There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the Montreal Alouettes were dominated on Thursday night in Winnipeg. After surviving the first half, they couldn’t score a single point in the final two quarters en route to a massacre of 47-17. Here are my thoughts on a game the Als will want to forget soon.
Message not sent
Montreal had a chance to deliver a message to the rest of the CFL on Thursday against a heavy opponent. Entering the game with a surprise 6-3 record, the Alouettes were in a position to establish themselves in the top tier of the CFL. Their mission was a failure as they couldn’t hold their ground against Winnipeg.
There’s nothing wrong with being an underdog, but with this team’s talent, they could be considered part of the league’s heavyweight class alongside Toronto, Winnipeg, and B.C. For too many years now, the Alouettes haven’t been able to go out of the gate and perform when the spotlight was on them.
The good news, if there is one, is that the B.C. Lions are in town next week, and a win could put this loss to bed and even justify it given it occurred on a short week of rest.
Injuries, injuries, and more injuries
The Alouettes lost some feathers in Winnipeg. Austin Mack, the team’s best receiver, left the game after receiving two big hits to the head. His right ankle also took a hit at the end of the first quarter.
Defensive back Wesley Sutton also suffered a blow to the head, attempting to stop Brady Oliveira close to the end zone. He went straight to the locker room and didn’t return.
The worst injury happened to former first-overall CFL draft pick Tyrell Richards when Raheem Wilson hit his left knee while attempting to make a tackle. He was carted off, and his possible long-term absence would significantly hurt the club. Not only is he making plays on defence, he is a force on special teams.
The Alouettes already have 16 players in the six-game injured list. That list will likely grow heading into next week’s matchup.
Ruined by penalties
The game couldn’t have started on a higher note for the Alouettes, who picked off Zach Collaros on Winnipeg’s first offensive play. Tyrell Richards returned the ball to the house, and the Alouettes grabbed an early 7-0 lead.
From there, the Alouettes poked a sleeping bear by taking unusual penalties. Bryce Notree started it off by contacting Winnipeg’s kicker. Then, after a holding penalty to Hergy Mayala that put the Als deep in their zone, Alexandre Gagne committed an unnecessary roughness penalty on the ensuing punt to give the Blue Bombers a short field. It was all that Zach Collaros needed to tie the game.
From there on, the penalties became the story of the game for the Alouettes, taking 13 for 142 yards. They shot themselves in the foot too many times, giving Winnipeg opportunities they didn’t need. Montreal entered Thursday’s game with the third-fewest penalty yards league-wide, making this an uncharacteristic outing for the team.
As good as the defence was, Noel Thorpe’s unit committed too many mental mistakes.
Let’s start with the positive, as three interceptions were made with two returned for a touchdown. After Richards got the first one, Marc-Antoine Dequoy picked off Collaros twice in two drives, returning the second one to the house. Crazy enough, that second-quarter play was the last score for the Als all game.
These highlights aside, it was a disappointing performance overall for the defence. Montreal’s best unit since the beginning of the season allowed too many yards on the ground with 196. Brady Oliveira had fun all night as he ran for 119 yards and a touchdown alone.
The unit also gave up some big plays that appeared to stem from bad communication. If we exclude the last stretches of the game where the defence was exhausted, many assignments were missed. On Dalton Schoen’s second touchdown of the game, Kabion Ento was nowhere to be found, leading to one of the easiest catches in the receiver’s career. Kenny Lawler, at end of the first half, also caught a long ball where Kordell Rodgers had left his man wide open.
It wasn’t a typical performance for the defence, and they will look to bounce back on Sept. 2.
The Als played Thursday’s game on only five days of rest after their dramatic win in Ottawa. They could only practice once this week and travelled twice in that span to play at IG Field following their victory at TD Place Stadium.
Those facts can’t be ignored, and when you look at teams around the league that have faced similar situations, the results are mostly the same. The Alouettes had the tools to beat Winnipeg, but they hurt themselves with mental mistakes and penalties.
It was Cody Fajardo’s first game back since he got injured against Hamilton on Aug. 5 and he lacked rhythm. At the beginning of the game, he was able to move the ball, but couldn’t finish drives. The field position didn’t help as their first two drives of the game started at Montreal’s seven-yard line.
The offence went from bad to worse when the second half started. Three consecutive possessions ended in turnovers, which led to 17 points for Winnipeg. It was game over.
Fajardo finished the game completing 14-of-25 pass attempts for 137 yards and one interception. He had a 15-yard carry but also lost 17 yards on a mishandled snap from Justin Lawrence.
Montreal’s receivers didn’t help Fajardo generate big gains. Hergy Mayala had a chance to bring the Als back in the game on a third-down gamble but dropped a ball that hit him in the hands. Deatrick Nichols interfered a bit, but Mayala should have still made the catch.
The Als dressed Walter Fletcher and William Stanback for the first time since the Bombers’ visit to Montreal. Like that game, Jason Maas only used Fletcher sparsely and gave Stanback the majority of the reps.
After a big game against Saskatchewan, Fletcher deserves to be involved more in the offence. And it doesn’t need to be only on the ground. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and can also be used for screen passes. With the receivers’ struggles, I expected to see more of him against Winnipeg.
The Alouettes (6-4) will play on Saturday, Sept. 2 at home against the B.C. Lions (7-3). They will try to get back on track as they will face another tough opponent.