It was a game the Ottawa Redblacks had to have. To prove to themselves, R-Nation and the rest of the league that their season wasn’t a wash. And while far from a defining win, by beating the Ticats 37-18 the Redblacks demonstrated that they are indeed capable of rising to the occasion. After repeatedly finding ways to lose close games, on Friday night Ottawa made the necessary plays to win, closing out a game with authority to earn their second win of the season.
Here are all my thoughts on the game:
1) In his fourth start against the Ticats (with the previous three coming during his time as an Argo), Trevor Harris finally got a win. It was a remarkably efficient performance from Harris who averaged 8.2 yards per completion as he went 36/48 (75%) for 394 yards and two touchdowns. Though at times, he held the ball a bit too long, overall, Harris made quick reads and distributed the ball well amongst his receivers. At the halfway point of the season, Harris leads the CFL in yards, touchdowns, completions and is tied for fewest interceptions. His numbers scream MOP candidate but until Ottawa’s record improves, he won’t be in the conversation.
2) Offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo did a lot of good things vs the Ticats. He moved the pocket to buy his QB more time to throw. He incorporated more motion in the backfield and ran quite a bit of play-action which made the defence hesitate just enough to make the difference at times. Most importantly, with a 15 point 4th quarter lead, he didn’t try and kill the clock, instead keeping the ball in the air and allowing Harris and company to march down the field with a series of short passes that repeatedly moved the chains. All that said, there’s still things to be improved. Specifically in the red zone where shotgun runs on 2nd and 2 led to field goals instead of touchdowns. There was also a puzzling QB sneak on 2nd and 2 in the 3rd quarter that seemed doomed to fail before the ball was even snapped. Overall though, hard to complain when your offence puts up 31 points, 418 yards and has the ball for nearly 37 minutes.
3) That has to be William Powell’s worst performance as a member of the Redblacks, right? On top of averaging a measly 2.8 yards per carry (12 carries for 33 yards), Powell fumbled a handoff, had two drops and struggled at times to pick up the blitz. A pass to run ratio of 48 to 13 isn’t a recipe for success as the weather gets colder, so Ottawa must get better production from their running backs. Perhaps Brendan Gillanders needs to be more involved. Despite touching the ball just twice, he had a 8 yard run and a 14 yard catch. On the season, he’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry. The issue with making him the starter is that the Redblacks don’t have another Canadian running back behind him.
4) In his first action since being hurt in the season opener, Kenny Shaw had a busy night, turning 7 targets into 5 catches for 45 yards. Elizondo chose to get the ball into his hands mainly via screens, which is reflected by his fact that his longest catch of the night was 13 yards. Dionate Spencer, Ottawa’s other deep threat, was also mainly used on crossing routes and screens. As much as those plays seem to be working, it’d be nice to see that speed applied to stretching the defence.
5) What can be said about the Buds that hasn’t already been said? The duo is the engine that drives the Redblacks’ offence. Sinopoli was incredibly clutch on 2nd down, as 6 of his 7 catches moved the chains and kept drives alive. He finished the night 78 yards and 34 YAC (yards after catch). As for Ellingson, although he finished with 10 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown, it seemed like a quiet night for him, probably because most of his catches came in the 10-15 yard range.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 19, 2017
6) It might not have been the offensive line’s worst game of the season, but it certainly wasn’t their best. Bryan Chiu’s unit struggled to open holes on the ground and pick up the blitz. That said, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Elizondo took awhile to adjust his play-calling and at times, Harris held the ball too long. Still, the offensive line simply can’t allow defenders to come in clean and pop Harris. Without #7, Ottawa’s season goes nowhere fast.
7) The Ticats are far from an offensive juggernaut, but that doesn’t take away from Ottawa’s dominant defensive performance. Hamilton picked up just 12 first downs, converted only 44% of the time on 2nd down, averaged less than 5 yards per play and barely cracked 200 yards of total offence. The Redblacks forced five two and outs and despite only getting to the QB once, still had 10 pressures. A QB change to Jeremiah Masoli did lead to a scoring drive, but afterwards the defence settled back down and crushed any hopes of a Hamilton comeback. LB Tank Reed and FS Antoine Pruneau led the way, with five and four tackles respectively.
8) As well as the defence played, there’s no denying the fact that Ticats shot themselves in the foot more than once. Adrian Tracy jumped offsides three times, Brandon Banks dropped a sure touchdown that could’ve tied the game and a fumbled handoff exchange gifted Avery Ellis a defensive score.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 19, 2017
9) With 6 field goals to his credit by the middle of the 3rd quarter, for a while it looked like Brett Maher might encroach on the CFL record of 8 in a game. Maher was spectacular and made sure Ottawa’s early drives didn’t come up empty. That said, he did have issues with converts, with one blocked (and returned for a 2 point score) and another shanked. In terms of punting, Maher was again strong, averaging 44 yards per kick.
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) August 19, 2017
10) Thanks to the efforts of Patrick Lavoie, Andrew Marshall and Serderius Bryant (who each made two special teams tackles), the always dangerous Brandon Banks was, for the most part, contained, although he still busted off returns for 53 and 26 yards. On the flip side, Dionate Spencer was solid for the Redblacks, averaging 15.4 yards per punt return and 26 per kickoff.
11) It may have been a road game but the Redblacks weren’t alone in the Hammer. Dozens of members of R-Nation made the long trek down the 401 to support the team and were rewarded with a win.
Couldn't have done it without you.
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) August 19, 2017
12) Time to see if winning breeds confidence. Even if it came against the worst team in the CFL, a win’s a win, and it was one the Redblacks needed in the worst way. The pressure on the team heading into this game was amplified by both teams’ poor records. While the victory should be taken with a grain of salt, it’s always a positive sign when you win the games you’re supposed to.
13) 2-6-1 isn’t where anyone thought the Redblacks would be at the halfway point of the season but here they are. Despite their poor record, nobody should be throwing in the towel. After all, as thing currently stand, they’re only a single point out of hosting a playoff game. But before Ottawa can look ahead, they need to focus on their next game, which brings the BC Lions to TD Place. The Lions are coming off consecutive losses and could be vulnerable in Ottawa, a place they’ve typically struggled in the past few seasons. If the Redblacks can manage back to back wins, then things in the East division really get interesting.