Alouettes confirm they’re the beast of the East with win over Argos (& seven other thoughts)

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

On Friday night, the Montreal Alouettes had a chance to establish themselves as the undisputed best team in the CFL with a showdown against the Toronto Argonauts.

They took it, dominating the Argos 30-20 to confirm their hold on first place in the East division and extend their winning streak to 12 going back to last season. Below are my thoughts on the game.

A complimentary effort

Beating the Argos in Toronto is no easy task, and the Als knew that. They displayed a complete and complimentary effort to add a fourth straight win to their record. Nowhere was that more apparent than on these next two series.

After the Als’ first offensive drive ended with a turnover on downs, Noel Thorpe’s defence stood up and limited the Argos to a field goal. The offence came right back and answered with a touchdown to take the lead. From there, the Als never looked back.

Towards the end of the first half, Cody Fajardo orchestrated a methodical drive that ended with a David Cote field goal. The defense followed with a quick stop on Cameron Dukes. It set up a punt that James Letcher Jr. returned 43 yards to the Toronto 54-yard line. Fajardo led another drive to set up another field goal. Although these two drives could have ended with touchdowns, the Als still took a 13-6 lead to the half.

Brillant coaching

Jason Maas showed last year that he could be creative with his plays’ selection. On Friday, he displayed brilliant coaching when his team needed to take flight. On a second-and-twenty, he brought back the onside dribble punt that worked well last year. Fajardo connected with Jeshrun Antwi on a screen pass and the Calgary native kicked the ball and recovered it.

A couple of plays later, the Als were facing a third and one and Caleb Evans faked the QB sneak, launching a beautiful fade pass to Cole Spieker. The receiver, who finished the night with 113 yards on eight catches, had his best game of the season.

Since Tyler Snead’s injury, Spieker has had a difficult task. He needs to catch balls in the middle of the field, where he knows he will be hit violently. He is also frequently added to the protection to give Fajardo a few extra seconds and he does it very well.

Thank you, Toronto!

I will leave my colleague Ben Grant to write in detail about all the penalties Argos took during the game, but the Als were able to capitalize on those mistakes. Some of Toronto’s penalties extended drives and gave great field position to Fajardo’s offence. That’s more than Montreal needed to seal the win.

A banged-up Fajardo answers well

Cody Fajardo played another good game for the Als, completing 33 of his 41 passes for 284 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He didn’t complicate things and took whatever the Toronto defence gave him, managing to extend drives with his legs and with tough completions to his receivers.

His health status is the biggest worry right now, as he took several shots during the game. At the beginning of the third quarter, he was hit by Jake Ceresna and fell backwards, head first. He took a lot of time to get up before leaving the field for three plays. He was checked quickly and seemed fine, but told the media after the game that the adrenaline helped him a lot.

The Alouette will have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if he participates in the next Als practice, which should be on Monday.

The offensive line needs to create holes

The Als are 4-0, but some units must improve. This is the case for the offensive line, which couldn’t create holes for Walter Fletcher. Believe it or not, the running back finished the night with just eleven yards on six carries.

Jason Maas used many screens to replace the runs through the middle, but this issue needs to be addressed. As the season goes on, the Als will need to give Fajardo a breather. He can’t throw 41 passes every game, and Fletcher needs to be part of the solution.

Another game, another good defensive showdown

The defensive script seems to be the same week after week, but when a team only allows an offensive touchdown with a minute to go, it deserves a special mention.

Linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku had the best game of his young CFL career with two sacks and four tackles. The 2024 first-round pick made his presence felt when the Argos were gaining some rhythm offensively.

Overall, the defence forced a turnover on downs and Dionte’ Ruffin added a late interception to put the last nail in the Argos’ coffin.

The only weakness shown by Noel Thorpe’s unit was the run defence. They allowed 103 total yards to four Argos players, including 61 yards to Ka’Deem Carey. It is not disastrous, but it might be something the Stamps will try to exploit next week.

What’s next?

Speaking of Calgary, they will be the next opponents for the Als on Saturday night at Percival-Molson Stadium. Jason Maas’ team will play their three next games at home, with the franchise looking to build momentum off last week’s sellout.

Pablo is a CFL and Alouettes analyst based in Montreal.