Much like the Via Rail train that was barreling down the tracks back home Saturday night, this team keeps on rolling!
The Montreal Alouettes have now extended their win streak to 4 games in a row and have taken over first place in the CFL’s Eastern division! With their 20-12 victory versus the Toronto Argonauts this past Saturday, the Alouettes not only secured their second road victory of the season but also evened up the season series with the Double Blue.
The turnaround for this Alouettes franchise has been remarkable when you consider that this team was 1-7 (!) at it’s lowest point. So many questions were unanswered and snarky scribes/pundits predicting that not only will this team finish dead last, but the man who ended up as their QB coach will be suiting up and taking snaps for them!
Well, those critics are pretty quiet now. If anything, there almost seems to be a bit of scrambling to get back onto the bandwagon. Since the Alouettes made the change to put Troy Smith on the six-game injured list and give the QB reigns to Jonathan Crompton, Montreal has won 6 of it’s last 7 games and established themselves as a force in the East.
Crompton’s solid play combined with the Alouettes’ incredible defense has equaled a new demeanor with this team. There’s no more bickering, no more wistful remembrances of the past except when Anthony Calvillo’s number was retired. This Alouettes team has come together like no one could have ever imagined. There’s still a lot of football left to be played these next three weeks, but this team is determined to reclaim their title of “Beasts of the East”!
It all started with the completion of the first test this past Saturday in front of a sparse crowd at the Rogers Centre. Once again, despite being in the thick of a playoff battle, the vast majority of Torontonians couldn’t care less about spending their afternoon supporting their football team. I’ve talked about this at length, but something really has to give in regards to the paltry crowds in Canada’s biggest city.
The Alouettes came out and played with a purpose this past Saturday; The Argos did not. Ricky Ray looked very plain against the aggressive Montreal defense, not once finding the end zone. Ray was able to take advantage of some lax tackling throughout the game to move the ball down field, but in the end all this Argos team could muster on this day were 4 field goals from kicker Swayze Waters.
On the other side, Jonathan Crompton once again played solid football. Solid is good, but this is the time of year to be more than solid. He’s relied heavily on Duron Carter to make some incredible plays since taking over as starting QB, but this game saw the re-emergence of S.J. Green as a viable offensive threat.
Crompton found Green in the end zone for a touchdown and Tanner Marsh managed to score his sixth rushing touchdown of the season. If the Alouettes are going to be playing at BC Place in late November, it’s going to be on the backs of these two upstart quarterbacks. Along with Alex Brink acting as a second QB coach to these two, they’ve established a unity like no other among the pivots in the Canadian Football League.
Earlier this week on Twitter, I marveled at both Tyrell Sutton’s speed and ability to slash through opposing defensive lines. That was on display again versus Toronto and Sutton is only going to get better as the weeks go by. Along with Chris Rainey, who’s playing with a real sense of purpose as this may be his last chance to truly shine as a professional football player, Montreal’s rushing game is still strong despite no Brandon Whitaker.
Perhaps the funniest moment on Saturday came before the game as Alouettes kicker Sean Whyte was mocked by a bystander in Toronto, who assumed that the only role Whyte must have on the team is that of mascot due to his lack of height. Well, this “mascot” turned in a stellar performance, hitting on all cylinders with both his kicking and punting!
With two field goals, two extra points and two very clutch coffin corner punts that pinned the Argos deep in their own end, there’s no question that Whyte is very much a member of this team ON THE FIELD. If that foolish person tuned in and watched Whyte contribute to his team’s victory, I daresay that he himself would probably feel even smaller than Montreal’s kicker, if that’s possible!
And of course, you have to give an assist to the Alouettes fans who made the trip to Toronto aboard the Fan Train for providing the ambiance at the Rogers Centre. I daresay that when the Argos were on offense, you could hear the noise from every single one of those fans. Whether or not that was a distraction for the Argos, we’ll never know for sure but the Argos did have one time count violation penalty, so take from that what you will.
But when over 300 visiting fans make more noise than the home team’s fanbase, that’s a very telling sign indeed. The Argonauts are still very much in the thick of this playoff race but their fans would rather sit at home and watch the game on TV than be there live to support their football team. As I have said before, something in Toronto has to give.
So now the Alouettes prepare to make their second trip to Ottawa in less than a month to take on the RedBlacks, whose inaugural season hasn’t lead to very many highlights for their fans. Eliminated from playoff contention, they can only hope to dampen the mood for the Alouettes this weekend while Ontario’s other CFL teams face off in the second Eastern divisional match-up.
As predicted, it will come down to the final week of the regular season before the Eastern division is completely sorted out. A crossover is still likely to happen so for every Eastern team except the RedBlacks, losing is simply not an option. Montreal and Hamilton still have a chance to finish with a positive record while Toronto now can finish no better than 9-9.
So we need to keep this party bus going, Alouettes Nation! If you’re going to be in Ottawa for Friday’s game, get there early and get loud for the defense! If the last time these two teams met is any indication, the Ottawa fans will inadvertently join in.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back Friday for a preview of the Alouettes/RedBlacks game. Be sure to follow along on Twitter during the week for all news and thoughts as the CFL season winds to a close.