It's just one loss, no reason for Ottawa Redblacks to panic and blow it up
Maybe it really was the “little things” they need to polish or maybe the Ottawa Redblacks aren’t nearly as good a football team as a 2-0 record would have indicated.
Either way, there’s very little reason for the Redblacks to “blow up” their starting lineup.
Still, there’s some fixing to do. The Redblacks can tap dance around what went wrong in Friday night’s 29-14 loss to the WInnipeg Blue Bombers or they can put on their work boots and find another level of performance before their next game – Saturday at home to the Montreal Alouettes.
“The reality is we can’t turn back time,” said Redblacks receiver Brad Sinopoli, who had just one catch (for eight yards) in three targets Friday. “We can’t live off the first two wins. Now, we have a loss. We have no choice but to move ahead and play the next game. We have to be honest with ourselves and say, ‘Yep, this isn’t good enough, we have to be better,’ and flip that switch for (Monday’s practice).”
“I don’t think this is typical of how we’ve played or how we’re going to play,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell.
There were mistakes and penalties. On many fronts against the now 3-0 Blue Bombers, the Redblacks were outhustled, outplayed, outeverythinged.
“I don’t feel like we got slapped around,” said Redblacks linebacker Anthony Cioffi. “We played hard. We just needed to do the little things better. We could have came out a lot stronger, we made some mental errors. We played with effort, we played with heart, we just have to clean up some things and move on.”
“Every game, there are going to be mistakes,” said Sinopoli. “We were just a notch below them in intensity. We didn’t make the plays to sustain drives from the beginning of the game. We couldn’t get into a groove. We weren’t good enough and we have to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and come back to work.”
From an offensive standpoint, the Redblacks never really established much on the air or on the ground. Quarterback Dominique Davis completed 21-of-36 passes for 234 yards – with two interceptions. He didn’t look comfortable at times. Running back Mossis Madu had just six carries for 18 yards. Credit to Winnipeg’s defence, which didn’t give Ottawa much room to breathe. Yep, sometimes you have to look beyond your team struggling and give a thumbs up to the opposition for playing so well.
“Big ups to Winnipeg, they did a good job of keeping us out of the end zone and keeping me in the pocket,” said Davis. “They were the better team. We kept getting third-and-one or third-and-two. Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”
The Redblacks also took 10 penalties for 110 yards – some of those infractions were daggers.
“Turnovers and penalties are two big indicators of winning football games,” said Campbell. “If you lose both, it’s tough sledding.”
Ottawa also had a costly fumble (Caleb Holley) and gave up a huge special teams play when Winnipeg punter Justin Medlock raced downfield and punched the ball out of bounds (with Ottawa’s Ryan Lankford waiting for it to bounce into the end zone for a single point), giving the Bombers possession at the Redblacks four-yard line. A touchdown put a quick stop to any hopes the Redblacks had of winning the game.
“We have to be on (the ball),” said Campbell. “It was an unfortunate play. That was a frustrating one for me.”
Ottawa’s offensive and defensive lines need to be better. The Bombers controlled the trenches.
“I thought their O-line and D-line did a really good job against us,” said Campbell. “It looked like we were fighting an uphill battle – I’ll give them credit. What’s important when you make mistakes is you learn something. Yelling at someone is not going to fix it.
“We have to get rid of it and move on. The key on pro football is the ability to move forward – whether you win or lose, you can’t dwell on it too long. It’s going to be a tough league this year. Everybody’s going to be scratching and clawing for victories and onward we go.”
In Week 1, the Redblacks pulled off a victory over Calgary in a game where for much of it, they were not the better team. In Week 2, they held off Saskatchewan despite some big defensive errors. Against Winnipeg, there were some big holes. People will question whether Davis is a No. 1 QB, whether Madu is a No. 1 running back, whether the offensive line is good enough, whether the defensive line is good enough – let’s face it, there will be questions all over the place. But you don’t blow something up based on one loss in an 18 game regular season. Remember last year when Ottawa looked lost offensively in 24-14 (Week 3) and 27-3 (Week 5) losses to Calgary? Yeah, the Redblacks didn’t start benching guys and the season turned out all right without wholesale changes.
So 2-1 doesn’t sound bad – especially when the first three games have come against three tough teams from the West.
“It’s professional football,” said Davis. “This league has been going on for a long time, we haven’t seen an undefeated team (the 1948 Calgary Stampeders are the exception). We have to get ready for next week.”
How do the Redblacks patch up the holes and move forward?
“If we had the exact answer, we would have pulled it out and done it,” said Sinopoli. “For whatever reason, we didn’t have it (Friday). The good news is there’s still football to be played.”
What not long ago looked like it should be an easy victory against the Alouettes doesn’t seem like such a free pass anymore. The Alouettes looked terrific in a 36-29 win over Hamilton Thursday.
“We have Montreal coming in, they’re coming off a great win,” said Cioffi. “They have some electric players, a great running back, we have to do our thing.”
A couple of Redblacks left the field with injuries Friday. After the game, in the locker room, linebacker Kevin Brown said he’d be fine, while Campbell said offensive lineman Jason Lauzon-Seguin (who left in the first half) would be “OK, I think it was more than exhaustion thing.”
THE REPORT CARD
Drives weren’t sustained. A couple of drops, some misfires and not nearly enough rushing attempts. Hand in hand, of course, is an offensive line that was outplayed by the guys lining up on the other side. When your starting running back gets six carries, you’re rarely going to win. But that was the way the game went – there wasn’t enough room for Mossis Madu so Ottawa was forced to go top heavy in the air game.
There were some things to like about what happened on the defensive side of the ball, but also a couple of breakdowns. Anthony Cioffi had an interception and Jonathan Rose had a 39-yard fumble recovery and run for a touchdown. At key times, though, the Redblacks, struggled up front. A couple of roughing-the-passer penalties were also costly.
Special Teams C
As well as Richie Leone punted, with a 62.0-yard average (42.5 yards net) and Lewis Ward kicked (two field goals (one a 53-yarder) to extend his consecutive streak of regular-season three-pointers to 59, there was a gaffe near their own goal line where Ryan Lankford waited for a punt to bounce into the end zone and Winnipeg kicker Justin Medlock raced downfield to knock the ball out of the bounds and give his team possession at the Ottawa four. It led to a touchdown that put the game away. Credit to Lankford who, after the game, took ownership for the play. “It’s my mistake,” he said. “I have to know the situation better.”
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