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Any hopes the Ottawa Redblacks have of making the CFL playoffs in 2021 will likely come down to the next two games, both against the Montreal Alouettes, one of their Eastern Division rivals.

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The Redblacks, of course, won’t talk about one or two games being crucial points. They’ve already turned their attention to their next game: Thanksgiving in Montreal. They’ll tell you they’re not thinking about their second game next week against Montreal on Saturday, and a trip to Hamilton the following week, and then a home game against Calgary to close out the month. It’s that old one game at a time thing. But if they don’t win at least one of two against Montreal, ideally both, their playoff hopes will be lost. With a 2-6 record and only six regular-season games left, there’s not much room for error. You have to think that it will take at least six, most likely seven, wins to be one of the top three teams in the East and get a glimpse of the postseason.

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The scoreboard may not reflect it, but there were plenty of positives about Wednesday’s 35-16 loss in Toronto. It was lopsided, like many of his other losses, but there was a big difference here. For much of the game, Ottawa was the best team. Look at the statistics. Ottawa quarterback Caleb Evans had 334 yards passing, compared to 181 for McLeod Bethel Thompson. The Redblacks had 58 offensive plays, compared to Toronto’s 48. Ottawa had an average gain of 6.2 yards, compared to Toronto’s 4.4. Ottawa had 361 net yards offensively, Toronto only 213.

“We just have to get on with it, you can’t give up,” Redblacks catcher RJ Harris said in a Zoom media call after the game after Wednesday’s game. “You saw units where we moved the ball quite easily. We only had one mistake here, one mistake there. If we eliminate those mistakes, who knows how different that game will be. “

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When the Redblacks got it wrong Wednesday, they really did. Credit to the Argos too. Four plays (two interceptions, a blocked punt and a screen pass from Bethel-Thompson to running back DJ Foster) were converted to touchdowns. Take away those plays and you see an Ottawa defense that dominated Toronto’s offense for much of the night. And you see Evans, in his second CFL start, did some good things, he looked comfortable for the first 30 minutes of the game. But the interceptions cut deeply. One was tipped, another was just a bad read / bad decision.

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When asked about Evans, Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice said: “Sometimes he moved the ball well. As we tell quarterbacks, they measure you on just two or three different plays; it’s a shame it happened to him tonight ”.

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Evans said: “Like I said, ‘Never get too high, never get too low.’ Things like this happen in soccer. It’s about how you come back, learn from it, and get better. That’s what I plan to do so that things like this never happen again. “

The running game remains a concern. Evans ran 54 of Ottawa’s 72 rushing yards. Starting running back Timothy Flanders had just 16 yards on six carries. Over eight games, the most production the Redblacks have had from a starting running back is 53 yards, against the Ticats. Since Game 1, it’s been Flanders at 39, Flanders at 35, Justin Davis at 43, Davis at 38, Flanders at 40, Flanders at 53, Flanders at 45, and Flanders at 16. Holding units is part of the problem: developing a running game, you need to have the ball.

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He can point the finger at the offensive line, which featured his eighth different lineup in eight games (with left tackle Chris Ferguson playing his first CFL game). Your job is to create an opening and give the runner an advantage before reaching the second level. Whoever is at fault, more production is needed. If Davis (knee) is ready to come off the disabled list, he will probably have another chance. Or maybe the Redblacks will turn to Alcorn State’s De’Lance Turner, who they signed just under a month ago and has NFL game experience with both Miami and Baltimore.

There won’t be much time, two practices and a tour, to prepare for Monday’s game against the Als. Even if they aren’t saying it, the Redblacks know how important it is to be prepared, with so much at stake.

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THE REPORT CARD

Offense C: There was a lot to like in the first half, but the Redblacks couldn’t finish the series, settling for three field goals instead of touchdowns. Quarterback Caleb Evans, in his second CFL game, had 334 yards passing completions. But two of his three interceptions, all in the second half, turned into touchdowns (71 and 82 yards): One was tipped and one was thrown directly at the defender. The lack of a running game other than when Evans had the ball is an ongoing problem.

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Defense A: It was another really good defensive effort. They kept pass numbers down for Toronto QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (181 yards) and seemed to have plenty of answers for Argos’ plays. Praise Martin-Oguike and Cleyon Laing, each had sacks. DB Brandin Dandridge intercepted a two-point conversion pass. LB Avery Williams had eight tackles.

Special equipment C: It was a tremendous effort from Brendan Gillanders to jump in and block a punt that was picked up by Frederic Chagnon and carried into the end zone. It was a not-so-tremendous effort by the Redblacks to allow Toronto’s Dion Pellerin to stay intact and block a Richie Leone punt. Dejon Brissett picked up the ball and ran 23 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. At the time, in the first half, Ottawa was leading 6-1 with Argos without showing any signs of life. There wasn’t much space available for DeVonte Dedmon, Ottawa’s exciting punt / kickoff returner, to do what he does so well.

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