Kicking off the 2021 Labour Day Weekend in the CFL the Ottawa Redblacks hosted the Montreal Alouettes. Each team came into the game 1-2 and it was the Redblacks first eastern conference game of the season after starting the season on the road in Edmonton and Saskatchewan before their home opener against the B.C Lions but they were fighting for more than just the 2-2 record. It is still early in the season, however the winner of the game would then have the chance to move up to first in the east pending an Argonauts loss to the Tiger-Cats.
The winner of the game ended up being the Montreal Alouettes. Scoring 51 points and only giving up 29 the Alouettes demonstrated dominance early on in the game and never faced any major setbacks. As for the Ottawa Redblacks, it is always hard to bounce back from early deficits. The Alouettes opened up the game 10-0 in the first quarter, and the 10 points at the end of the first quarter quickly doubled and kept being added on while the Redblacks were staying in the game, moving the ball and scoring points but just not enough points. At halftime the Alouettes led the Redblacks 27-13 and the Redblacks offence was just getting in rhythm. Dominique Davis entered the game in the second quarter and in a heart beat moved the ball 135 yards on two scoring drives, including a 5 yard touchdown pass to Daniel Petermann which was the first of two on the night. Davis continued to move the ball throughout the second half, finishing the game with 291 passing yards and 38 rushing yards, scoring three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough for what Vernon Adams, William Stanback and the Alouettes offence was able to do. Ottawa also lost the turnover battle, Matt Nichols opened up the game 2/5 for 23 yards and an interception while Davis threw two interceptions of his own, one ending in a Patrick Levels pick six, but despite the loss and the negatives that did come in the Redblacks’ first eastern conference game there were a number of positives. The Ottawa Redblacks defence wasn’t necessarily one of them, like they have been over the first three games of the season, having given up a number of big plays including two 30+ yard touchdown passes, one 44 yard Jake Wieneke completion and a 30 yard Stanback run but the Redblacks defensive line was able to get to the quarterback. It may not show too much on paper because of the great game Adams had, completing 18 of 23 attempts for 288 yards and 4 touchdowns on top of 35 yards scrambling but two of his four touchdown passes came under pressure, on the verge of getting sacked. He did get sacked once and so did Matthew Shiltz by Praise Martin-Oguike. In just his second game in the CFL, Martin-Oguike who played his collegiate career with Avery Williams and Avery Ellis at Temple and played in both the NFL and XFL he had two sacks, one resulting in a safety. In his first game last week he was also found in the backfield alongside Davon Coleman, sacking Michael Reilly so with him on the defensive line the Redblacks defence has been found in the backfield, something that defensive coordinator Mike Benevides would like to continue to see.
Sticking to the defensive side of the ball, eventhough William Stanback ran for 112 yards on 15 carries, and they struggled to stop the run game at times, Ottawa’s linebacking trio of Avery Williams, Don Unamba and Micah Awe have continuously showed up in the box score, week after week making tackles, again combining for 15 tackles against the Alouettes. The trio now have a combined 70 tackles in the four games together, averaging over 17 tackles together per game. The only thing that they need to do to improve is get to the quarterback on blitz attacks and turn the ball over. Ottawa has struggled to get turnovers since the first game of the season when they got three interceptions on Trevor Harris in Edmonton, to win games they need to win the turnover battle.
Once again a bright spot of the Ottawa Redblacks team comes from Bob Dyce’s special teams unit, the best in the league. Kicker Lewis Ward continues to help the Redblacks score points when the offence cannot, adding two more field goals to the 8 he had going into the game while Richie Leone kept his punts deep in the Alouettes zone, and the punt team held speedy returner Mario Alford to a long of just 20 yards on the night, nothing close to what DeVonte Dedmon was able to do for the Redblacks. Dedmon as usual found himself helping out the Ottawa Redblacks offence get into good field position, returning 7 kickoffs and two missed field goals for a combined 258 yards, including a 75 yard kickoff return, one tackle shy of the end zone but Dedmon’s impact on the Redblacks didn’t stop at just his return duties like it has in the past. Missing out on Anthony Coombs, Jordan Smallwood and Charone Peake at receiver, Dedmon started the game at receiver for the first time of his career, making two catches for 52 yards and running the ball once for 16 yards, giving himself a total 326 yards all-purpose on 12 touches on the night. Dedmon’s 44 yard catch and run brought Ottawa to the 2 yard line, just one man away from a touchdown just like his kickoff return. The two big plays put the Redblacks offence in scoring position and resulted in a touchdown and a field goal.
Averaging over 27 yards per touch in the game and with over 780 all-purpose yards in the first four games of the season it is proven that Dedmon is a playmaker and Ottawa needs to get the ball in his hands in any way possible to move the ball efficiently. Also moving the ball has been receivers RJ Harris, Ryan Davis, Daniel Petermann and Nate Behar. Harris, Petermann and Behar combined for 201 yards and the two Petermann touchdowns while Ryan Davis caught both of his targets for 32 yards. In the last two games Nate Behar has found himself in the highlights, catching 10 of 14 targets for 123 yards. On the season, RJ Harris has 204 yards on 15 catches but the offence will need to get the ball in the end zone more, like they did against the Alouettes to stand a chance in games moving forward. The first three games of the season the offence relied on Lewis Ward for the points and the defence for the stops but now as we see the defence isn’t perfect and can give up the big plays, Ottawa’s offence will need to rebound and make the big plays themselves.
Ottawa will travel to Vancouver for their next game against the B.C Lions on September 11th for a 10:00 PM game on Saturday which will be followed by a Redblacks bye week.