Lemon’s night ends on a sour note & 11 other things to know about the Redblacks win

Well, that should pacify the locals, at least for a week. After going 2-5 in their last seven games and losing their grip on first place in the East, Friday night’s divisional matchup vs the Argos loomed large for the Redblacks.

Though far from perfect, a gutsy effort gave Ottawa a 29-12 win, an edge in the season series with the Argos and moved them one step closer to the playoffs.

Here are the rest of my thoughts on the game:

1. Really have to wonder how much those back spasms are affecting Trevor Harris. The former Argo pivot did enough to earn the win, going 25/35 for 274 yards (with no TDs or INTs), but still doesn’t look anything like the man who set the league on fire early in the season. Harris’ final stat line could’ve been much better if not for a trio of overthrows an open Chris Williams and Greg Ellingson. Drops by those same two receivers also did Harris no favours but more on that later.

2. I’ve been critical of OC Jamie Elizondo’s play calling in the past, so it’s only fair that I give him full credit for tonight’s win. Despite not putting up eye popping numbers, the offence still generated 21 first downs and a total of 347 yards. With 21 runs to 35 pass attempts, Elizondo struck a healthy balance between putting the ball on the ground and in the air. More importantly, passing routes stretched the field vertically and the hitch screens that R-Nation has come to dread were few and far between. Elizondo’s aggressiveness was on display from the get-go, when a perfectly executed flea-flicker to Williams led to Ottawa’s first points of the night. It was also evident late in the 4th quarter when instead of calling a run to kill clock on 2nd and long, a deep pass to Ellingson in the end zone drew a DPI flag and led to a touchdown that put the game out of reach. Elizondo’s main concern in practice this week should be how the offence can start converting on its trips to the red zone. In four ventures inside the Argo’s 20 yard line, Ottawa came away with one TD. Against stronger offensive teams, field goals won’t cut it.

3. A day after yours truly called for Brad Sinopoli to get more looks, last season’s Most Outstanding Canadian turned 10 targets into 9 catches for 116 yards. Harris looked Sinopoli’s way early and often as the Argos simply had no answer for the quick slants over the middle to #88. Sinopoli doesn’t get the fanfare that a guy like Chris Williams does, but that’s because a 12 yard route just isn’t as sexy as a deep bomb catch. Still counts for a 1st down though and is often easier to get.

4. Speaking of Williams, by catching the flea-flicker in the 1st quarter, he crossed the 1000 yard mark for the 4th time in his career. While he finished the night with 3 catches for 56 yards, fans can only wonder what might have been if not for two horrible drops. As talented as he is, Williams continues to frustrate fans by dropping catchable balls. Sticking with the receiving corps, Ernest Jackson’s 6 game TD streak came to an end as he finished the night with 5 catches for 31 yards.

5.  The Redblacks must have seriously pissed off the football gods as the team can’t finish a game without losing a starter to injury. The latest casualty was LT SirVincent Rogers, 2015’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, who went down just before the half. Rogers’s injury lead to rookie Jason Lauzon-Séguin shifting to LT and to the return Nolan MacMillan, who took the field for the first time in 2016, stepping in at RT. Things were further shaken up on the offensive line at the end of the 3rd quarter when RG Matt Albright came out for a few series and was replaced by DT Zack Evans, who played both ways for a brief period of time wearing #61. The patch line did a solid job of keeping Harris upright and paved the way for 99 yards on the ground. If Rogers misses significant time (which it looks like he might), it’ll be interesting to see if GM Marcel Desjardins bring in reinforcements or choses to go with an in house replacement.

6.  Two weeks ago the 178 pound Jerrell Gavins was moved to LB, puzzling many in the nation’s capital. On Friday night he showed why DC Mark Nelson made the move, displaying incredible closing speed and delivering a few thunderous hits. Though he doesn’t have the typical size of most linebackers, Gavin is as ferocious as anyone and more importantly doesn’t miss tackles. I foresee him moving back to DB once John Boyett is fully healthy, but until then the linebacking corps isn’t lacking anything with Gavins holding down one side.

7.  Despite not getting a single sack on either Dan LeFevour or Drew Willy, Ottawa’s defence brought just enough pressure and had good enough coverage to force continuous check downs. Better still, once those short completions were conceded, the Redblacks as a whole did a fantastic job of swarming to the ball and efficiently making the tackle. LBs Taylor Reed and Damaso Munoz deserve special acknowledgement for leading the way with 8 and 6 tackles respectively. That being said, Ottawa’s best defensive player of the night was DB Jonathan Rose who finished the night with 6 tackles, a spectacular interception (that snuffed out a scoring drive) and a knockdown. The defence also did a fantastic job on 3rd down, forcing a turnover on downs all three times that the Argos attempted to go for it.

Ottawa Redblacks' Jonathan Rose (34) prevents Toronto Argonauts' Tori Gurley (81) from catching a pass during second half CFL action on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ottawa Redblacks’ Jonathan Rose (34) prevents Toronto Argonauts’ Tori Gurley (81) from catching a pass during second half CFL action on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

8. Overall, the Redblacks’ special teams were excellent on the night. The coverage units did a solid job of limiting Toronto returners to minimal gains, thanks in large part to great tackling from Jake Harty and Antoine Pruneau. Chris Milo alone scored more points than the Argos himself, going 5/5 on his FG attempts and 2/2 on converts. But the most exciting special teams play of the night was brought to R-Nation by Jamill Smith, who made Toronto pay for attempting a 53 yard FG into the wind. Filling in for the injured Tristan Jackson, Smith made the most of this opportunity, running his way into the history books by returning the missed FG 109 yards for a touchdown, a Redblacks first. The only negative for Bob Dyce’s unit on the night was that it allowed a punt to be blocked, perhaps due to a low snap from Tanner Doll (his only bad snap of the night). It was Doll’s second game at long snapper after replacing the reliable Kevin Malcolm.

9. While they weren’t a major factor, it was far from a perfect night for the men in stripes. Though the flow of the game wasn’t constantly interrupted (only 22 flags were thrown, 12 on Toronto and 10 on Ottawa), the referees made some puzzling decisions. Weak calls were made on Mitchell White and Matt Albright to the detriment of the Redblacks and two helmet to helmet calls were missed on QB Trevor Harris. Furthermore, a shove in the back of Nick Taylor by Kevin Elliot in the end zone prevented a likely interception but should have been ruled offensive pass interference.

10.  It’s no secret that DE Shawm Lemon left Ottawa on bad terms, and apparently this game had extra meaning for him, as he took the time to tweet about it twice.

Unfortunately for Lemon, aside from going offside and accidentally rolling into the back of SirVincent Roger’s legs, he was invisible. Lemon finished the night with a whopping one tackle, scary stuff indeed.

11.  How huge does that early season tie with Calgary now loom? At the time, some in R-Nation criticized Head Coach Rick Campbell for playing for the tie instead of going for the win, but the extra point Ottawa earned then is paying off in spades now. With the win, the Redblacks reclaim 1st in the East and move four points up on the Argos and Eskimos, who remain a legitimate crossover threat.

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).