Friday, July 19, 2024

Redblacks get mauled in Montreal

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One week after lightning delayed the finish of their season opener, it rained, then it poured on the Ottawa Redblacks in Montreal.

Showing they still have a long way to go before they can be considered an East Division threat, the Redblacks were soaked 47-21 by the Alouettes Thursday night at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

Montreal is now 3-0 and clearly the best team in the Canadian Football League, while Ottawa is 1-1 and showing some warts.

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“Sometimes good teams play like sh-t, and that’s the reality,” quarterback Dru Brown told TSN1200’s A.J. Jakubec after the game. “Sometimes good players play like sh-t, and that’s just the reality. We will bounce back. We’ll look at it, and we’ll demand more from one another, and ourselves.”

Trailing 30-1 at the intermission, the Redblacks produced a few second-half highlights — most notably a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by DeVonte Dedmon — but not nearly enough to lift them out of the crater-like hole they fell into through two quarters.

“That’s on me, to get us to come out and start faster,” head coach Bob Dyce told Jakubec. “It’s tough to win any game when you have three turnovers in the in the first half.”

There was actually a lot of blame to go around.

The secondary was burned repeatedly by reigning Grey Cup MVP Cody Fajardo, who completed 28-of-35 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns.

Brown, who connected on 21-of-35 for 292 yards while throwing one interception and one touchdown pass, was betrayed by receivers who dropped balls and an offensive line that was pushed around by Montreal’s fierce front seven.

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Even the normally reliable Lewis Ward muffed a couple of field goal attempts, although one was erased by a Montreal penalty that prolonged an Ottawa third quarter drive and led to the Redblacks only offensive TD – a 25-yard reception by Jaelon Acklin.

But no, the game could not have started any worse for Ottawa.

After the unveiling of their 2023 championship banner, the Alouettes took the opening kickoff and quite leisurely strolled down field on a six-play, 73-yard drive that was fittingly capped with a five-yard touchdown run by Fajardo.

On the Redblacks’ first offensive play, Brown, who didn’t commit a turnover in the Game 1 win and had not thrown a pick in 138 pass attempts, fired a ball that went off the hands of Acklin and was intercepted by Tyrice Beverette.

Dyce challenged that Acklin was being interfered with by Nafees Lyon, but the CFL’s’ command centre didn’t see it that way and the Redblacks lost a timeout.

Moments later, Fajardo threw an incomplete pass in the end zone to Kaion Julien-Grant, but Alouettes head coach Jason Maas challenged that Ottawa corner Money Hunter was guilty of interference.

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The command centre agreed with Maas, setting the ball up on the Ottawa one.

Former Redblacks QB Caleb Evans scored with a keeper on the next play,

After the Alouettes scored a field goal on their next series, it looked like Ottawa’s luck might be changing when, on the next series, Brown threw a pass that should have been intercepted by Beverette but instead went off the linebacker’s hands to Justin Hardy.

But all the Redblacks could manage on that “drive” was a 47-yard single by punter Richie Leone.

Montreal had an 11:05 to 3:55 edge in time of possession along with the 17-1 lead after one quarter.

The dark cloud followed the Redblacks into the second quarter when, two minutes in, Beverette forced Brown to fumble and fellow linebacker Darnell Sankey recovered.

Seven minutes into the quarter, Sankey forced running back Ryquell Armstead to fumble the ball into the hands of Beverette. On the next play, Fajardo threw a 51-yard TD bomb to Tyson Philpot.

Just 22 minutes and 40 seconds into the night, the Redblacks were trailing 27-1.

The first half highlight for Ottawa was a third-and-one stop by the defence.

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“Definitely a tough loss,” linebacker Adarius Pickett told Jakubec. “We came out here and we didn’t execute. Coaches put together a good game  plan and we didn’t execute it all. Defensively, the secondary, we lost a lot of 50-50 balls that the quarterback threw up. Some of the time we had position, other times people were beat. So we got to go back and watch the film and get better from there.

“Offensively, we know he made some mistakes as well, especially in the red zone. We had three turnovers and then defensively we didn’t force any. So it’s gonna be tough. You lose the turnover battle in the CFL, and you’re going to have a long, hard day.”

Picket said the Redblacks still had energy coming out of the locker room for the second half but that a dropped pass by veteran Bralon Addison in the end zone was deflating.

“The energy was there,” he told a scrum of reporters. “Coming out we was making a comeback, riding a wave and I think it was B.A. who had a drop in a zone, and that hurt. We had to 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.

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“So as a team collectively, we didn’t execute the way we were supposed to.”

The Redblacks lost Hunter in the third quarter with what the early diagnosis had as a dislocated shoulder.

“It doesn’t look super positive,” said Dyce. “We’ll see how serious it is. Hopefully he’s able to come back quickly>’

Through it all, the Redblacks still had some feint hope as they trailed 30-12 heading into the fourth quarter, but it appeared to be erased by a Fajardo-to-Reggie White Jr. 16-yard TD pass with just over 13 minutes left,.

Then Dedmon did as Dedmon does when he returned the ensuing kickoff all the way back to the house.

But the Alouettes fans started singing the goodbye song to the Redblacks when Fajardo combined with White for another touchdown, this one covering 19 yards, putting Montreal ahead by 26 with a little more than nine minutes left.

Sankey would draw the ire of the Redblacks with just over four minutes left when he delivered a tremendous hit on Acklin then celebrated enthusiastically as if he had made a game-saving tackle.

On a positive note for the Redblacks, Hardy followed his seven-catch, 111-yard gain against Winnipeg with seven more grabs for 143 yards and one rush for 16 more.

“I thought I put our team in a bad spot there, especially early on with turnovers,” said Brown. “You just can’t expect to win games like that. So I got to be much, much better. I’ll get it fixed.”

Ottawa’s next game is Sunday, June 30 at TD Place, with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats providing the opposition.

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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