The Montreal Alouettes’ season looked promising at different points in 2017. But there may not have been a lower point than Thursday night’s embarrassing 32-4 home loss to the Ottawa Redblacks.
Not only did the Als no show up for a huge clash against an East Division rival, they did so against a team that had to travel on a short week (Ottawa hosted the B.C. Lions on Saturday, while the Als played Winnipeg at home last Thursday).
Since taking down the Calgary Stampeders on July 14, Montreal has dropped five of their last six contests. Their only win during that stretch came against a Ricky Ray-less Toronto Argonauts team. A win is a win, but it’s time for concern.
Many people are pointing the finger at Darian Durant. I get it, the quarterback will always get the praise when things go well, and he’ll always get the blame when things go poorly. But it’s too easy to pick on Durant right now. There is plenty of blame to go around for yesterday’s loss and the Alouettes’ struggles, in general.
There’s a very good chance that only two teams will make the playoffs in the East Division. If the postseason started today, that would be Ottawa and Toronto. Montreal has already lost the season series to the Redblacks, and their 1-1 against the Argos with one game remaining (in Toronto).
If the Als want to end their two-year playoff drought, they’ll have to turn things around in a hurry. Their current effort simply isn’t good enough right now.
Here’s the good (uh, yea) and bad from last night’s loss to the Ottawa Redblacks:
I’ll get the good out of the way first because it’s gonna be quick.
• Stefan Logan was one of the bright spots in the loss to the Redblacks. He had at least three very nice returns throughout Thursday’s game. He looked good. He was explosive and tough to bring down. The veteran had five kick-returns for 98 yards (longest of 29) and two punt returns for 36 yards (longest of 21).
• Defensive end Ivan McLennan had a strong training camp with the Als. Although that hasn’t necessarily translated into strong results during the regular season, he did show some signs of brilliance during the second half of last night’s game. The rookie was able to recover a Trevor Harris fumble in the first half, and he was able to get after the Redblacks quarterback in the second half. He finished the night with two tackles and a quarterback sack, but he also forced Harris to release the ball sooner than he wanted too on a few occasions.
• Defensive back Tyree Hollins had a solid first half. He was able to break up a couple passes, and he was able to come up with a nice interception late in the first half. Hollins was beaten for a touchdown by Greg Ellingson in the second half, but it’s hard to fault him on that. Harris threw a perfect ball on the play.
How much time do you have? We might be here all day.
• As I mentioned off the top, Durant isn’t the one to blame for this debacle. Has he been good? No, but very few quarterbacks would be successful in a game like we saw on Thursday. Durant missed some throws during the loss to the Redblacks, but he was under pressure incredibly often. In the end, Durant needs to be better, but he won’t be if he doesn’t get more help.
• The game was lost in the trenches, there’s no doubt about it. The offensive line was put in a tough spot. Jovan Olafioye, who missed the second half of last week’s game because of back spasms, took the first-team reps at left tackle this week. Right before the start of the game, he needed to be scratched, so Kristian Matte, who usually plays guard, was forced to play left tackle. With Matte at tackle, veteran Chris Graves had to move into a starting role at right guard. Don’t forget, starting left guard Phil Blake is injured and so is his backup, Philippe Gagnon. I’m not making excuses for the line, but those are the facts
The offensive line just couldn’t keep it together. Ottawa defensive ends Jonathan Newsome and Avery Ellis were in Durant’s hip-pocket all night, which didn’t make it easy on the quarterback.
The interior of the offensive line wasn’t much better as Graves, Lewis and Luc Brodeur-Jourdain all had their own struggles with the interior of the Redblacks’ defensive line.
To make matters even worse, the lack of cohesion on the offensive line made it nearly impossible for the Als to run the ball effectively. Tyrell Sutton, who’s been very good this season, finished the night with four yards on six carries (yes, you read that correctly). Sutton’s longest run was six yards.
It might be time to give free-agent tackle Xavier Fulton a call.
• If you read my column every week, you know how I feel about the distribution of targets offensively. No one seems to want to put blame on the coaching staff, but it needs to be done. I don’t mean to keep beating this dead horse, I really don’t. I’m just presenting the facts, and the facts show that Ernest Jackson had ONE target in the first half. Is that normal? It seems like we’re talking about the same things every week.
GM Kavis Reed spent a lot of money to bring Jackson to Montreal this winter, and the offensive staff still hasn’t figured out how to use him. For most of the game, Samuel Giguere (three) had more targets than Jackson (he finished with four). It makes no sense.
I understand that Durant had to rush throws because of the lackluster play of his banged up offensive line, but this has been a problem since the beginning of the season. Jacques Chapdelaine doesn’t get Jackson involved enough. There’s no way around that.
• I need to elaborate on just how tough 2017 has been for Giguere. He missed the first seven games of the season with an injury. The Canadian receiver has now been back for three games, and he’s brought nothing to the table. I’m not sure if he’s still banged up or not, but it’s not good enough right now. He had an ugly drop near the goal line against Winnipeg last week, and he had another bad one yesterday. For a speedster, he also doesn’t seem to get much separation from the defenders covering him. Rookie receiver George Johnson has been much more effective.
• Ahhhh penalties. I haven’t written about discipline issues for a while, but it’s time to bring this up again. Let me take you back to Ottawa’s first touchdown drive (Harris threw a touchdown pass to Diontae Spencer in the second quarter). Let’s take a look at the penalties on that drive alone:
- Objectionable conduct on Chip Cox-10 yards
- Piling-on on Anthony Sarao-15 yards
- Pass interference on Greg Henderson-ball placed on three-yard line
- Objectionable conduct on John Bowman-half the distance to the goal
Watching all those penalties unfold, it seems like the defence is trying to do too much because they know they won’t be getting much run-support. Still, some of these penalties were really silly. Cox got flagged because he tried to strip the ball from the Ottawa receiver way after the play was over. Silly.
• Speaking of Cox, I get that he’s a fan-favourite, and rightfully so. He’s been one of the most dynamic playmakers on defence in Alouettes history, but it seems like opposing offences have been going after him for a while now. Playing that SAM linebacker spot isn’t easy, there’s a lot of action there. Cox has played the position at a high level for a while, I’m not sure he can do that anymore.
I don’t know where the Alouettes go from here. I believe they’re a talented team (I really do), but they just don’t have the confidence to get it done right now.
Up next is a date in Vancouver with the B.C. Lions, and we all know how much they’ve struggled there in the past.
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