Redblacks dominant in battle with Alouettes (& 14 other thoughts)

The Ottawa Redblacks finally put together a complete 60 minute effort and it was an impressive sight to see. The offence moved the ball at will and the defence was aggressive and smothering in a 32-4 win over the Montreal Alouettes.

Here are my all thoughts on the win:

1) Another day at the office, another 300 yard performance from Trevor Harris. Harris, who continues to lead the CFL in passing, once again had a big night, going 32/41 (78%) for 343 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. For the majority of the game, he made good reads and spread the ball around, hitting nine different receivers. But his night was not without a few warts. Harris still held the ball too long at times, leading to sacks, he lost another fumble (his 7th of the season) and was picked off (on a tipped pass) inside Montreal’s 10 yard line. Thankfully, none of that mattered since the defence had Montreal’s number. Given that the Redblacks are suddenly on a three game win streak, I wonder if those who questioned Harris’ leadership following a string of single score losses are done eating their words.

2) Offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo called a masterful game, keeping Montreal’s defence off-balance with creativity, misdirection and a healthy pass to run ratio (41 passes to 21 runs). The Redblacks moved the chains 27 times, generated 426 yards of offence (averaging 5.5 yards per play), converted 54% of the time on 2nd down (14/26), went 2/3 in the red zone, 2/2 on two point converts and dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for 36 minutes.

3) With 64 yards on the ground and another 45 in the air, Mossis Madu is making a serious case to remain the starter at RB. Madu had ran hard when handed the ball (averaging 4.6 yards per carry) and displayed soft hands and shiftiness out of the backfield (averaging 15 yards per catch). For as long as the Redblacks franchise has existed, there’s been a revolving door at the tailback position. Might Ottawa finally have an entrenched starter?

4) With Kenny Shaw lost for the season to a knee injury, an opportunity was created for Josh Stangby and Jake Harty to step up and fill his void. The pair didn’t disappoint, turning 10 targets into 9 catches, 76 yards and a spectacular diving touchdown catch. As for the rest of the receiving corps, Diontae Spencer made 4 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. While Elizondo deserves credit for being creative with Spencer, such as handing him the ball on a sweep on 2nd and inches for a 28 yard gain, in a perfect world Spencer isn’t just catching swing and screen passes. Given the speed he has, it would be good to see him stretch the field more often.

5) In his 100th career game, Brad Sinopoli made 7 catches for 82 yards, with 4 of those catches moving the chains on 2nd down. He also drew an illegal contact flag on another 2nd down. As for his buddy Greg Ellingson, he crossed the 1000 yard receiving mark for the third consecutive season in style, hauling in a 42 yard touchdown pass.

6) Although the offensive line gave up four sacks, they shouldn’t be singled out for lack of pass protection. Of those sacks, one was the result of the running back failing to pick up the blitz and another is on Harris for failing to throw the ball away. Ottawa’s big men up front imposed their will on a physical Montreal defence, pounding the ball on the ground for the Redblacks’ first 100 yard ground game of the season and more often than not they gave Harris a clean pocket to make his reads.

7) What does a complete defensive effort look like? How about holding your opponent to 12 first downs, 39 yards on the ground, 238 in the air, a 26% conversion rate on 2nd down, five two and outs and just 4 total points. The Redblacks defence was unstoppable and for the third straight week, forced a mid-game quarterback change. It didn’t matter who was under centre though, as Ottawa racked up 5 sacks and pressured the QB another 10 times. Clearly Jonathan Newsome’s addition to the lineup has gone a long way towards providing the pass rush with a much needed spark. Sack celebration of the night goes to Arnaud Gascon-Nadon for his amazing lumberjack chopping wood impression. Talk about being on brand.

8) It really was a total team effort on defence, as evidenced by the tackle breakdown. Three players led the way with five tackles (Taylor Reed, Khalil Bass and Corey Tindal), two had four (Antoine Pruneau and Adrian James), five made a pair and five others had one. The unit as a whole also had 4 tackles for a loss, an impressive feat.

9) Ernest Jackson had a quiet night against his former team, making just two catches for 19 yards. Given how he’s capable of producing, it’s criminal to see him so underused in Montreal. As for other former Ottawa players, ex-Renegade Kyries Hebert led all defenders with 7 tackles.

10) Brett Maher’s consecutive field goal streak got up to 15 before he finally missed a kick. Maher would wind up missing two fields on the night but made up for it with a huge night punting the ball, averaging 50.3 yards per kick. His coverage unit didn’t do him too many favours though, allowing Stefan Logan to average 18 yards per punt return. It wasn’t all bad on special teams as Spencer was a threat in his right, averaging 15 yards per punt return and 16 yards per kickoff.

11) Early in the season as Ottawa struggled to win games, it was evident that the team lacked swagger. But now that they’ve managed to string a few wins together, you can clearly see a change in how the players act, both on the field and on the bench between series. Guys are loose, smiling and more importantly making plays. Confidence breeds success as we’re seeing in the Redblacks’ play.

12) What a confusing series of events in the 1st quarter. Following an incompletion, the referees failed to notice that Rick Campbell had thrown a challenge flag. The ball was snapped and the play resulted in a incomplete pass to Spencer. But after that, the Command Centre eye in the sky confirmed that the flag was thrown before the play and went back and allowed the challenge. The call on the field stood, but the Redblacks (for whatever reason) were granted another 2nd down. Ottawa looked a gift horse in the mouth when Harris was hit and fumbled. I’m not a huge fan of going back after a play has already happened, but if you go back, I don’t think you can simply erase plays that happened and redo downs. What would have happened if Ottawa had scored on that Spencer incompletion? What if the ball had been picked off? All in all, it was weird.

13) Shoutout to the fans who made the trek from Ottawa to support the Redblacks on the road. Given how frequently R-Nation has taken to invading neighbouring stadiums the past few seasons, it’s not a stretch to call them the best traveling fan base in the East.

14) By beating Montreal, Ottawa accomplished a few different things. First off, they temporarily move into 1st in the East and could remain there if the Ticats somehow find a way to beat the Argos on Monday. Secondly, and more importantly, they win the season series with Montreal. That could be huge given that there’s almost certainly going to be a crossover team in the playoffs. With only two Eastern teams likely making the playoffs, if the Redblacks now finish tied with the Alouettes, they would get the playoff nod due to owning the tiebreaker.

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).