Friday, July 19, 2024

Long-suffering Ottawa fans need big Redblacks bounce back

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It’s no wonder Ottawa sports fans have zero patience.

The Senators have missed the playoffs for seven straight years and the Redblacks haven’t participated beyond the regular season since 2018.

Unlike the NHL, where only half the teams qualify for the post-season tournament, the Redblacks have failed the comparatively simpler task that is grabbing one of six available berths in a nine-team league.

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They made matters worse by reaching three Grey Cup games, winning one, in the four years that preceded their playoff no-shows.

They spoiled their fans.

So yeah, it’s understandable why callers to the TSN1200 post-game show were so incensed with the team’s performance in Thursday’s 47-21 beatdown at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium in Montreal, a night where the only real Ottawa highlight was a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by DeVonte Dedmon in the fourth quarter.

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They didn’t care much that the win was the 11th in a row for the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, who have proven they are again the class of the league with three straight victories out of the gate.

After being encouraged by a Week 1 triumph over Winnipeg, they watched their team commit three turnovers in the opening 22 minutes and head to the locker room at halftime trailing 30-1.

The callers had a here-we-go-again attitude while venting their frustrations.

They were critical of an Ottawa offensive line that was outmatched by Montreal’s elite front seven, a secondary that was shredded by reigning Cup MVP Cody Fajardo and a highly touted receivers group that dropped passes from Dru Brown, who needed some better help in his first pro road start as a team’s No. 1 quarterback.

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One of them even suggested it was time to make a head coaching change.

With a .500 record two games in.

Zero patience.

As they have before, Bob Dyce and Brown pointed blame at the themselves for the fiasco in Montreal.

Dyce for the poor start and Brown for throwing an interception and a fumble, his first two turnovers in an Ottawa jersey.

The 27-year-old rookie starter also offered a voice of reason when he told play-by-play guy A.J. Jakubec: “Sometimes good players play like sh– and that’s just the reality.

“We will bounce back,” Brown added. “We’ll look at it and we’ll demand more from one another and ourselves.”

The Redblacks have some extra time to prepare for the bounce-back as their next game is in 10 days, June 30 at TD Place against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

They will need to figure out what they are going to do at the corner after Money Hunter suffered what is expected to be diagnosed as a dislocated shoulder.

Those who harshly ripped into Hunter’s play before the injury might not know that he was playing out of position with starting corners Brandin Dandridge and Alijah McGhee on the six-game injured reserve, but they also wouldn’t care.

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Also coming under fire was the O-line (particularly the right tackle spot), a running game that produced just 56 total yards (Ryquell Armstead had a carry for 13 yards, but just 13 more on five other attempts), and a slippery-fingered receiving corps which is supposed to be the strength of the team.

“Coming out (of the locker room at halftime we was making a comeback, riding a wave,” linebacker Adarius Pickett told reporters in Montreal, “and I think it was B.A. (Bralon Addison) who had a drop in a zone and that hurt.

“We had mishaps on the field goal that hurt. Defensively, we gave up a couple big plays … at that point in the game, you can’t give up nothing. So as a team collectively, we didn’t execute the way we were supposed to.”

The Redblacks converted just six of 19 (31.6%) second-down plays while allowing the Alouettes to move the chains on 16 of 25 (64%) second-down snaps, but what will really be eating at Dyce is the penalties.

Ottawa took nine for the second game in a row, this time for 115 yards in losses, when the goal is to keep that number under five.

“We talk about the importance of protecting the ball, it’s one of our main focuses,” Dyce told Jakubec, bemoaning the drive-killing turnovers. “We put the defence in tough situations and we were a little challenged making sure the defense wasn’t on the field a lot. We have to be able to get first downs at key times and we’re unable to do that.”

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They also were unable to limit the number of big plays by the Montreal offence, particularly Fajardo.

He continued to own Ottawa, improving his personal record to 7-1 against the Redblacks by completing 28 of 35 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns and running the ball five times for 39 yards (including a gallop of 30) and another score.

“You can’t give up explosives … I think at the half they had four, if you count Cody’s run,” Dyce said. “Those things are gonna kill you.”

Some thought that Dyce should have replaced Brown with Dustin Crum after the offence was horrible in the first half and the deficit grew to 29 points, but Brown needs the game reps.

“We’ve got to execute early,” Brown told Jakubec. “We’ve got to stay on the field and  that’s decision making at the quarterback position, it’s overall execution. If we just get plays, and that sounds simple, but if just get plays and continue to get plays, we have some good stuff, we execute things really well.

“But you just have to stay on the field and you can’t turn the ball over. So me turning the ball over twice is just unacceptable.”

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In his post-game address to the media, Dyce mentioned that he “really likes this team and today wasn’t our day,” while giving Montreal credit.

“They were better than we were today,” he said. “We showed some resilience in how they came out the second half, we scored on the first drive. We said we wanted to score on offence, defence and special teams at halftime because we said it was going to take a team effort. We got the two and you really can’t say that defence has got to score a touchdown.

“I know these guys are fighters and I know they’re going to continue to do that. But we’ve got to make sure we’re playing our brand of football, which is discipline. I was disappointed in that we weren’t as disciplined as we needed to be. And we have to make sure that we don’t turn over the ball.”

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Brown sounded anxious to get back on the horse, like he would have happily played Hamilton immediately minutes after the Montreal game.

“I think it’s pretty evident what we need to do better,” he said. “It’s a long season. Yeah, we’re pissed off, but at the same time, we’re going to take this and learn from it. We’re not going to throw the towel in. Tonight wasn’t great, but it’s a process and it’s continuous. It doesn’t stop.”

The trend of Ottawa teams missing the playoffs really should stop with the Redblacks this season, but to give fans hope of that, they’re going to have to beat Hamilton next Sunday.

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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