Ottawa’s offence fails them again (& 11 other thoughts on losing to the Eskimos)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

For the first time since losing the Grey Cup last November, the Ottawa Redblacks returned to Commonwealth Stadium.

Although the field conditions were much better, the outcome was the same with the Redblacks losing again, this time to the Eskimos by a score of 16-12.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) Dominique Davis’ numbers were solid, if unspectacular. Davis completed 65.7 per cent of his passes for 289 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. In regards to the turnovers, the first is entirely on him. Davis rolled out to evade pressure, locked in on his receiver and forced a pass that should’ve been thrown away. The second interception came on a pass that Julian Feoli-Gudino should’ve caught but instead popped up to a defender, just like last week against Montreal.

At times, Davis flashes moments of brilliance, such as when he effortlessly flicked his wrist and hit Dominique Rhymes in stride for a 67-yard touchdown strike. Although he looks great when pushing the ball down the field, for whatever reason, he rarely does. Too often Davis’ passes travel laterally as opposed to stretching the field. He also continues to make some horrific reads, like he did on the game’s final drive.

Down four, first and 10 on Edmonton’s 11-yard line, Davis’ final three passes fell incomplete, a result of forcing throws into tight coverage. Most baffling of all is that none of those passes were directed towards Brad Sinopoli, who continues to be criminally underused.

2) Not sure what changes Ottawa’s offensive committee made at halftime, but it effectively handicapped the unit. In the first half against Edmonton, the Redblacks’ offence was playing some of its best football of the season. Creative play calling and a healthy ratio of run to pass plays led to 277 yards of offence and more importantly, sustained drives that put points on the board.

Literally none of that happened over the game’s final thirty minutes. Not only did Ottawa fail to score a single point in the third or fourth quarter, they inexplicably stopped handing the ball to John Crockett, who had been averaging almost nine yards per carry. In fact, the Redblacks only managed their first, first down of the second half with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Somehow Ottawa averaged 9.6 yards per first down play, yet only converted 8-of-20 second down opportunities (40 per cent). They possessed the ball for 24:48, went 0-for-3 in the red zone and all too often had passing plays that went horizontally as opposed to vertically. By my count there were at least five swing or hitch passes, which members of R-Nation with a good memory know was a staple of Joe Paopao’s Renegades offence. In all, the Redblacks had 15 offensive possessions. Nine lasted four plays or less and only three led to points (two field goals and a touchdown).

In an apparent effort to try something new, receivers coach Winston October took in the game from up in the box. In theory that should have made it easy for him to see and utilize Sinopoli, but perhaps he forgot his binoculars at home. What other reason could there be for targeting the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Canadian only twice? Until Ottawa’s offensive committee figures out Sinopoli is the key to sustaining drives and opening up things for other receivers, the Redblacks’ offence will continue to be the worst in the league.

3) John Crockett can only do Crockett-like things when his name is called, which is beyond his control. Still, when he was involved with the offence, he was extremely effective. Crockett finished the night with 13 carries for 89 yards, busting off three runs of 10-plus yards and one of 35. It would be nice to see him given the ball on a play that wasn’t just up the gut on first down though.

4) Given that they faced the fiercest front seven in the league, Ottawa’s offensive line played quite well. American rookie Stephane Nembot filled in for Jason Lauzon-Séguin at right tackle and more than held his own; meaning he didn’t stand out for the wrong reasons. Davis had plenty of time to step up into the pocket and wasn’t sacked. The Redblacks also averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the ground. All in all, a good night’s work from the hogs in the trenches.

5) Dominique Rhymes had a big night, catching four passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, but it could’ve been even bigger given that he was targeted nine times, including on the game’s third last play. He was in double coverage and it was a pass Davis probably shouldn’t have thrown, but nevertheless, Rhymes failed to hang on in the end zone despite getting two hands on the ball.

As for the rest of the receiving corps, Rafael Araujo-Lopes looked great in his first start, turning eight targets into six catches for 57 yards, with 53 of those yards coming after the catch. Unfortunately he limped off the field in the fourth quarter. Noel Thomas caught six passes for 41 yards, Devonte Dedmon one for four yards and Brad Sinopoli two for 35 yards.

6) Another rough game for Feoli-Gudino. He finished the night with two catches for 15 yards and for the second week in a row, assisted on an interception by bobbling a pass he should’ve easily caught. He also nearly muffed a punt in the fourth quarter. Given that he isn’t great at creating separation and struggles to hang onto the ball, it’s hard to see why Feoli-Gudino continues to start ahead of Carleton alum Nate Behar.

7) Once again, Noel Thorpe’s defence deserved a better fate. Despite being on the field for over 35 minutes, the defence was stout. Sure they gave up over 400 yards again, but the majority of those came in the second half as the unit wore down.

Led by huge efforts from Jerod Fernandez (eight tackles), DeAndre Farris (seven tackles) and Avery Williams (seven tackles), the Redblacks repeatedly frustrated Trevor Harris and company. Of the Eskimos’ 15 offensive possessions, five were two-and-outs. Four other times Edmonton was stuffed on third down (three turnovers on downs and a fumble). Just three possessions resulted in points (two touchdowns and a field goal).

It’s also worth mentioning that 10 of Edmonton’s 16 points were set up by turnovers. Short of scoring themselves, there wasn’t much more the defence could do to get the win.

8) In a game that featured plenty of crunching hits, the biggest of the night came courtesy of Shaheed Salmon, who absolutely destroyed Christion Jones on the opening kick off of the second half.

9) By making kicks from 10 and 16 yards out, Lewis Ward’s streak of consecutive field goals made sits at 69. It wasn’t a banner night for both kickers though, as the normally reliable Richie Leone shanked a kick and was penalized twice for punting directly out of bounds between the 20s.

10) A week after taking two kicks to the house and setting an Ottawa franchise record with 382 return yards, Devonte Dedmon was effectively contained against the Eskimos. He still looked dangerous every time he had the ball in his hands and had a 41-yard kickoff return, but for the most part Dedmon didn’t have a ton of space to work with. I liked the creativity behind Rick Campbell’s decision to use Jonathan Jennings for an onside punt late in the game, but it would be a massive blow if Dedmon did indeed re-injure his hamstring while running down the field attempting to recover the kick on a gimmick play.

11) With the loss, the Redblacks let another winnable game slip away, drop to 3-5 on the season and waste a golden opportunity to gain ground on a Montreal team that also lost. Next up for Rick Campbell’s squad is a visit from the Ticats. It’s a must-win if Ottawa is to have any hope of challenging for the East Division crown.

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).