Redblacks bounce back (& 9 other thoughts on their win in Montreal)

On the heels of a discouraging road loss (their first of the season), the Ottawa Redblacks travelled to Montreal looking to get their season back on track. A better effort in all three phrases of the game led to a convincing 28-18 win over the Alouettes.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) A week after an incredibly poor performance, including the lowest completion percentage of his career (45%), quarterback Trevor Harris was back executing at the high level Ottawa’s grown accustomed to. Harris was surgical against the Alouette defence, putting together the 21st 300 yard passing game of his career, completing 28/42 passes (66%) for 342 yards and three touchdowns. And if not for a handful of drops, those numbers would read even better. Harris was confident in his reads and really stepped into his throws, a sharp contrast to last week against the Stampeders.

2) It was no surprise to see Harris have a strong game given that offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo put together an excellent game plan. A week after abandoning the run, Elizondo stuck with it, and had a healthy pass to run ratio of 42 to 28. A big reason why the Redblacks won the game was due to their production on 2nd down. Ottawa converted 19 of 31 second down opportunities (61%) and averaged 8.7 yards per second down play.

Loved that Elizondo got fullback J.C. Beaulieu involved in the passing attack. Drawing up a play which led to Beaulieu catching the game’s opening touchdown was a thing of beauty. It was Beaulieu’s first touchdown as a Redblack and clearly fired up the entire offence. Small things like giving a player a chance to score against his former team is something that is noticed and appreciated by the entire offence. Beaulieu also caught a two-point conversion.

If there was one negative aspect of last night’s offensive performance it was that from the middle of the third quarter on, the Redblacks failed to score a point. Some of that could be a result of taking their foot off the gas with a 20 point lead, but some of it is on sloppy execution too.

3) Is it too soon to call William Powell the best back in the league? I don’t think so. 23 carries turned into 138 yards but most impressive was Powell’s ability to rip off huge runs. Powell had three runs of 10-plus yards and two runs of 20-plus yards. That’s a quick way to demoralize a defence. It’s not a stretch to think the Redblacks might be undefeated if they’d fed Powell last week the way he was fed last night. Dating back to last season, in his last ten games, Powell has gone over the 90 yard rushing mark eight times.

4) Brad Sinopoli’s 11 catch, 148 yard performance served notice that he’s officially back into form. It was Sinopoli’s best game of the season and his first breakout game since last season’s injury. Of his 148 yards, 75 came after the catch and four of his catches moved the chains on 2nd down. He was also a beast getting down the field and blocking for the run game.

As for the rest of the receiving corps, rookie Noel Thomas snagged 6 passes for 56 yards and his first career touchdown, Greg Ellingson made 5 catches for 49 yards and Diontae Spencer had 3 for 29 yards. Spencer’s low production and issues with drops continue to be a concern. After three games, Spencer has 122 yards to his credit. That was a good half of work for him late last season.

5) Noel Thorpe’s “homecoming” went about as well as possible. In addition to completely shutting down the run, allowing just 43 yards on 13 carries (3.3 yards per carry), Thorpe’s defence limited Montreal to 280 passing yards, had three sacks and only allowed the Alouettes to convert 3/15 2nd down opportunities. With Kyries Hebert suspended, Avery Williams filled in and didn’t look out of place. A number of defenders looked sharp but Mike Wakefield really stood out, making five tackles and two sacks.

There were a couple of big hits throughout the game but hit of the night clearly goes to Montreal running back Tyrell Sutton, who absolutely steamrolled Corey Tindal.

6) In terms of special teams, Lewis Ward continues to be money. The rookie Canadian kicker was yet again perfect, nailing both field goal attempts. As for punting, Richie Leone’s ability to dictate field position is a weapon. Leone punted 9 times for 432 yards, averaging a net gain of 43 yards. Ottawa’s cover units were in fine form, as demonstrated by the four different players who finished the night with two special teams tackles (Teague Sherman, Anthony Cioffi, Brendan Gillanders and Kevin Brown.

7) I get the appeal of live mic games to some and I understand that they lead to increases in TSN’s viewership, but I’m simply not a fan of the way things are currently done. As it stands, I don’t gain any enjoyment or insight from what is being shown. To me, it’s an interesting concept, but I’d much prefer to have the focus on player interactions (aka trash talk), as opposed to hearing QBs audible at the line by repeatedly yelling the same word. In Ottawa’s Week One matchup with Saskatchewan, much was made of the back and forth that went on between Duron Carter and Diontae Spencer, THAT would have been entertain to hear. Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, scrap the live mics and invest that money into more cameras for better replay angles.

8) Bad sign for the Alouettes if their first home game following a win in ages only draws 16,178. Montreal’s struggled to put an appealing product on the field for a few seasons now and it’s starting to reflect in the stands. Shutout to those members of R-Nation who made the trek down 417 to Montreal for a Friday of tailgating, football and other festivities.

9) In their first game of the season against an Eastern opponent, Rick Campbell’s team took care of business. Any win against a division opponent is worth more than just two points, and the Redblacks have an early leg up on Montreal in the season series (a potential tiebreaker down the road). With the win, Ottawa moves to 2-1 and back atop the East division, pulling ahead of the 2-2 Ticats. With Calgary heading to the nation’s capital next week, the Redblacks will have a chance to prove last week’s loss was a fluke and that they deserve to be seen as early season contenders.

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).