Redblacks hit rock bottom (& eight other thoughts on losing to the Lions)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

On Friday the 13th, under a full moon, the Ottawa Redblacks lost to a one win team for the second consecutive week and were defeated for the ninth time in their past ten games, falling 29-5 to the BC Lions in front of 15,052 fans at BC Place.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) In Jonathan Jennings’ 48th career start, he continued to show why he is no longer a viable option as a starting quarterback in the CFL. Jennings completed 19-of-31 passes (61 percent) for 239 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions against his former team. He was actually fortunate a few other errant throws weren’t picked off because Jennings spent the majority of the night staring down his reads.

But perhaps most damning is Jennings’ inability or unwillingness to stretch the field. It doesn’t help that his receivers often struggled to create separation, but at a certain point the quarterback needs to be willing to throw the ball down the field, something Jennings only started to do late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.

For the second week in a row, Jennings favourite target was running back Mossis Madu, as evidenced by the ten times Jennings targeted him with check downs. Even on second downs when the Redblacks needed ten yards to move the sticks, Jennings often settled for a throw that was well short of the marker.

With Jennings showing next to nothing in the six games he’s played in and Dominique Davis benched due to his penchant for early game interceptions, it’s fair to wonder if Will Arndt will finally get a start next week.

2) I’ve written enough about how ineffective Ottawa’s offensive committee is and how unqualified Joe Paopao is to be calling the plays, so I won’t harp on it again this week. Instead I’ll just relay the numbers.

The Redblacks finished the night with 279 yards of net offence. 73 of those came in the first half. 50 came in the 3rd quarter. 156 came after the Lions were already up 25 points and playing a soft prevent defence.

Ottawa converted 8-of-22 second down opportunities (36 percent). They went 0-for-1 in the red zone. They called 31 pass attempts but handed the ball off to their running back just eight times, hardly a healthy run to pass ratio. None of their fifteen offensive possessions resulted in a touchdown. Nine of their fifteen drives lasted four plays or less.

When their defence gifted them three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and a bit of momentum, the offence responded with three two and outs.

The problem with Ottawa’s offence starts at the top with its scheme and the people in charge of directing it. Until something changes, R-Nation should expect more of the same; few points and fewer reasons for optimism.

3) Although he’s a veteran and been in the nation’s capital for a few years, it’s hard to see Mossis Madu sticking around past this season. Madu had another unremarkable game rushing the ball, turning eight carries into 29 yards (good for an average of 3.5 yards per carry). In the passing game he was Jennings’ favourite outlet, turning a team high ten targets into six catches for 49 yards (with 44 of those coming after the catch).

Canadian running back Brendan Gillanders was inserted for a drive in the fourth quarter and made one catch for nine yards. Given that Gillanders has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 9.9 yards per reception in his career, you have to wonder if and when Ottawa’s offensive committee might see what’s right in front of their faces and start incorporating an increased role for Gillanders into the attack.

4) Rough night for Ottawa’s offensive line. The group not only struggled to open lanes in the ground game, paving the way for just 65 rushing yards, but they also had issues keeping a clean pocket for Jennings, who was sacked four times. Mark Korte in particular had a night to forget at left tackle.

5) Much like last week, it says a lot about the state of your receiving corps when a running back has more targets as a check down option than any receiver. The group as a whole struggled to run clean routes and create any kind of separation against a BC secondary that sat on the short routes.

Statistically Dominique Rhymes had a big night, with five catches for 113 yards. But that’s deceiving given that 41 of those yards came on the team’s second last possession in the fourth quarter and another 48 were on the game’s final “Hail Mary” throw. Without those, Rhymes stat line is three catches for 24 yards.

As for the rest of the receiving corps, Canadian Nate Behar turned six targets into two catches for 37 yards. RJ Harris made three catches for 23 yards. Jacob Scarfone made one catch for nine yards and Marco Dubois’ lone reception was good for -1 yards.

Injuries shouldn’t be used an excuse for Ottawa’s offensive woes but there’s no denying the receiving corps would look a lot more dynamic with Brad Sinopoli, Rafael Araujo-Lopes and DeVonte Dedmon in it.

6) Awful performance from Noel Thorpe’s defence. Coming into the game, Mike Reilly had been sacked a league-high 45 times behind BC’s Swiss-cheese offensive line. Not only did the Redblacks fail to sack him even once, they also failed to apply any kind of pressure on him at all. Without exaggeration it was probably the only game this season Reilly has finished with a clean uniform.

The Lions finished the night with 419 yards of offence; 286 in the air and 142 on the ground. They averaged 7.8 yards per play and converted 61 percent of their second down opportunities (14-of-23).

Ottawa did generate a handful of turnovers (with interceptions by Gump Hayes and De’Andre Farris and a fumble recovery by Corey Tindal) but too often the group couldn’t get off the field.

Whether it was a result of sloppy tackling or soft coverage, BC had their way with Ottawa’s defence and made it look easy.

As with the receiving corps, injuries shouldn’t be used as an excuse but it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that not having Kevin Brown, Avery Williams, Antoine Pruneau, Jonathan Rose, Jerod Fernandez, Michael Klassen, Danny Mason and Kene Onyeka available doesn’t help.

7) Richie Leone’s second quarter fake punt was an encapsulation of the Redblacks’ 2019 season to date. Leone threw a perfect pass to fullback Anthony Gosselin who rumbled 37 yards untouched for a first down. Given that the game was still in reach, it should’ve been a huge momentum boost to the visitors. Only Gosselin was flagged and ruled to be an ineligible receiver on the play.

Prior to every CFL game, each team is required to provide officials with a list of players who wear eligible numbers but who will play ineligible positions on third down. Gosselin was on the list the Redblacks gave the officials before the game, thus making him ineligible to receive a pass on a trick play.

Whether you agree with the rule or not (it was created to allow non-offensive linemen to line up on the line of scrimmage on punt plays without having to change jerseys), it was a basic oversight on the part of Ottawa’s coaching staff. And that oversight cost them dearly, as the Redblacks wouldn’t get that deep into BC territory again until their final possessions in the fourth quarter.

8) There are bad losses and there are losing to the team with the worst record in the the league by 24 points losses.

If anyone in R-Nation was clinging to any kind of hope that the Redblacks would be able to use the home and home series against the BC Lions as a springboard to vault themselves back into the playoff race, those aspirations should be shattered.

The 2019 Ottawa Redblacks are the worst team OSEG has fielded since pro football returned to the nation’s capital in 2014, and that’s including the 2-16 expansion squad. At the very least, the 2014 group was competitive and kept things close (read entertaining) before losing. This year’s team is out of most games by the middle of the second quarter, a direct result of a toothless offensive attack.

The Redblacks have lost five straight games and are 1-9 in their past ten. They have six games remaining on their schedule and honestly, it’s hard to predict where another win might come. They’ve got BC next week and clearly can’t hang with them. Then it’s Edmonton, Toronto, Hamilton, Toronto again and Montreal. All will be vying for a playoff berths. The Redblacks will be playing for jobs, pride and not much else.

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).