Ottawa Redblacks’ latest loss signals more of the same

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

While Friday night’s 27-24 loss to the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats didn’t mathematically eliminate the Ottawa Redblacks from playoff contention, for many in R-Nation the team’s sixth consecutive defeat symbolized everything that has haunted the organization for the past four seasons.

It’s not that this 2023 edition of the Redblacks is terrible — 11 of their 12 games have come down to the final three minutes — but there’s no hiding from the fact that Bob Dyce’s squad is 2-9 in these games. There’s no killer instinct, finish or clutchness to be found.

This latest loss to Hamilton, who have dominated Ottawa by stringing together ten straight wins since losing the East Final in 2018, was yet another one-score defeat. It’s the kind of game you can argue should have gone in the Redblacks’ favour, but if it’s true that good teams find ways to win, then bad teams find ways to lose. Ottawa has been finding those ways with alarming frequency.

Not everything was terrible. Running back Devonte Williams had the best game of his career, gouging Hamilton to the tune of 146 yards on the ground and another 69 through the air. The impressive aspect of Williams’ performance was how he kept making defenders miss. Seven of his 16 runs went for 10-plus yards and of his 69 receiving cards, 66 came after the ball was in his hands.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome two poorly timed fumbles, one of his own and one by rookie quarterback Dustin Crum. The 24-year-old quarterback hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard in recent weeks, but he also wasn’t hurting his team either.

That changed on Friday as he threw a very ill-advised pass on the game’s opening possession that led to a Ticats field goal. He also fumbled while marching down the field in the game’s waning moments and both turnovers loomed large in the three-point loss.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Failing to score after three cracks from the one-yard line also did Dyce’s team no favours. Coming off a bye week, offensive coordinator Khari Jones had his offence playing much better than it had in recent weeks, though the performance was overshadowed by the four turnovers and two missed field goals.

Even so, Jones’ attack quietly racked up 450 yards of offence with excellent first down production, averaging eight yards per play. The unit also went a respectable three-for-five in the red zone but still lacked big plays through the air, completing a single deep ball on a 44-yard bomb to Shaq Evans.

Had the offence simply gotten out of its own way, perhaps things would have turned out differently. But then again, perhaps not, because the Redblacks allowed another quarterback to post career-highs on defence.

Taylor Powell is a rookie yet, like nearly every other quarterback this season, he absolutely shredded Ottawa’s secondary, completing 66 percent of his passes for 326 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. How many times must defensive backs Damon Webb, Cariel Brooks, Abdul Kanneh, and Sherrod Baltimore be exposed before changes will be made? All are veterans boasting plenty of experience, which makes their collective failure so startling.

The Redblacks are such a frustrating team because they aren’t raw rookies learning on the job. They’re players with proven resumes who have been plying their trade in Canada for a number of years, yet seem to have hit a wall this season.

This is why there’s so much angst amongst members of R-Nation right now, because where do you look for hope? You’d think if general manager Shawn Burke was planning on significant changes, it would have happened during the 11 days his team had off before this game.

With two-thirds of the season gone, Ottawa (3-9) doesn’t own the tiebreaker against Hamilton (5-7) or Montreal (6-6) and sit several games back of each. Going 5-1 would give them a shot, but they’d still need a helping hand to make the playoffs.

This defeat wasn’t just a loss that complicated their playoff push, it was yet another wasted opportunity for the Redblacks to prove to the city that they were different from the disappointing teams they’ve fielded since 2019.

And that brings us to the crux of the issue. As an organization, where do the Redblacks go from here? Since losing the 2018 Grey Cup, Ottawa has changed head coaches, coordinators on both sides of the ball, general managers, team presidents, and turned over a good chunk of its roster.

It’s not impossible for Ottawa to go on a heater and squeak into the playoffs, though nothing we’ve seen so far suggest that that’s about to happen. This team has fundamental flaws and there’s no easy fix in sight.

Friday night’s contest was the lowest crowd of the season at TD Place with 18,004 on hand, but R-Nation is nothing if not persistent and will continue to come out and hope that just maybe, this could be the game that turns things around.

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).