Since climbing into first place in the East Division on Aug. 11, the Montreal Alouettes’ season has gone off the rails. Not only have they not won a game since then, they’ve also managed to score just 59 points in their last four games (they’ve been held to six points or less in two of their last four contests).
File this one under the “only in the CFL” category, but the Als are still just two points out of a playoff spot and three points behind Ottawa, who are first in the East Division. Incredible.
But they won’t be able to catch the Argonauts or Redblacks if they continue to shoot themselves in the foot like they have in 2017.
A lot of the bad habits they’ve developed spilled into Friday night’s 41-18 loss in Vancouver.
What did they do well? What do they need to work on? Here’s how I saw the game unfold:
–Veteran defensive end John Bowman came out of the gate with some fire in his belly. He slammed Lions quarterback Travis Lulay to the ground on the second play of the game (unfortunately Lulay suffered a serious injury on the play), and he recorded one of Montreal’s two quarterback sacks on the night. The 35-year-old is currently tied for third in the league in sacks, with six.
–Kyries Hebert continues to make plays on defence for the Alouettes. Hebert came up with an interception in the end zone, but they play was negated by a Chip Cox penalty. Later on in that drive, the 37-year-old came up with a key tackle near the goal line to force a turnover on downs. Hebert finished the game with a game-high 10 tackles. He also picked up a quarterback sack. Hebert is now second in the league in defensive tackles, as he trails B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian by just two tackles.
–For the second week in a row, B.J. Cunningham finished as the team’s leading receiver (he had four catches for 105 yards against B.C.). In an offence that’s struggled to find rhythm, Cunningham has shown an ability to come up with big plays at various times throughout the season. The 28-year-old is already up to 778 yards receiving in 11 games this season. Last year, he had 855 yards in 17 contests.
–Tiquan Underwood had a strong second half. Even though the game was all but over, he managed to come up with some big plays. The Alouettes couldn’t find him in the first half, as he accumulated all 73 of his receiving yards in the second half. Unfortunately, an Ernest Jackson penalty negated a 70-yard Underwood touchdown.
–The quarterback play from Darian Durant still isn’t good enough. Durant is being paid very good money to be a difference maker on this team, and more often than not he’s fallen short in that department. To be fair to him, he still isn’t getting much help around him.
–The offensive game plan needs some work. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this in my 3DownNation stories, but they’ve got to find a way to Jackson involved. It makes absolutely no sense that your prized free-agent pick up can’t get his touches. The 30-year-old was targeted once in the first half (the ball was thrown at his feet). Early in the second half, the Alouettes moved him around to get him in space and it worked, as he caught a touchdown and a two-point convert. But Jackson finishing the game with 14 yards on three receptions is a joke.
–I hate to pick on a Canadian rookie, but I have to call it like I see it. After the Alouettes stopped the B.C. Lions at the goal line in the second quarter, the offence went to work. This is what happened:
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) September 9, 2017
Oumar Toure (no. 45) completely whiffs on David Menard. Running back Tyrell Sutton can’t get over in time, and Durant gets smoked for a safety. Toure is technically to blame on that play, but maybe it would be a good idea for the offensive staff to understand what their players can and can’t do. Toure vs. Menard is an unfair fight.
Right before the end of the half, Chris Rainey blocked a Boris Bede field goal attempt, which Anthony Gaitor returned for a touchdown. Again, Rainey came off the edge unblocked. Who did he run right by? Toure. The Alouettes miss starting fullback J.C. Beaulieu.
–For the second week in a row, there wasn’t much running room for Sutton. Last week he finished with four yards on six carries. This week, he ended up with seven rushes for 23 yards. Take away his 13-yard carry and he ends the night with six rushes for 10 yards. You can’t even blame the running back. The running lanes just aren’t there.
–Under defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe, the defence has always played bend-don’t-break style, which isn’t an issue if your offence is able to stay on the field with any kind of regularity. Unfortunately for the Alouettes’ defence, that doesn’t happen often enough. So not only do they stay on the field a lot because the offence can’t sustain drives, but they are also out there for an eternity because they give up a lot of yardage. If this pass rush doesn’t improve soon, they won’t be playing meaningful games in October or November.
Thankfully for the Alouettes, they find themselves in the East Division. No matter how weak the East is though, the next two weeks will make or break their season. Next Sunday, they host the Ottawa Redblacks, who have already beaten them twice this year. The following week, they’ll head to Toronto to play their final game of the season against the double blue.
If, somehow, they can find a way to win those two games, they could be right back in the mix for the East-Division crown.
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