Redblacks still Arndt good enough (& nine other thoughts on losing to the Ticats)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

For the first time since 2014, the Ottawa Redblacks lost at Tim Horton’s Field, falling 33-12 to the East Division leading Ticats. With their ninth straight loss, the Redblacks tie their longest losing streak in franchise history, which came in their 2014 expansion season.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) Despite an underwhelming performance, I don’t believe it’s fair to judge Will Arndt too harshly. Although it’s fair to say the Redblacks were expecting more from Arndt, it should be mentioned that the rookie quarterback didn’t get much help from his offensive committee or his teammates. That said, completing just 56 per cent of his passes (17-for-30) while averaging 6.5 yards per pass isn’t good enough.

On the night, Arndt threw for 112 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, was sacked three times and ran the ball twice for no gain. A lack of help didn’t make Arndt’s night any easier but, at times, the quarterback himself was to blame. Arndt struggled to see the field and was indecisive with his decision-making.

Even though Arndt didn’t look great against the Ticats, he should start Ottawa’s final two games, if only for lack of better options and the potential for some kind of growth.

2) I’m running out of ways to describe just how abysmal Ottawa’s offensive performance is. The Joe Paopao-led offensive committee continues to sink to new lows each week.

The Redblacks were again held without a touchdown. They again gained less than 100 yards in the first half (74). The again lost the time of possession battle (25:34 to 34:26). They again struggled to move the chains on second down (converting just 5/20 second down opportunities). They again had an unbalanced run-pass ratio (eight called runs to 30 passes). They again struggled in the second half (mustering only a field goal). I could continue but you get the picture.

The Redblacks finished the game with 140 yards of net offence, averaging a measly 3.2 yards per play. The club went zero-for-one in the red zone, had exactly nine first downs and 14 out of their 15 possessions lasted five plays or less.

You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap, but with some of the offensive pieces Ottawa boasts, the team should be averaging more than the 13 points per game they are since Paopao assumed play-calling duties.

3) Canadian Brendan Gillanders made his second straight start at running back and continued to look good, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Too bad he was only handed the ball eight times. You’d think an offence would lean on the run game with a rookie quarterback, but apparently the brains behind Ottawa’s attack disagree. Gillanders also made three receptions for 11 yards.

4) Last week Dominique Rhymes crossed the 1,000 yard receiving mark. This week he was targeted three times but held without a catch. Not exactly the kind of impact one associates with a game changing receiver. As for the rest of the receiving corps, Caleb Holley, Brad Sinopoli and RJ Harris made four catches apiece, for 44, 17 and 30 yards respectively. Canadian rookie Wesley Lewis hauled in first pass of the season for an eight yard gain.

5) If there’s one thing this year has shown us, it’s that defensive scheme can only take you so far and hide so much. Football can be an incredibly complex game but at its core it’s quite simple. Beat the man in front of you. And unfortunately for Ottawa and defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe, that’s what their defensive players haven’t been doing often enough.

One could argue that their defence kept the Redblacks in the game until the middle of the third quarter, but any time the defence allows the opposing team to rack up 539 yards of net offence, 27 first downs and average 8.3 yards per play, it’s getting pushed around. The Ticats moved the ball in the air (with 456 passing yards) and on the ground (with 113 rushing yards). They moved the ball on second down (converting 52 per cent of second down opportunities) and in the red zone (going two-for-four). Six of the Ticats’ 15 offensive possessions gained 45-plus yards.

For those looking for some kind of defensive silver lining, J.R. Tavai notched a sack for the fourth straight game, Randall Evans made eight tackles, De’Chavon Hayes made five tackles and an interception and Anthony Cioffi had five tackles, a sack and blocked a punt.

6) The CFL admitted this week that it blew the late touchdown call against the Eskimos two weeks ago. Will R-Nation get another mea culpa from the league regarding the defensive pass interference call that wiped out a third quarter Sherrod Baltimore end zone interception?

Clearly the Ticats were the better team on the night and would have won regardless of the turnover, but there’s no denying the call was a momentum changer. What’s the point of the command centre when it can’t correctly officiate calls that players, fans and TSN commentators can clearly see?

7) Lewis Ward was responsible for every point the Redblacks put up, nailing all four field goals he attempted, including a career-long 56 yarder. That 56-yard kick just so happens to also be the longest successful field goal in Ottawa pro football history, a record that spans three teams (the Rough Riders, Renegades and Redblacks) and 130 years.

Since the end of his streak of 69 successful field goals in a row, Ward is 19 of 23 for an 82.6 per cent mark.

8) Despite a couple of strong individual performances (such as Cioffi’s blocked punt), it wasn’t a perfect night for Bob Dyce’s special teams units.

First, the positive. Punter Richie Leone was busy, called upon nine times and averaging 51 yards per kick with a net average field position flip of 43.6 yards.

The timeless Stefan Logan once again looked sharp, generating 51 yards on four punt returns including a beauty 31-yarder to set up a field goal.

As for the negative, the Redblacks were caught napping when the Ticats attempted and recovered an onside kick in the first quarter. I’m not sure Hamilton attempts that kick if they don’t consider Ottawa’s offence laughably bad as it was a 6-3 game at the time.

There was also a solid fake punt that was wiped out by a holding penalty, bringing back memories of the fake punt the Redblacks ran in Vancouver last month that was also erased due to a flag (that one being an ineligible receiver).

9) With the loss, Rick Campbell’s squad drops to 3-13 on the season and into a tie for last place with the Argos (who also boast a 3-13 record). At this point in the season, R-Nation has its eyes firmly on the off-season. The on-field product continues to be bland, uninspiring and generally terrible.

Kudos to those masochists in the nation’s capital that have watched every game to this point and who will tune into the team’s final two contests despite nothing to look forward to.

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).