Most people thought it couldn’t be done, but the Montreal Alouettes were able to take down the Calgary Stampeders, 30-23, at Percival-Molson Stadium on Friday night.
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always pretty, but Jacques Chapdelaine’s players did enough to come away with the “W”. They also picked a great time to surpass the 20-point mark for the first time in 2017.
If I would have told Als fans that they’d be 2-2 after games against the Riders, Eskimos, Lions and Stampeders, I think they would have been thrilled with that. Interestingly enough, 2-2 is also good enough to be tied for first place in the East right now.
— Joey Alfieri (@joeyalfieri) July 15, 2017
The Good News
Finally, the Als seemed to be willing to stretch the field a little more. I realize that Calgary defenders fell down on Ernest Jackson’s 80-yard grab in the first quarter and on the B.J. Cunningham touchdown in the second quarter, but a big play is a big play.
Jackson made some crucial grabs in the game, and that’s what they need from their big-play threat. But the targets seemed to stop coming in the middle of the game. He finished the night with four grabs for 118 yards (80 came on one play). They also gave him a couple of rushing opportunities that allowed him to get his hands on the ball a little more, but those plays were mostly ineffective (he took an unnecessary roughness penalty after one of his carries).
Montreal’s offence starts and ends with Darian Durant. In the first half, he made two horrible throws that resulted in interceptions. Thankfully, the Als defence was able to keep the Stamps out of the end zone for most of the night. Since this is the positive portion of my story, I have to mention that Durant bounced back in a big way in the second half. He took care of the ball, made smart throws, and used his legs effectively when he needed to do so. Without him, the Als don’t get the victory on Friday night.
For a while, Calgary’s run-defence looked impenetrable. That all changed after fullback J.C. Beaulieu rushed for a 27-yard gain during the drive that resulted in the Cunningham touchdown. Tyrell Sutton still didn’t find much running room after that, but he managed to rush the ball effectively in the fourth quarter. When it was all said and done, Sutton finished with 85 yards on 17 carries.
I also have to mention Nik Lewis’ recent accomplishment. The veteran slotback hauled in three receptions for 42 yards, which was good enough to move him into sixth all-time in receiving yards (he passed Ben Cahoon).
And how about that defence? Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was able to march his team up and down the field on a number of occasions. The drives looked like they’d result in touchdowns for sure, but Montreal’s defence was able to hold serve twice inside their own 10-yard line. They are the definition of bend and don’t break.
Because of all the injuries in the secondary, the Als have moved Chip Cox from SAM linebacker to defensive back, which has created a spot for Branden Dozier. I really liked the way Dozier had been playing coming into Friday’s game, and not only did he score his first CFL touchdown, he also finished with a team-high seven tackles. He’s been flying under the radar so far, but that will change in a hurry if he keeps coming up with big plays.
The Bad News
There’s no denying that the home win over Calgary was huge, but as I mentioned before it wasn’t perfect.
As much as Durant rebounded after two poor interceptions, the Als can’t afford to lose the turnover battle and win with regularity. On the second interception, the Stampders had seemingly wrapped up Durant for a sack, but he decided to throw the ball away, and that’s how Tommie Campbell came up with the turnover. At that point, the Als offensive line still hadn’t allowed a sack on the season, and it looked like Durant let that streak get in the way of his better judgement.
Despite the turnovers, I still think (stupid) penalties are this team’s biggest issue right now. In weeks 2, 3 and 4, they’ve found a way to negate big plays, put themselves in a hole when it comes to field position, and even extend the opposition’s drives with their undisciplined play.
Again, the Als finished the game with over 100 yards in penalties (15 infractions for 130 yards). This time, they were able to lose the turnover and penalty battles and still win the game, but losing in those two areas usually results in defeat in the CFL.
The Alouettes will have a quick turnaround, as they’ll be playing in Ottawa on Wednesday night. The Redblacks came up just short against the Eskimos in Edmonton on Friday night. The defending Grey Cup champions are now 0-3-1 in 2017. Montreal will then head to Winnipeg the following week before heading into their first bye of the season. If they can go into the break with a 3-3 record, they’ll be in good shape.
The win over Calgary was huge, now the Als need to show that they can string some solid offensive performances together.
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