4 juillet 2024

Le ROUGE et NOIR montrent des signes de résistance en début de saison

Say what you will about the 2024 iteration of the Ottawa REDBLACKS, but through three games, they’ve proven themselves a resilient group.

On Sunday night, they pushed their record to 2-1, with a thrilling walk-off field goal off the boot of Lewis Ward, snatching victory away from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats just over 20 seconds after they scored a touchdown to take a late lead.

So far this season, the REDBLACKS have faced challenging situations late in games on a couple of different occasions. In Week 2, it was a late drive by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that threatened the homecoming for Ottawa, but they weathered that storm, both literally and figuratively, as well.

Even in Week 3, when they found themselves down 17 points in the first 12 minutes against the Montreal Alouettes, and 30-1 at halftime, there was no quit in the locker room, and there was a belief they could pull their way back into the game. That one wasn’t meant to be, but the second-half effort sheds light on the REDBLACKS’ mindset: no matter what, they’ll continue to fight.

“As we’re building our identity, it’s really important to have wins like this,” said Head Coach Bob Dyce of Sunday’s win. “When people start believing and making the plays they need to, like this group does, it’s a really positive thing that you can build off of.”

“I have to say kudos to these guys, they didn’t stop believing, even after that last [Hamilton] score.”

Was it perfect? No, and no one will try to convince you otherwise. There have been drops, missed assignments, and wrong reads, but at the end of the day, that’s football. No one – and no team – is perfect, mistakes are bound to happen, you just hope to limit them.

In previous years, the REDBLACKS have allowed the mistakes to snowball, unable to recover from an untimely holding call or blown coverage, but that’s where this team is most different. Even on nights where just about everything that could go wrong does go wrong, each individual on the sideline has been able to shift their focus to the next play.

“You can say ‘I wish we would have executed better,’ or ‘I wish I played better,’ but when the plays needed to be made, our guys made the plays,” said REDBLACKS’ quarterback, Dru Brown. “That’s very encouraging, because you’re going to have games like that, the opposition are pros too.”

On both sides of the ball, there are certainly valid criticisms floating around. Those are being thoroughly dissected by the REDBLACKS’ coaching staff as they search for answers that will help improve this young team over the next handful of weeks.

Having done just enough to eke out a pair of wins early on, Brown has met the media many times, echoing the same message over and over again. This is only the start, there’s still plenty of work to do, and his unit will chase greatness relentlessly.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re rolling yet offensively,” Brown said. “There are a bunch of really good flashes, but I look forward to continuing to work to get to that point.”

One thing is for sure, the REDBLACKS don’t feel bad for winning the way they have early on, especially after dropping so many close contests a season ago.

“It’s a lot of fun to win,” Brown said. “There’s lots to work on, but we’re continuing to prove to ourselves that we can win games like that. When you’re constantly executing in those times, it shows that you’re growing.”

On any given night in the CFL, anyone can beat anyone, but good teams find a way to win, no matter the circumstance.

“If you’re not taking the field to win every single week, you’re not in the right job, you have to figure something else out,” Brown said. “We have guys in that locker room that are going [all out] every time they have a chance to compete.”