No Fajardo, no Stanback, no problem: six thoughts on the Montreal Alouettes’ win over the Riders

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes were ready for this game. Even without Cody Fajardo, William Stanback, and Almondo Sewell, Montreal dominated the Saskatchewan Roughriders at home 41-12 in front of a crowd of 17 027 people. And the word dominated might be too polite; midway through the third quarter, it was sealed.

Here are my thoughts about Friday’s night game.

Taking Advantage of the Situation (Ft. Walter Fletcher)

My colleague Joel Gasson covered this topic in his post-game analysis, but the Roughriders have travelled a lot recently. The schedule was not in their favour, and the Als knew it. From the get-go, Montreal moved the ball on the ground, something Jason Maas’ offence had not yet been able to do constantly since the beginning of the season.

Walter Fletcher had a fantastic game on the ground and out of the backfield as a receiver. He rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries and gained 68 yards on a screen pass from Evans in the second quarter.

The play was beautifully drawn up by Maas, with the linemen able to get involved in the blocking in space and the receivers doing their part as well. It was a good reflection of a game where everything went wrong for the Riders as the Alouettes, like Fletcher, ran towards an easy win.

Amazing Protection

When the offensive line had issues at the beginning of the season, they were criticized a lot. However, they’ve made progress since the game against the Argos in Week 6 and Friday night was their best performance of the season. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

With backup quarterback Caleb Evans starting, protection would be crucial. That mission was well understood with only one sack allowed, but the linemen did more than that. They opened running lanes for Fletcher inside, and as mentioned above, they made big plays out in space as well.

Evans Did What Was Necessary

Thirty minutes before the game, it was still unclear who would be the Alouette’s starter. Fajardo completed a full warm-up, but Maas wasn’t convinced enough to give him the start. In that nebulous situation, Evans could have had a rough start, but the opposite happened. He led the Als’ offence to the house on their opening drive, capping it with his second touchdown of the year on the ground.

From then on, Evans managed the game and did what was necessary to win. He finished just eight of 13 for 149 yards. Along with a touchdown pass to Austin Mack, he threw an interception in the second quarter, which can be considered his only big mistake of the game. He added two touchdowns on quarterback draws.

Evans’ most significant asset is his ability to run, which he used a lot during this game while collecting 66 yards rushing. He was able to extend drives, and when he couldn’t run, he threw the ball away and avoided sacks and interceptions.

All in all, the 25-year-old did exactly what the team needed to win and nothing less.

Beverette, Lemon and Stubblefield Lead the Charge

It seems like deja vu, but the Alouettes’ defence offered another masterclass with multiple players still out because of injuries. This week, defensive tackle Almondo Sewell added his name to the long list in the infirmary, but once again, Noel Thorpe’s unit answered the bell.

Linebacker Tyrice Beverette had another great outing as he recorded eight tackles and brought back a ball to the house after a fumble was forced by Avery Ellis. He was everywhere and even pressured Jake Dolegala on a few occasions. The tackle stats don’t do justice to how he set up his teammates for success with good positioning.

Beverette told me after the game that his touchdown felt like the reward for a solid outing from the whole unit. He also singled out defensive end Shawn Lemon, who recorded another quarterback sack and was a nightmare for the Saskatchewan offensive line.

“First of all, he’s a leader, he brings a lot of leadership, and since he’s been here, he’s been consistently making plays.”

Rookie halfback Reggie Stubblefield also shone in his fourth career outing, knocking down four passes. He has been solid as a rock since returning to the team following his release after the training camp and showed his confidence after the game by saying that he “didn’t come from Texas for nothing.” He later promised to do that to every wide receiver in the league.

Chandler Worthy and the Blocks

There were not many negative points in this dominant win, but if there is one worrying trend, it’s Chandler Worthy’s returns.

After a good start to the season, worthy seems to have difficulty exploding and finding holes. He’s not the only one responsible, as the lanes are not as present as they were at the beginning of the season. When he catches the ball, he already has defenders around, which doesn’t help him gain speed. It will be something to keep an eye on. 

On the positive side, the Alouettes didn’t give any space to Mario Alford, who is considered one of the best returners in the league in his own right.

What’s Next?

The Alouettes have moved their record to 5-3 and now are alone in second place in the East Division. They will now take the road to Ottawa for a Saturday night showdown on August 19, where they will try to take another step forward before facing the three best teams in the CFL.

Pablo is a CFL and Alouettes analyst based in Montreal.