It was supposed to be an Eastern showdown, the game where the Alouettes could turn their season around and show that they could still fight for the top spot in the division.
Instead, Montreal failed to live up to their potential yet again and were beaten by a more aggressive Argos team 39-10.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
Physical battle lost from start to finish
Football is a game of X and O’s, that’s true, but the physical battle is also crucial and the Als lost it all game long. That shouldn’t have been the case since the Argos had a short week of practice, but it happened somehow.
The offensive line couldn’t create lanes for William Stanback and Walter Fletcher, as the former was limited to six yards and the latter to 10 yards. On a critical third-and-short, Caleb Evans couldn’t find a hole, and it ended up being one of the five turnovers by the Als in this game. At the beginning of the second half, Jason Maas decided to run the football at the four-yard line on second-and-goal. William Stanback barely made it to the line of scrimmage. Montreal settled for the points.
It wasn’t better defensively, as the line couldn’t win one-on-one battles to get to Chad Kelly. The Argos quarterback also threw quickly multiple times, which didn’t help, but it wasn’t good enough. Along with the secondary, the Als couldn’t stop running back A.J. Ouellette, who had fun all afternoon.
One-sided turnover and penalty battle
The Argos are good enough to win games alone; they don’t need the extra help that Montreal provided.
The Alouettes gave away the ball five times, and three turnovers came on good offensive drives. Montreal was moving the ball well when Evans missed the third-and-short and when Stanback and Cole Spieker fumbled. Those giveaways cost the Als points and rhythm, as the Argos’ offence was on fire and hard to stop.
Montreal’s defence couldn’t get a single turnover, which obviously didn’t help either.
The penalties taken by the Alouettes also contributed to the Argos’ win as they committed nine for a total of 101 yards. They almost gave Toronto a full field length for free. The biggest one was taken by Austin Mack, who was ejected from the game after hitting Qwan’tez Stiggers’ helmet.
That last play deserves a section of its own. Austin Mack was in a holding battle with Stiggers, which resulted in both players going down. He lost his cool and shouldn’t have pushed the defender’s helmet.
I don’t defend what Mack did, but I didn’t expect a disqualification for it. We’ve seen worse things this season that didn’t result in an ejection, Pete Robertson’s headbutt on Zach Collaros being a good example. For me, it was a severe call for what should have been a 15-yard penalty.
The referees followed the rulebook and Mack, being a young receiver in the league, will learn from it. His absence was felt as the Alouettes couldn’t get big gains on the air and I’m interested to watch his answer next Friday in Montreal.
The drop, and the answer
Chandler Worthy hasn’t been himself the last couple of weeks. We hadn’t seen his magic touch on his touches until he fumbled in Toronto on Saturday.
That costly drop led the Argos to an early 14-0 lead. From there, Worthy answered in the best way possible. He brought back the following kickoff to Toronto’s 25-yard line, setting up an Alouettes touchdown. From there, every time he touched the ball, something interesting was happening.
Hopefully he keeps it going because the Alouettes need this version of Worthy, not the shaky one.
The B-Defence of the Als
I’m not one for excuses, but the absence of high-profile defensive backs and linebackers is being felt in Montreal. There have been too many miscommunications and the opponent’s offence has been able to exploit too many mismatches.
The Alouettes are missing Nafees Lyon, Avery Williams, Dionte Ruffin, Najee Murray, and Tyrell Richards. At some point, that was going to have an impact and the Argos beat every coverage Noel Thorpe presented. The lack of pressure hasn’t helped either, but the defensive backs must find a way to be closer to receivers.
Do I still believe in Cody Fajardo as QB1?
After a game where the Als turned the ball over five times but none were by the quarterback, it is strange that Cody Fajardo received the most criticism for his third straight loss.
I still believe in Cody Fajardo as the leader of this offence. Let’s analyze the previous two games to explain my point.
Against the B.C. Lions, the offence generated nearly 500 yards but couldn’t convert in the red zone, which was costly at the end of the game. They were able to move the ball effectively, getting lots of receivers involved. That’s encouraging. The season is far from over, and there is still time to pick up the red zone rhythm.
Saturday afternoon, they were one for two in that zone on meaningful drives. On the first occasion, Fajardo linked with Spieker to score an early touchdown and on the second, Maas decided to run the ball twice, a strategy that didn’t work out. I said it last week, but I don’t understand why the head coach would go for runs when the Argos defensive backs couldn’t stop the receivers for the whole drive.
Fajardo had only three incompletions during the game and involved all his receivers. They couldn’t get to the red zone enough because of turnovers that were not his fault. The quarterback is not the issue with this offence.
Some people have been talking about Caleb Evans and his two wins. Without disrespecting the opponent, they occurred against Saskatchewan and Ottawa, two teams that weren’t going anywhere prior to those games.
Fajardo is still my choice to lead this football team. I would have a different perspective if the offence wasn’t moving the ball constantly.
The Alouettes (6-6) will once again face the Argos (10-1) on Friday night at Percival-Molson Stadium at 7:00 p.m. EDT.