The Montreal Alouettes needed this win. After suffering three consecutive losses, Jason Maas’ team was looking to bounce back at home against the Calgary Stampeders, a club that’s struggled to find its footing all year.
It wasn’t perfect but the Als found a way to seal the game late. Here are five thoughts on Montreal’s 25-18 win over the Stampeders on Sunday.
The defence shines
The Als secured a win without scoring an offensive touchdown for the first time since Sept. 26, 2014, when they defeated the Redblacks by a score of 15-7. Sean Whyte was the main scorer in that game and David Côté was the man of the hour on Sunday as he kicked six field goals on seven attempts with a long of 42 yards.
Rookie defensive back Kabion Ento secured the only touchdown of the ball game when he intercepted an errant pass from Jake Maier and brought it back to the house. All of Calgary’s scoring came from Rene Paredes, who was a perfect six-for-six on his field goals.
The defence needed to be excellent to win given Montreal’s lack of offensive scoring and that turned out to be the case. Defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe dialled up pressure to make Jake Maier uncomfortable in his pocket and the defensive backs answered the bell after struggling against Toronto in Week 6.
Avery Williams, Deonté Ruffin, and Najee Murray didn’t finish the game for the Als, but Zach Lindley, Bryce Notree and J.R. Reed kept the unit from drowning at the end of the game. It will be interesting to see when the Alouettes return to practice on Wednesday how long will these injuries last and, more importantly, where help can be found if needed.
The Lemonator effect
No, Shawn Lemon didn’t collect any quarterback sacks on Sunday, but his presence was felt from the start to the end of the game and perhaps even before the game started.
When Danny Maciocia let veteran defensive end Nick Usher go, it sent a message to the whole defensive line. Usher was a well-respected veteran in the locker room. The entire unit answered against Calgary.
Jamal Davis II played his best game of the season, being physical and constantly in the backfield. Adding a presence like Lemon helped and he won many matchups during the game. Overall, the defence disrupted Jake Maier multiple times with three sacks, which was huge for a team that recorded only seven sacks over their first five games of the season.
In his first appearance as an Alouette, Lemon made his presence felt with a tackle and a
tipped ball. For a player that hadn’t played in a long time, he showed that there is still juice in his game.
No sacks allowed, William Stanback arrives
Cody Fajardo undoubtedly woke up with a bruise on his right hand on Monday morning as he got hit late in the first half, but I wouldn’t blame him if he thought the lack of pressure he faced was just a dream.
The physicality of the offensive line has improved. They have become more aggressive with improvements to the pass protection for Cody Fajardo, who was sacked only once one a late-game play from Calgary defensive back Branden Dozier.
The line also opened several rushing lanes for William Stanback, who’d gotten off to a slow start this season. Stanback is starting to look more comfortable in Maas’ offence and helped in blitz situations to give his quarterback the additional time he needed to make throws.
Stanback had his best running game of the season, collecting 15 carries for 86 yards with a long of 25 yards. On certain occasions, he looked like the dominant player he was in 2019. He finished his runs with strength and was able to avoid a number of tackles.
No finishing touch yet
The score didn’t reflect the flow of the game. The Stampeders shouldn’t have had a chance to tie the game in the dying seconds, but the Als couldn’t put the last nail in the coffin. Overall, the offence was able to move the ball efficiently but couldn’t finish the drives with touchdowns. That’s a recurrent problem and one that will need to be addressed.
The finishing touch is crucial to show that you’re one of the teams to beat in the CFL. Cody Fajardo missed a couple of throws on second down, most of them to Kaion Julien-Grant, who once again had a great game.
The Stampeders could have easily tied the game with all the opportunities they were afforded, but Maier failed to deliver in the crucial moments as he threw an interception and a third down incompletion on his last two chances near the end zone.
Speaking of game management, it’s still a head-scratcher why Fajardo threw the ball on second down when there was left than a minute left in the game. Calgary had no timeouts left and the incompletion gave the Stampeders life once again. There’s no doubt that this would have been a topic of discussion in Montreal had the Als found a way to lose this game.
Feel good win
During each game of their three-game losing streak, one of Montreal’s three phases crumbled when it mattered the most. The coaching staff was hoping the scenario wouldn’t repeat itself once more on Sunday. Mission accomplished.
With the win, the Als brought their record at home to 2-2, which is essential knowing the
fragile relationship with Montreal’s fan base over the last years. More than 18,000 people were at Percival-Molson Stadium attended Sunday’s game, which seems decent given the poor weather.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats did Montreal a favour by defeating the red-hot Ottawa Redblacks this past week. The Alouettes now have sole possession of second place in the East Division with a record of 3-3 and though November is still far away, the help is surely welcomed as the team looks to host a playoff game again in 2023.
The Alouettes will get an opportunity to put more space between them and the Ticats when they visit Hamilton on Saturday, Aug. 5 at Tim Hortons Field. The Tabbies will be without Bo Levi Mitchell, who was put once again on the six-game injured list.