The talk was all about resilience and staying positive among the Montreal Alouettes this week.
What choice was there after losing 56-10 at home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last week to fall to 0-2 on the season?
“The question is, when you lose a game like that, can they bounce back?” coach Mike Sherman said. “Home opener, great crowd, a beautiful evening – it doesn’t get any better than what we had and we just played and coached horribly.
“So can they bounce back and put it behind them? It seems like they have. Whether you won or lost by a lot, you’ve got to be able to file it away. Hopefully it’s out of our system.”
Their next game, Saturday night in Saskatchewan, would seem a good opportunity to rebound, considering the Roughriders placed starting quarterback Zach Collaros on the six-game injured list with a suspected concussion this week and will go with Canadian pivot Brandon Bridge.
But the Bombers were also without their starter Matt Nichols and ran up a big score with rookie Chris Streveler behind centre.
It was a setback for the revamped Montreal defence, which added high-profile free agents like Tommie Campbell, Henoc Muamba, Jamall Westerman and Mitchell White in the off-season and has defensive guru Rich Stubler as the new co-ordinator.
“It was a lack of discipline in a large part,” said Muamba, who leads the league with 15 defensive tackles. “Not having the right rush lanes. Not being disciplined.
“And they had a really good game plan. That’s one thing that’s being overlooked. Coach (Paul) LaPolice, who I know very well, did a great job with that game plan and in the end you’ve got to give it to them.”
He said the message from Stubler this week has been to stay positive and focus on stopping Saskatchewan, whose offence features three former Alouettes – Bridge, big running back Jerome Messam and receiver Duron Carter.
Bridge, who played two games as a rookie for Montreal in 2015, came on in relief of Collaros in a 40-17 loss in Ottawa last week and went 13-for-22 for 145 yards, with an interception.
“The first thing is keeping him contained,” said Muamba. “We haven’t done a great job of it in the first two weeks of the season.
“Keep him in the pocket. We know what he’s capable of doing with his legs. We know the strong arm he has as well. We’ll try to confuse him as far as the coverage is concerned. Bring the blitzes here and there. But keeping him in the pocket is key. He’s a premier athlete.”
It hasn’t gone as planned for the Montreal offence either.
Veteran Drew Willy has a solid 68.3 per cent completion percentage, but the yards and the scoring have been below average. They put up only 10 points in each of their first two games.
It hasn’t helped that the offensive line is still unsettled. It appears they will go with an all-Canadian front line in Regina in a bid to cut down on their league-worst eight sacks allowed.
Willy said everyone on offence needs to be better.
“Just the overall efficiency of our offence, whether it’s quarterbacks, O-line, running backs – we can all be better,” he said. “Being better on first down will help that.
“When you’re in that second-and-four-to-six range, they aren’t going to bring as many exotic things. So make sure you’re getting at least five yards is key. Definitely not going backward on first down.”
“Anyone who has been in the CFL knows it’s a special place out there,” he said. “I always tell people in the States when they ask where are the cool places to play.
“First thing that pops into your mind is Saskatchewan. Hopefully we can get up early and make sure the crowd isn’t a factor. It’s always going to be loud, especially a night game, but it’s a fun atmosphere.”
Special teams also need to improve.
As Sherman put it: “Field position is huge. If I die in Montreal, a Canadian, and they bury me, I’ll put ‘field position’ on my gravestone.”