Redblacks undone by an inept offence (& 11 other thoughts on the loss)

The Ottawa Redblacks came to Calgary hoping to finally earn a win at McMahon, the only stadium where they had never won. Following a 24-14 loss in front of a small crowd of 23,454, that winless streak continues.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) To say Trevor Harris didn’t have a good night would be putting it kindly. His stats were bad (13-of-29 for 135 yards and an interception) and many of his throws worse. It’s also worth mentioning that 56 of those 135 yards came on a single play at the end of the third quarter. Too often Harris was not on the same page as his receivers. Numerous balls were overthrown and a few skipped short. To be fair, Harris didn’t get much help. Even on the rare occasions when he set his feet and got off a good throw, his receivers dropped the ball.

2) That Harris being pulled in the fourth quarter was no surprise, in fact, if anything the surprise was that Rick Campbell waited so long to do it. On a night when his starting quarterback couldn’t get anything going, perhaps inserting Dominique Davis a bit earlier would have provided a much needed jolt. Davis’ single series came with the game out of reach but on it he managed to complete 5-of-7 passes for 41 yards and capped the drive off with a touchdown strike. If Harris continues to have issues going forward, the coaching staff should not hesitate to put Davis under centre, as he’s clearly comfortable (and capable) of leading the offence.

3) It’s tough to be an offensive coordinator when your quarterback is struggling, but it’s even more difficult when you shoot yourself in the foot. Given Harris’ inconsistency last night, Jamie Elizondo would have been smart to feed his running back. After all, William Powell averaged 9.5 yards per carry. The ground game was the only thing Ottawa had going for it against a tough Stampeder defence yet for whatever reason, despite it being a three point game in the fourth quarter, Elizondo called one run in the game’s final fifteen minutes. A final 15 that included a pivotal first and goal from Calgary’s four-yard line that resulted in a turnover on downs at the one-yard line following two passes (one incomplete, one for a gain of three) and a stuffed quarterback sneak.

Overall, Ottawa’s offence struggled to find any kind of rhythm. Despite averaging a healthy 6.3 yards per first down play, the Redblacks went 9-of-23 on second down conversions (39%), averaging only 3.3 yards per second down play. That’s on the play caller. Ottawa also went just 1-of-3 in the red zone. In close games, that’s the difference between winning and losing.

4) William Powell did everything he could to lead his team to victory. Even if only handed the ball 13 times, he still managed to rush for 123 yard hard earned yards. Powell plowed his way through arm tackles and kept Calgary’s defence off-balance with his cut backs and shifty moves. The fact that Powell only had two catches for eight yards speaks less to his effectiveness as a pass catcher and more to the struggles of Ottawa’s passing attack.

5) Speaking of the passing game, Ottawa’s receivers weren’t at their finest. As a group they struggled to create separation and had numerous drops. Although Greg Ellingson did his thing to the tune of six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, given that he was targeted 14 times, a lot was left out on the field. Brad Sinopoli made four catches for 40 yards but his biggest play was a fourth quarter fumble that ultimately killed any chance of a comeback. As for Diontae Spencer, three catches for 11 yards isn’t the kind of production anyone expects from him.

6) A week after a dominating performance on the ground and in pass protection, Ottawa’s offensive line was pushed around by the Stampeders. It wasn’t just younger players like Evan Johnson at right tackle or Mark Korte at left guard struggling either; veterans like SirVincent Rogers also had their lowlights. A veteran left tackle simply can’t let the defensive end blow by without getting a hand on him.

7) All things considered, Noel Thorpe’s defence actually played a solid game. Especially when you consider that he lost his top three defensive ends to injury and that twice turnovers set up Calgary inside Ottawa’s 25 yard line. Although the Redblacks failed to sack Bo Levi Mitchell, they did pick him off. The defence also forced a fumble and a turnover on downs. Despite leaving the game with an injury, Canadian Antoine Pruneau returned to the field and ultimately led both teams with nine tackles. The defence kept Ottawa close for most of the game, but 14 points in the fourth quarter allowed Calgary to pull away.

8) When the GM Marcel Desjardins signed Kyries Hebert in the off-season, he knew exactly what he was getting; a tough, hard-nosed player capable of providing leadership and a veteran familiar with Noel Thorpe’s defensive system. He was also getting a player with a long history of questionable hits. All of those things were on display last night.

First off, it was great to see DaVaris Daniels pop right up after the hit, because when it first happened, it looked like he’d been knocked out. Secondly, as much as Hebert’s physicality is an important piece of Ottawa’s defence, dangerous hits that result in unnecessary roughness flags don’t help anyone. Not the player being hit, not Ottawa’s defence and certainly not Hebert, who can expect a hefty fine and/or a suspension headed his way.

9) If any of the injuries sustained by defensive players last night turn out to be serious, the Redblacks could be in trouble. American defensive ends Jonathan Newsome, A.C. Leonard and Avery Ellis all left the game with apparent leg injuries. To replace them, Canadians Andrew Marshall and Nigel Romick (normally special teamers) came into the game. Although neither will likely be called upon to start next week in Montreal if the American defensive ends aren’t ready to go, both held their own in spot duty, with Romick even recovering a fumble. In the secondary Jonathan Rose and Antoine Prueanu were also shaken up but both returned to the game.

10) For the second game in a row, Bob Dyce’s special team units did some things well and others poorly. The good was rookie Lewis Ward making both of his field goal attempts and punter Richie Leone averaging 51.5 yards per kick. The bad was falling for a fake punt for the second consecutive week and allowing a 35-yard punt return that flipped field position and led to a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Shoutout to Jean-Philippe Bolduc for his team high two special teams tackles.

11) It was a loss, it was a poor offensive performance and it was blown opportunity, but ultimately it was only one game in a regular season that has eighteen of them. With the defeat, the Redblacks franchise is now 1-6-2 lifetime against the Stampeders. In spite of the fact that it may feel like so much went wrong in a game that was right there for the taking, Rick Campbell’s squad won’t have much time to dwell on the loss. A date with the Alouettes in Montreal next Friday night looms large and may be exactly what Ottawa needs to get back on track.

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).