The curse of McMahon Stadium is still alive and well, much to the chagrin of the Montreal Alouettes.
Despite a valiant effort the Birds of Prey were edged out once again in a closely contested match, losing to an inspired Calgary Stampeders yesterday by a 25-22 mark. The Alouettes had roared out to a quick 17-0 lead after the first quarter of play and looked as impressive as they did in their first tilt versus the Stamps a couple of weeks ago.
But the Alouettes didn’t just take their foot off the pedal; they put the car in park and went berry-picking, allowing Calgary to find their footing and overtake Montreal on the scoreboard. Despite Rakeem Cato finding S.J. Green for another touchdown and the Alouettes special teams unit hanging a Stefan Logan TD on the Stamps, Calgary never panicked and Bo Levi Mitchell simply went to work.
The Stampeders lost in overtime last week to Ottawa and that fumbled ball in OT had to be weighing heavily on last year’s Grey Cup MVP as he took the field. But if there was any panic or sense of urgency in the young QB, he hid it very well.
Finding both Marquay McDaniel and Eric Rogers for touchdowns, Mitchell fared much better this time at stretching out Montreal’s secondary and keeping the defense on the field for long periods of time, tiring them out. I’ve said on numerous occasions that winners find a way to win and Bo Levi certainly managed to silence any critics he may have had.
I had said that for their sake, Calgary’s defense had better do their homework on Rakeem the Dream, who soundly beat them when he made his CFL debut. Cato did manage to post a respectable 278 passing yards against this defense yesterday but also managed to look like the rookie that he is, trying to put square pegs into round holes and being torched with costly interceptions.
Most notable was a massive Hail Mary throw in Sam Giguere‘s direction that was deftly picked off by Joe Burnett. Cato scrambled mightily against the ensuing rush and had an easy 20 yards of undefended real estate ahead of him but instead opted to attempt that monster pass. I’ll never understand why any of Montreal’s quarterbacks think they need make these sorts of throws when it’s not only unnecessary, but even the receiver isn’t ready for it.
Giguere had given up on the play and like any defender worth his salt, Burnett will gladly snag INTs like that all day long. Patience is a virtue and rookies will make mistakes like this time and time again.
But the most egregious play for this Alouettes team came late in the third quarter. Montreal put together a masterful drive, with running backs Tyrell Sutton and Brandon Rutley taking turns punishing Calgary’s D-Line with some powerful rushing. Facing some heat from the defense, Cato launched a pass to Dobson Collins, who was replacing Fred Stamps in this game. Cato connected with a beautiful 41 yard strike that Collins was taking to the house.
But all this time on the Alouettes practice roster apparently caused this journeyman receiver to forget the most important rule after catching a pass;
Calgary’s Fred Bennett managed to punch the ball out of Collins’ grasp and it was recovered by fellow Stampeder Jamar Wall at the one yard line. Had Collins managed to score, that likely would have been the game winner as both teams had locked it down defensively towards the end of the game. One mistake doesn’t necessarily cost your team the game. But Collins had also managed to drop a crucial pass earlier and took a penalty on Montreal’s final drive that resulted in turning the ball over on downs deep in Stampeders territory. Combined, these mistakes were absolute daggers to the soul of Alouettes Nation.
You could almost forgive the team had they decided to not let Collins board the plane back to Montreal. A rookie making these errors is one thing. But Collins has been playing for a number of years and should have taken full advantage of this opportunity for playing time instead of letting it slip away. I suppose this is one of the reasons Collins has been on 5 different CFL rosters in his career. I’m not sure what more Anthony Calvillo can do when it comes to coaching these receivers. He can impart his wisdom and run hundreds of drills but when the bright lights come on, it’s not Coach Calvillo who has to catch the ball.
So it’s on to the next one for the 2-3 Alouettes, who remarkably still haven’t lost a game by more than 4 points. They hit the road again for their next match but won’t have to venture far, as they return to the nation’s capital this coming Friday to face the Ottawa RedBlacks at TD Place.
Last year the newish stadium proved to be friendly to the Alouettes as they escaped both matches versus the RedBlacks with a win. But Ottawa is far from being the whipping boys of the Canadian Football League; they’ve already surpassed their win total from last year and there’s a true sense of pride with this team, who already have one win against the Alouettes this season.
Ottawa’s defense managed to sideline both Jonathan Crompton & Dan LeFevour and would love nothing more than to take the poison out of Rakeem Cato’s snakebite as well. Both teams possess a killer defense and an offense that does just enough to win, so it’ll likely come down to whom can stay disciplined and whether Montreal can tune out the vociferous RNation crowd.
I’ll be back later in the week with a preview of this Friday’s tilt. Be sure to give a listen to the Bleed RedBlacks podcast as well as checking out Defend the R’s detailed look at this game. And if you’re missing the live action, swing on by practice this week at Stade Hebert.
GO ALS GO!!!