So close….yet so far away. The CFL have a new series of commercials that have been promoting a new slogan: No Lead Is Safe. That even when you think the game is over, things can change and all of a sudden momentum swings the other way. Sadly for Alouettes fans, this past game’s final moments versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers became fodder for one of those commercials.
The Alouettes were one quarter away from a clinched Eastern division and a bye in the playoffs. With a fairly comfortable lead, all they had to do was protect it and fend off the gusting wind and dreaded “Swaggerville” defense of the Blue Bombers. But like last week versus Hamilton, the Alouettes’ opponents came back and gave everyone fits.
Last week Montreal hung on for the win. This time the Alouettes got burned and lost 26-25. Winning the season series 2 games to 1, now the Blue Bombers control their destiny; should both teams have the same record at the end of the season, Winnipeg will host the Eastern Final at their home field.
The Alouettes have a guaranteed playoff game at Olympic Stadium but if they want that game to be the Eastern Final and not play an extra game in hosting the Ti-Cats, they have to win more games than the Blue Bombers to finish out the season.
The Alouettes’ final two games are against Calgary & B.C., a pair of games that could go either way. Calgary is rolling the dice on Drew Tate in light of the shoddy play of Henry Burris while the Lions have won 8 straight until running into Hamilton at home. Winnipeg gets the hapless Argos (who DID beat Winnipeg earlier this year) and Calgary (who edged out the Bombers earlier this year).
So nothing is guaranteed as we head into the home stretch. I suppose it makes for an exciting next few weeks but as a tried and true Alouettes fan, I can’t help but feel like the team shot themselves in the foot with some questionable decisions.
Such as passing in short yard situations when you have 3 punishing RBs in Brandon Whitaker, Dahrran Diedrick and even Kerry Carter at your disposal. Whitaker had 15 carries and really gave the Bombers run defense fits. Yet Coach Trestman & the offensive minds are so dead-set on giving Anthony Calvillo the chance to make that huge Hail Mary down the field many times over.
Are they aware that he’s already the all-time leader in passing yards? And with all the Alouettes’ receivers being blanketed with extremely tight coverage, why keep doing the same thing over and over, setting up for possible interceptions or incomplete passes? It’s very maddening to watch.
And in hindsight, conceding that safety late in the 4th quarter and kicking away from the 35 yard line in lieu of having Sean Whyte kicking from near the goal line would have been a lot smarter. Calvillo also threw 3 interceptions, nearly half of his total for the entire 2011 season. He accepted the blame for the loss and even lost his cool during the post-game interview. Uncharacteristic would sum up AC overall this past Saturday. This loss stings and will be the motivating factor in practice this week.
There’s no reason to panic or jump off the Als’ bandwagon. Just means the Alouettes will have to find ways to win convincing games versus their next 2 opponents. And as Anwar Stewart said after the game, going this route will make the team appreciate it even more. Like the late Al Davis once said, “Just win, baby.”
So now the Alouettes will prepare for Calgary this Sunday for the last game at Percival Molson Stadium this year. It will also be the Purolator Tackle Hunger game in Montreal, as fans will be encouraged to bring non-perishable goods or money to help out those less fortunate. It’ll also be your opportunity to take a photo with the Grey Cup. To date this initiative has raised over 780,000 pounds of items for food banks all over Canada.
If you’re going to the game, be sure to help out this wonderful cause and get an up-close look at the trophy your Alouettes have raised over their heads these past 2 championship seasons.
I’ll be back later this week to prepare for the game versus the Stampeders. Drew Tate played great versus the Roughriders and will be looking to keep Calgary in the thick of their own playoff race. Going to Montreal where Calgary hasn’t fared well in previous matches will be the true test for the future full-time QB.