The road to your eighth Grey Cup championship will undoubtedly have a few bumps along the way. The Montreal Alouettes have learned that lesson before and they learned it again this past Friday.
Losing a heartbreaker to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a 25-23 score, the Alouettes failed to secure their first road win of 2015. But they played a decent overall game in a loud and boisterous environment. I have yet to visit Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, but have been told its noise level is comparable to any NFL stadium’s. It certainly sounded loud enough on TV as the Blue Bombers fans did their best to make Rakeem Cato’s night a difficult one.
After coming in and setting the Calgary Stampeders on fire the week previous, Cato came back down to earth, showing that he is still very much a rookie and will continue to make rookie mistakes as he goes. Despite passing for over 300 yards he had the misfortune of being read like a book by Winnipeg DB Johnny Adams, who was easily able to snag Cato’s hurried pass to S.J. Green and take it to the house for a touchdown.
Instead of taking the sack when the blitz came, Cato tried to put a square peg into a round hole and it cost the Alouettes six points. A lesson that has to be learned the hard way, even for hot-shot QBs that go 3-0 in college bowl games. Cato was also picked off earlier in the game by Chris Randle, who was a nightmare for “Rakeem The Dream” from the start of the game until the final whistle.
Cato wasn’t the only rookie who both dazzled and got humbled in the ‘Peg last Friday. There’s no question in my mind that Alex Charette will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. The National receiver out of the University of Guelph played some lights-out football in the CIS and Montreal will need young receivers like him to step up when Fred Stamps and Nik Lewis call it a career. But last Friday, the former Gryphon had his lunch eaten for him by Winnipeg’s special teams unit.
Charette zigged when he should have zagged while blocking and veteran Lin-J Shell was able to get right in Alouettes kicker Boris Bede’s kitchen, blocking the punt and allowing Teague Sherman to fall on the wayward football in the end zone for another preventable touchdown. A CFL rookie has to pay his dues on special teams and Charette is no exception. These are drills that you can’t truly replicate in practice as no one wants to injure a teammate.
So once again, you make the mistake and you hopefully learn from it. Alex did have some great catches to help his QB move the ball downfield this game and last, so there’s no need to pile on this youngster. He’ll watch the game film this week and he’ll be better for the experience.
What kept Montreal in this football game was the dynamic play of S.J. Green and Tyrell Sutton. Sutton’s known for his blistering speed, but twice he had to lower his shoulders and use some muscle to find the end zone. He also got GREAT blocks from his linemen Philip Blake and Kristian Matte in scoring his two touchdowns. When the passing game doesn’t work, you need a versatile running back to keep your offense on the field. Sutton is that and so much more.
Whereas we all know just how great S.J. is, but I guess he needed to remind everyone in case there was even a sliver of doubt. He made six catches and they were all spectacular, yet he makes each one look like child’s play. It hit me last Friday thanks to the colour commentary that Green has been playing for 9 years now. NINE! And there’s just no sign of him slowing down. S.J. knows he is a leader and you almost get the feeling that he told his young quarterback before the game, “Just throw it my way, kid. I got you”. And sure enough, with the exception of the pick-six, S.J. made sure that he was in the right place at the right time for Cato’s throws.
The defensive side of the ball was the usual shining light for Montreal, as they limited the Bombers offense to a mere four field goals by Liram Hajrullahu. Despite Winnipeg QB Drew Willy taking a wicked head shot the week previous versus Hamilton, he was able to play and marched the Bombers down the field with precision time and time again. However, the vaunted Alouettes defense was able to prevent Willy and his attack from finding the end zone.
Major credit goes to guys like John Bowman, Corvey Irwin and Kyler Elsworth, who had the tough task of filling Bear Woods’ spot in the line-up and did not look out of place. These fellas all made sure that Willy wasn’t going to add additional Blue Bomber points to the ledger. Also playing with a purpose was Alan-Michael Cash, who got a taste of blood when he nearly had an interception versus Calgary last week and was itching for more. His stellar play of late did not go unnoticed by either the TSN commentators or even by non-Alouettes fans on Twitter, as seen below:
Tonight confirmed Alan-Michael Cash is a monster at defensive tackle. He's up there with the elite group like Laurent, George and Sewell.
— Eric M. (@EricM_CFL) July 11, 2015
That’s a pretty solid group of men that Cash is put beside, and I’m not surprised in the least. All he needed was a chance to shine and he’s made the most of it, completely owning his spot on the Montreal D-Line. The rest of the CFL has been put on notice by this dangerous beast of a man. As his last name implies, Alan-Michael is MONEY!
With the loss, the Alouettes drop to 1-2. But in all reality, this team should be 3-0 and leading the East. Just like the first game versus Ottawa, this game versus Winnipeg was completely winnable and they let it slip through their fingers. And now they must prepare for a visit from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who come in off a bye week and are looking for their first regular season win at Molson Stadium in over a decade!
Perhaps history can repeat itself, as no one will expect Montreal to completely dominate the Tabbies like they did versus Calgary. Hamilton looks to have all their ducks in a row despite numerous injuries still hanging over their heads. This Alouettes defense will have to step up to handle Zach Collaros and hope to catch a few people napping.
Hamilton’s stout defense will put Rakeem Cato to the test with even more game film on the former Thundering Herd pivot now available. And as for the much-maligned Alouettes special teams, they will have to find a way to keep Brandon Banks grounded. That’s easier said than done.
I’ll be back later this week for a full preview of this Thursday night’s game. The Alouettes will be back at Stade Hebert for practice, be sure to give it a look if you’re in the area.
Until later this week,
GO ALS GO!!