevor Harris has (so far) failed to return offensive production back to early season levels. Harris finished the night a pedestrian 27/40 (67%) for 282 yards with 1 TD.
– Despite facing heavy criticism for the number of screens and short out routes called in recent weeks, OC Jamie Elizondo didn’t seem to change his game plan much. Though there was much better balance in terms of the number of passes called vs running plays (40 to 20), fans will continue to grumble about plays that don’t stretch the field. Case in point, WR Chris Williams, perhaps the fastest player in the league, caught a team high 10 passes for 91 yards, yet his longest gain of the night was just 14 yards. I understand that teams respect his speed and play off him, but it seems like every pass he catches is a screen and that he needs to make a defender or two miss just to avoid a loss on the play. The offence generated 357 yards (averaging 5.3 yards per play), marking the 5th game in a row with less than 390 yards of total offence. That’s a far cry from the early season numbers Elizondo’s unit was putting up.
– In the same vein, it’s nice to finally see WRs Brad Sinopoli and Ernest Jackson a bit more involved with the offence. Jackson led all Redblacks with 109 yards and scored a TD for the 5th straight game. As for Sinopoli, he finished the night with 8 catches for 63 yards, with 28 of those being YAC (yards after catch). For the first time all season, Sinopoli looked like last season’s Most Outstanding Canadian, turning short passes on second down into first downs by making defenders miss or by simply willing his way across the marker. Hopefully Sinopoli continues to be targeted over the middle, because the offence runs so much smoother when he is. On the opposite end of the spectrum, after being held without a catch vs BC, Greg Ellingson finished the night with a single catch (a screen) for -3 yards.
– After being pushed around the last few weeks, the offence line deserves credit for a stable performance. The unit conceded just 2 sacks on 40 dropbacks and opened big enough holes in Montreal’s front seven for Travon Van and Brendan Gillanders to rush for a combined 84 yards on 16 carries (good for 5.2 yards per rush). It’s worth noting that despite starting the game at RT, rookie Jason Lauzon-Séguin was replaced by American Jake Silas in the 2nd quarter. Not sure if that was due to performance or injury but an already thin line can ill afford more injuries.
– As much as Ottawa’s defence played Montreal extremely tough (limiting the Als to 279 total yards of offence), there’s no doubt their job was made easier by Duron Carter’s absence. All night long, Montreal only had two ways to move the chains; a) by throwing to Nik Lewis, who again, feasted on the defence by going across the middle to the tune of 10 catches for 92 yards and a TD and b) via flags on the Redblacks. As a whole, the defence deserves credit for tackling much better. For the last month, Redblack defenders had bounced off opposing players or made weak arms tackles. But last night players flowed to the ball and gang tackled. Aside from Lewis’ 40 YAC, nobody on Montreal picked up more than 2 yards after any given catch. On a side note, despite only bringing Kevin Glenn down twice, Ottawa made both sacks count, as they came late in the 4th quarter.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 2, 2016
– Speaking of DBs, is there any Redblack happier with this win than Mitchell White? With six minutes left in the game, White’s interception led to a field goal that pretty much sealed the win. Nothing like showing up the team that cut you after re-signing you in the off-season eh?
– Head Coach Rick Campbell has talked tough about holding his players accountable for the number of flags they draw, but you’d never be able to tell by the 9 penalties for 103 yards his team took in the first half. Of the eleven infractions that Ottawa finished the night with, nine unacceptably fall into preventable or technical categories. Something’s gotta give.
– Though Chris Milo finished the night strong, nailing his last two FG attempts, the reality is he went 4/6 on the night and sits at 29/38 (76.3%) on the year. That’s a full 12.6% worse than last year’s 88.9% average. While it may not be time to push the panic button yet, especially when you consider his veteran experience and that fact that for whatever reason, it’s the shorter, low pressure kicks he’s tripping up on, not the long, high pressure ones, you have to wonder how long GM Marcel Desjardins waits to bring in competition if Milo continues to struggle.
– Once again, R-Nation invaded Montreal and proved that it is among the best traveling fan bases in the East. A group of 60+ fans (including over a dozen members of Ottawa’s Cheer Team who made the trip on their own), got seats directly behind Ottawa’s bench and raised a ruckus every time Montreal was on offence.
— AJ Jakubec (@AJonSports) September 1, 2016
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) September 2, 2016
— Alyssa Radulescu (@AlyssaRadulescu) September 2, 2016
– With the win, the Redblacks take the season series vs Montreal, remain atop the East and create a bit of breathing room for themselves. Heading into their second bye week, Ottawa will need to prep themselves, both physically and mentally, for a race to the finish, as the division will likely only be decided in the final week of the regular season. Luckily for Ottawa, the bye seems to have fallen at the perfect time, and when they return in 16 days to take on the Stampeders in Calgary, they should have a number of key pieces returning from injury. Veterans such as DL Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, DB Jerrell Gavins, K/P Ronnie Pfeffer and DB Jeff Richards will all likely be ready to take the field, providing a huge boost to the Redblacks’ depth.