Ottawa Post-Mortem

I'll let others dissect last night's performance on offence and special teams. As most posters know, I always focus on defence in every football game I watch.

I give Thorpe and the Als' defence an F for last night. We may have held the Redblacks to under 27 points, but that does not tell the whole story.

One of the things I was hoping for was to see fewer 3 man fronts. It simply hadn't been working so far this season, as we've been dreadful on second and longs whenever Thorpe has gone to it. With little to no pressure on the QB, our defenders have to stay with their man longer than normal, and we're getting a bit long in the tooth on defence (Cox, Parker, Brown) such that it is not realistic to expect them to cover their man that long.

So what did we see last night? Fewer 3 man fronts? No, we saw precisely the reverse! Thorpe was dialing it up even more frequently, including on first downs! And, frankly, it killed us.

I don't, in theory, have a major problem with a 3/4 scheme as the base set. But, and it's one big but, ONLY if you have the personnel to run such a scheme successfully (as in, several years back, when Calgary had George White, John Grace, Scott Coe, and Brian Clark as LBs; with those guys, a 3/4 makes sense as otherwise you've got a stellar LB sitting on the bench).

But we don't have that personnel. Woods is out, and Elsworth is still learning at MLB, so who would be our two MLBs in a 3/4? And this whole concept of dropping guys like Knapton and Kitchens into pass coverage is insane. . . when Burris has a lot of time, as he did last night since a 3 man rush can't beat 5 guys to get pressure on him, he'll find someone open, as guys like Knapton and Kitchens just don't have the speed to keep up with a slotback or a running back releasing out of the backfield (as he surely will, he sure ain't needed for pass protection).

So while Thorpe said all the right things pre-game, his performance last night in scheme selection was a major fail.

And I'm still waiting for someone, anyone, to explain how a penalty machine like Jonathan Hefney was considered an upgrade over Jeff Tisdale. Sure, Tisdale was a riverboat gambler, but I'll take getting burned from time to time if it's balanced by some timely interceptions (which he gave us) over an undisciplined Hefney who's playing out of position anyway (to my recollection in his previous CFL stops he's always been a DHB, and occasionally SAM, but never the boundary corner. . .I stand to be corrected).

Yes, Cato's two interceptions really hurt given where they occurred, no doubt taking major points off the board. Bede's FG miss hurt. Going away from Rutley in the second half hurt.

But, even with all those going against us, we still could have won had the defence at a minimum quit with this 3 man front nonsense.

My two cents (1 cent adjusted for our falling dollar).

All valid points MadJack.
Just adds to the fact that the Al's have relied on the D to win games.
Now that the D have struggled in the past two games, the O has not been able to pick them up.

Add the penalties and for me this is a failure for all aspects of the game.

I would be handing out an F to Popp (Hefney signing) Higgins, Shonert as well as Thorpe.

In total agreement with you,MadJack. While interceptions and penalties played a role in this defeat, for me the major culprit are the defence and it's coordinator,Noel Thorpe. As you wrote, we don't have the players to play 3-4. There was basically no pressure on Burris; on first downs, he passed for 7 or 8 yards and the gave the ball to the running back for st down. Ottawa scored 3 TD's; let's look how:

Their first possession took the ball at their own 32 and drove 78 yards for a TD.11 plays.No pressure on Burris.

Their second TD. After Cato's second interception,Ottawa took the ball on their own 25 and,in 8 plays, drove 75 yards for their TD. No pressure on Burris.

Their third TD. Took the ball on their own 35 and drove 75 yards for go ahead and winning TD. Penalties to Ellis,particularly in the end zone,was of great help.

Their field goal. Took the ball on their own 14 yards and drove to the Als thirty or so and scored a field goal.

All their points, excluding safety, were on long drives without pressure. On these four drives they gained roughly 290 yards. The Als could not stop them at least once.

Hoping for defensive improvements soon. Yes, I know, the offense has to improve but my number 1 concern is the defence.


Agree 100% with Jack particularly this:

"And this whole concept of dropping guys like Knapton and Kitchens into pass coverage is insane. . . when Burris has a lot of time, as he did last night since a 3 man rush can't beat 5 guys to get pressure on him, he'll find someone open, as guys like Knapton and Kitchens just don't have the speed to keep up with a slotback or a running back releasing out of the backfield (as he surely will, he sure ain't needed for pass protection)."

There was one 2nd and 3 where they still lined up with a 3 man front, with Walker easily picking up the 1st down.

Other things that come to mind:

  • Shologan owned Matte with his 3 sacks and 5 tackles.

  • With all the pressure the RedBlacks were exerting up the middle, why not move the pocket and have Cato roll out?

  • Popp signed Hefney, Thorpe wanted him over Tisdale - not their smartest decisions.

  • As promising as Cato looks at times, he has already cost us 2 games with his poor decision interceptions.

  • Sam did not strike me as having the quickness required for the Canadian game. (And yes I realize it is a very small sample size.)

Having said all this, the Als still could have won the game if :

  1. Ellis turns his head on the PI call.
  2. MOB knocks down the Ellingson pass.
  3. Townsend isn`t penalized on the Logan return. From the replay it looked like a ticky tacky call, but one that the refs have been calling all season.

Just goes to show how much of a idiot Higgins is. Hes the boss he calls the shots. I guess he didnt see how dominant Rutley was last night. Soooooo effffing happy i dont have to step foot in that stadium anymore!!!!

Did not like what I saw from the defense AT ALL last night. Either Thorpe is outsmarting himself or else he’s being told to drop guys back by Higgins. Either way, something has to change or else there will be a massive coaching purge at season’s end, including Thorpe.

Here's what I don't get: we're killing Ottawa on the ground with Rutley, but we don't stick with him through the whole game.

The penalties, I understand, because this is a Tom Higgins team and it's quite clear that he has no control over the players and no ability to instill discipline in any phase. He's pathetic, a corporate clown masquerading as a coach. But Schonert doesn't seem like an idiot. At times, he seems capable of running a good offense. But he simply cannot put together a consistent 60-minute game. Why on earth do you go away from Rutley when he's working so well? What's the rationale?

One-third of the season is in the books and we are 2-4, in last place, one win better than the 1-5 start we had last year. Some might think that guys like Lavarias and Hebert will help, and maybe they will, but let me just say this: it's not the players on the field choosing to drop back into coverage leaving a pathetic 3-man front that doesn't get anywhere NEAR the quarterback. It's not the players choosing not to run the ball more. Yes, it's the players taking penalties, which is on them, but again, Tisdale didn't cut himself in favor of Jonathan Hefney. That was the coaches' decision. And penalties ultimately reflect the head coach.

If we don't put together a string of wins starting immediately, we are going to miss the playoffs, and there will be blood in the offseason.

This situation is not unique to Higgins. The last time I recall any amount of discipline being dished out by an Als HC was when Trestman joined the team: any player taking a boneheaded penalty was immediately pulled onto the sideline - but that only lasted a single season. Aside from that, hot heads like Shea Emry, Adreano Belli, Dwight Anderson and Diamond Ferri have been taking one idiotic penalty after another.

But Trestman won. In the end, those penalties didn't stop us from winning.

Before last night's game, Montreal was one of the least penalized team in the CFL; during the game on RDS,Pierre Vercheval did mention it. Does Tom Higgins has control on his players/on the discipline? The numbers confirm it as a yes.

Edmonton 58 penalties and 467 yards.
Montreal 59 and 465.
Ottawa 59 and 577.
BC 70 and 559.
Toronto 73 and 521.
Hamilton 73 and 562.
Calgary 75 and 534. Played 1 more game.
Winnipeg 80 and 702. Played 1 more game.
Saskatchewan 85 and 732 yards. Played 1 more game.


Take your stats one step further. How many of these penalties were costly? I can think of one right off the bat. Hefney's in the opening game against the RB's. Took a dumb 15 yard penalty at the wrong time. Certainly did not help the team that game!

Or how about the penalty on Logan's return that nullified 6 points?! There's potentially the L to a W right there.

So while it's great that the Als are near the bottom in total penalty yards, they do not tell the whole story.

I sent Herb an email asking him to dig around and find out why the D has changed into a prevent D. He replied saying that it was a story worth investigating "sooner rather than later." Hopefully we'll see some tough questions asked in the Gazette in the days ahead...

I am not an expert, but here’s what I noticed…

in the last 2 games, Als’ defense started “giving up” the 10 yards pass.

Calgary and Ottawa used this over and over again … and it worked!

Defense needs to check this and re-act because both teams found the hole and are using it abusively.

Lets talk about the lack of a consistent offence. Blame Cato for the two interceptions if you want, but where was the help from his receivers when he was scrambling? They are intent on running downfield without any awareness of getting open by coming back toward their QB. Burris always had a relief valve receiver in the backfield, but Montreal doesn't run such an offence. Burris ran a no-huddle because he was permitted to change plays when the defence dictated a change. Cato is stuck with the play dialed up by the coaches, except for his scrambles. And whats with anchoring Cato in the pocket when the Redblacks overloaded with more pass rushers than available blockers? Roll him out or throw a bubble screen.

Putting the best 12 men on the field would seem to me to include both Sutton and Rutley - so put Rutley in as an H-back and he can use his running and pass catching abilities. And putting the best 12 men on the field means coming to grips with the fact that Lewis and Stamps are over the hill. Getting Hoffman off the injured list would help but Chandler Jones and B. J. Cunningham have the hands and speed to possibly liven things up a bit. Lewis cannot get open or get downfield because he is too heavy and too old. Stamps has time and again proven that his route running faux pas, dropped passes and slow speed are obvious faults. Until the receiving corps gets altered, CFL opponents will continue to double-cover S. J Green.

Cato is completing 40% more passes than Crompton did last year but scoring is not showing any improvement. That doesn't make any sense. Does the time required to communicate plays to the field still present a big problem for Schonert?

Against Calgary, they were giving up the long ball as well. At least five plays that went for 20 or 30 yards or more.

Thorpe seems to be coaching not to lose games instead of going out and trying to win them aggressively. Either that or Higgins is making him "play it safe."

We can't get pressure or disrupt the line of scrimmage... I haven't seen Burris this comfortable in his pocket in the last four years.

We don't have the horses up front to generate pressure consistently with a four-man rush. It's just not going to work. We need to send at least 1-2 more guys most snaps to disrupt the QB and take away his sight lines. Not rocket science just basic football 101. Have NO idea why Thorpe has chosen not to pressure but it is proving to be completely ineffective and he'd better fix it fast...