Redblacks embarrassed at home (& 11 other thoughts on the loss)

For the second time in three weeks, the Calgary Stampeders reminded the Ottawa Redblacks they have a long way to go if they want to be considered contenders.

Fresh off a win over Montreal, the Redblacks came into the game hoping to build some momentum and prove themselves among the league’s top teams. Instead, they were thoroughly dominated in all aspects of the game and humbled at home with a 27-3 loss.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) Trevor Harris’ roller-coaster season continues. In Week One he was sharp, completing 72% of his passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Week Two was the worst performance of his career and Week Three brought out another 300-plus yard game and three touchdowns.  Against the Stampeders, Harris was brutal. There’s simply no other way to describe the play of a quarterback who went 4/9 for 17 yards and two interceptions in the game’s opening 30 minutes. Although he finally managed to lead a scoring drive to start the second half, despite going 10/13 for 76 yards, Harris’ other three drives led to no points.

Even if Harris has looked out of sync at times this season, it’s worth bearing in mind that his struggles have only come against one team, Calgary. A team that has literally shutdown everyone so far this CFL season.

Still, the fact that Harris continues to throw off his back foot and at times and looks like he’s in a rush to get rid of the ball is troubling. Throw in a handful of bad reads, some ill-advised throws and plain bad luck, and you’ve got a QB that’s earned the boos raining down from the stands.

2) When your offence only manages it’s first first down of the game with 2:40 left before half-time, it’s fair to say you’ve had an awful half of play-calling. Offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo couldn’t get anything going against a stout Stampeder defence. That Ottawa finished the game with only 150 total yards of offence is a testament to the strength of Calgary’s defence and a reflection of Elizondo simply being out-coached. The Redblacks averaged four yards per first down play, two yards per second down play and only converted 5/20 2nd down opportunities. Furthermore, the offence couldn’t cash in their single red zone opportunity, despite having a first and goal from Calgary’s one-yard line.

Although the Redblacks fell behind early, Elizondo again got away from the run, handing William Powell the ball just eight times; four per half. It must be acknowledged that an offensive coordinator is in a tough spot when his offensive line plays as poorly as Ottawa’s did, but still, Elizondo must be better going forward.

3) Speaking of the offensive line, Ottawa’s was MIA. The Redblacks’ veteran group was manhandled by a Calgary defensive line that imposed their will and controlled the line of scrimmage. Not only did they have consistent pressure on whichever quarterback was under centre, they also effectively shut down the run game, limiting Ottawa to a measly 2.7 yards per carry. Don’t be surprised to see a shuffled offensive line next week with Jason Lauzon-Séguin moving back into a starting role, likely at the expense of 2018 first round pick Mark Korte.

4) It’s time Diontae Spencer starts cashing some of those cheques his mouth keeps writing. For a guy who has no problem going on camera and stating his goals of breaking records and leading the league in various statistical categories, he needs to start producing. For the third time this season, Spencer was held to less than 30 receiving yards. On a positive note he did make his longest catch in three weeks, which came in a whopping 12 yards. On the other hand he bobbled a pass that turned into an interception and fumbled a punt return that led to a field goal. Not exactly game breaker material.

5) As for the rest of the receiving corps, the Buds (Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli) turned eight targets into seven catches for 63 yards. Canadian Julian Feoli-Gudino grabbed two passes for 30 yards but no other receiver managed more than a single reception.

6) All things considered, Noel Thorpe’s defence wasn’t terrible. Despite being put into some tough situations as a result of the offence’s five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles), the Redblacks’ defence only allowed Calgary multiple first downs on four of sixteen drives. They also held Calgary to a 39% 2nd down conversion rate (11/28). Rico Murray and Antoine Pruneau led Ottawa’s defensive effort with seven tackles a piece. Michael Klassen and A.C. Leonard were other noticeable standouts. In his first game back after a suspension for his high hit on DaVaris Daniels, Kyries Hebert had two tackles.

When evaluating the defence’s performance, it must be kept in mind that Bo Levi Mitchell sat out the second half. While the hit that knocked him out of the game wasn’t dirty (contact was made well above Bo’s knees), there’s no denying Danny Mason came in late. With backup Nick Arbuckle under centre, the Redblacks only conceded seven points over the game’s final 30 minutes.

7) Given the offence’s struggles, punter Richie Leone had a busy night. Luckily for the Redblacks he was one of their few bright spots, hammering punt after punt. Leone’s ten punts averaged 50.7 yards per kick, and thanks to solid kick coverage (led by Nigel Romick’s three special teams tackles), the Redblacks averaged a net gain of 40.3 yards per punt.

8) The ref cam needs to be a permanent thing. Seeing the game from the ref’s point of view gives the TV audience a much better appreciation of exactly what goes on during a play. Aside from seeing what a quarterback or running back sees, the unique angle provides a close look at the fierce individual battles that take place in the trenches. If TSN wants a real ratings spike ditch the live mics and focus on ref cams.

9) Rick Campbell has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know, but I don’t get his yo-yoing of quarterbacks. Given Harris’ struggles it was no surprise to see him yanked in the second quarter. But the decision to come back to him to start off the second half was strange. Perhaps there’s something to be said for sticking by your guy and trying to build his confidence. Another head scratcher was the decision to settle for an 11 yard field goal from 4 yard line when down 20-0. At that point why not go for it and see if you can’t give your team and the home crowd a shot in the arm?

10) In spite of a perfect summer night and a marquee opponent, the Redblacks had a rare non-sell out crowd on hand. 22,103 isn’t a poor showing by any means, but it’s certainly not what we’ve come to expect from R-Nation.

11) As ugly as this loss was, the saving grace for Ottawa is that Calgary is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the league. After four games they are the only undefeated team in the league. Since 2016 they’re 15-2-2 against East Division opponents. And since 2005, they’re now 17-0 coming off a bye. For the Redblacks, the good thing is that their two meetings with the Stampeders are now in the books. They’ll only meet again in the Grey Cup and as Ottawa knows, in a winner take all scenario, anything can happen.

Despite the loss, the Redblacks still sit atop the East with a 2-2 record and have a week to review the game film, bury it and move on. With a feeble looking BC Lions squad coming to town next Friday, Ottawa will look to move back into the win column.

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