Alouettes 25, Redblacks 24.
Ahead by 11 points with under five minutes to play, the Ottawa Redblacks should not have lost the football game, but that’s exactly what happened when they met their East Division rivals from Montreal on Aug. 19 at TD Place Stadium.
The loss dropped the Redblacks to the bottom of the East standings with three wins and seven losses. Another defeat on Aug. 27 to the lowly Edmonton Elks — a 30-20 final that was only the Elks’ second win in 11 games this season — leaves Ottawa with a dismal 3-8 record, more lost ground to the third-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats (who blew away the B.C. Lions 30-13 on Sunday), and the Canadian Football League’s only current five-game losing streak.
Disastrous game management against the Alouettes and horrendously conservative play-calling in the final few minutes cost Ottawa the game, along with pathetically weak defensive coverage, a lack of concentration in the secondary and overall poor execution.
Ottawa has yet to beat an East division team this season and now has a 15-game home losing streak against the East.
So many things went wrong for the Redblacks in the final few minutes against Montreal and the performance left many questions about why Ottawa wasn’t able to close out the victory.
Could you argue that the Redblacks were robbed of an interception in the endzone by Sherrod Baltimore that would’ve sealed the win? Of course. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Ottawa’s secondary folded and couldn’t get a stop when it mattered most.
Under no circumstances should an Alouettes’ wide receiver be left so wide open with under one minute left on a third down and four to go. The Redblacks’ defence knew the Alouettes needed a touchdown to take the lead and knew they needed to be effective in man-to-man prevent defence.
Yet, the Redblacks’ cornerback decided to watch the Alouettes’ quarterback Caleb Evans from the sideline instead of following his man in coverage; and sure enough Evans found the receiver wide open for a huge gain down the sideline, which led to Evans’ winning rushing TD moments later.
Whether what happened is a schematics miscommunication or simply a player with a severe lack of awareness and discipline is unknown, but under no circumstances should such a mistake occur in a CFL game, especially in crunch time.
In addition, the Redblacks consistently shot themselves in the foot, getting charged with multiple penalties to give the Alouettes crucial yardage and first downs in the game’s final few minutes.
The Redblacks also should have called a timeout with the Alouettes in the red-zone with less than one minute to play to preserve some time in case Montreal scored. But that sensible step wasn’t taken.
The loss was all the more disappointing after the Redblacks strong start, scoring 14 points off two Alouettes turnovers (a forced fumble by Cleyon Laing and an interception by Damon Webb) to lead 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
Backup Ottawa QB Tyrell Pigrome — who shared pivot duties with the Redblacks’ No. 1 quarterback Dustin Crum — found the endzone both times on quarterback draws.
The worst was that former Redblacks’ quarterback Caleb Evans orchestrated the Alouettes’ extremely efficient game-winning drive, which ended with a rushing touchdown for the victory.
Evans completed 24 of 36 passes for 333 yards, including two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed eight times for 49 yards and one touchdown, which sealed the victory for the Alouettes.
Evans performed admirably despite being sacked four times, tossing the two pickoffs and fumbling the football in the first half.
On the other hand, Crum completed 14 of 19 passes for only 130 yards and had a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to extend Ottawa’s lead to 14 points. He also threw one interception, which came off a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
Ottawa totalled 173 rushing yards and their defence was aggressive, forcing five sacks, two interceptions and a fumble, which directly led to 14 points off turnovers in the first half. So Crum didn’t necessarily need to throw for a ton of yards, but no team will win many games with fewer than 150 total passing yards. You can’t be forced to be one-dimensional.
Crum expressed his frustration after the game.
“There are little things you can’t allow in this league, it costs you games. We have a bunch of competitive dudes in this locker room. So, we’re frustrated. We’ve had quite a few close games go against us,” Crum said.
He added that it’s a plethora of mistakes that are hurting the team, not just one specific thing.
‘We shot ourselves in the foot. You can’t blame one thing. The offence had a chance to stay on the field to run the clock out. The defence had opportunities to make stops. We had dumb penalties.’— Dustin Crum, quarterback, Ottawa Redblacks
“We shot ourselves in the foot. You can’t blame one thing. The offence had a chance to stay on the field to run the clock out. The defence had opportunities to make stops. We had dumb penalties.”
This has been the pattern for Ottawa in most of their losses this season. Defensive coverage lapses that result in getting beat through the air on deep balls, back-breaking penalties, assignment mistakes and timid play-calling on offence with a chance to run out the clock.
In the five-game losing streak extended by the heartbreaker against the Alouettes and Sunday’s loss to Edmonton, Ottawa has given up more than 300 passing yards in every game. The Redblacks surrendered 415 yards against the Argonauts during the five-game stretch of futility.
Even in their two wins this season against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa gave up 369 and 450 passing yards respectively, the only difference being their robust offence bailed them out in those games.
Something clearly has to change to turn this season around for the Redblacks. Whether it’s the starters being selected every week, the tactics, the play-calling or perhaps a coaching shakeup on defence, something has to get better. A team won’t win many games consistently giving up over 350 passing yards.
Head coach Bob Dyce emphasized that the Montreal loss was particularly hard to take.
“Whether it’s losing by 30 points or whatever, this one probably stings a little more,” Dyce said. “If we take care of business, we have the game in hand.”