Redblacks Disappear in Second Half Against Eskimos, Lose Second Straight
Photo credit: Canadian Press
Between not capitalizing in the first half and being shutout entirely in the second, consistency on offense was again an issue in the Redblacks 34-16 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Ottawa led at halftime, but was outscored 20-0 in the second half. The third quarter in particular was a combination of worst-case scenarios for the Redblacks on offense and defense. Edmonton had 178 net yards of offense in the third compared to Ottawa’s 14.
Edmonton receiver Bryant Mitchell delivered with a career game: 13 catches and 190 yards receiving, including 92 yards after the catch. Mitchell burned Redblacks safety JP Bolduc on a 75-yard touchdown in the second half.
“We’ve had trouble the last two weeks with not being able to get off the field on defense and staying on the field on offense,” said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell after the game. “When you the time of possession that badly, things wear down.”
The Eskimos had over 12 minutes more possession time than the Redblacks in the game. Much of that can be credited to the Edmonton defense, which stifled Ottawa throughout the second half and racked up five sacks.
The story of the Edmonton season as of late has been their propensity to turn the ball over. The Eskimos lead the CFL in turnovers and turned the ball over 13 teams during their three-game losing streak. That trend continued early against Ottawa.
Ottawa forced two fumbles in the first half, one courtesy of Jonathan Rose and the other by Devin Butler in his first career CFL game, but the offense could hardly take advantage. The Redblacks were second-last in the CFL in points off turnovers coming into the week and were only able to covert a total of six points off the two Edmonton fumbles.
Once the Eskimo offense started clicking in the second half, including taking care of the ball, it did not take long for them to completely take over the game.
Diontae Spencer scored the Redblacks’ lone touchdown of the game. Spencer burned an Edmonton defensive back in the second quarter with a 61-yard touchdown off a double-move. At the time, the score put Ottawa up nine.
Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly looked pedestrian during his last two games, both Eskimos defeats. Against Ottawa, Reilly carved-up the Redblack defense both through the air and on the ground. He finished with 369 yards passing and 72 yards rushing. Running back CJ Gable added 87 yards and two short-yardage touchdowns.
Trevor Harris threw his 100th career touchdown pass, on the long score to Spencer, but was unable to lead sustainable drives. That is even with him finishing with a completion percentage over 80%. Ottawa looked often for screen passes and corner routes that were well covered, resulting in Redblacks punts.
“We couldn’t get any traction offensively and couldn’t stay on the field. It was not a good half of football from us. We’ve got to be better than that – I think that’s the worst half we’ve played as a team this season and that’s unfortunate,” said Harris.
Apart from Spencer, who finished with 98 yards receiving, the Redblacks playmakers were held in check. William Powell retook the CFL rushing lead from Andrew Harris but was held to 40 yards, his third-lowest total this season. With the game quickly out of hand in the second half, the run game was taken out of the equation for the Redblacks and Powell finished with only nine carries.
The Redblack defense spent the majority of the second half on the field. That is partly due to the short drives from the Ottawa offense and the fact that the Eskimos averaged 9.8 yards on second down.
Both kickers were perfect in the game. Edmonton’s Sean Whyte hit two field goals, including the 300th of his career, and Lewis Ward hit three to extend his CFL-record streak to 43 straight.
Chris Ackie made his Redblack debut, following his trade from the Alouettes at the CFL’s trade deadline. Ackie was forced in on defense because of an injury to starting middle linebacker Avery Williams. Filling in at the weak-side linebacker spot, Ackie finished with three tackles.
The 8-7 Redblacks will host the 8-7 Hamilton Ti-Cats in the first game of a home-and-home next Friday night. Both teams have clinched playoff spots, but the two upcoming matchups between the clubs will decide who will host the Eastern Final next month.