On a day where people reflect on how thankful they are for what they have, the Montreal Alouettes look to avoid serving up a turkey to their fans.
On the mountain Monday afternoon, the Toronto Argonauts will visit for the first and only time in 2015. They’ve had their trials and tribulations but they’ve faced them all and have actually thrived as a result, hanging in a very tough Eastern division with an 8-5 record.
Montreal went through a hellish week a fortnight ago, losing two games to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa RedBlacks and also racking up a number of injuries in the process. Miraculously, this Alouettes team is still in the crossover playoff hunt. It sounds incredulous, but a few victories here and there will be the major difference between an extra trip to Alberta and this team’s first postseason absence since returning in 1996.
The East division has truly been an anomaly. The Alouettes have been swept by the RedBlacks in their season series. The RedBlacks in turn have been owned by the Argos. The Argos have been thrice humbled by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. And should history hold up its end of the bargain, the Alouettes can very well do the same to those Tiger-Cats (And even if they don’t, Montreal still holds two victories over the Steeltown Crew.)
The Alouettes will attempt to right the ship with Rakeem Cato, the former Marshall wunderkind that came in hot but has since struggled with this offense. It hasn’t been easy as this youngster is still essentially learning to be a professional football player. Not even having Anthony Calvillo guiding him has helped find the winning recipe.
Cato will have to move the ball downfield by any means necessary. Toronto’s defense has given up a lot of passing yards and this youngster has been able to air it out when given the chance. Cato needs to rediscover the playmaking ability of one S.J. Green, who is looking to a season of 1000 yards for the 4th time in 5 years.
Both Tyrell Sutton and Brandon Rutley will draw in and both can provide a ton of relief for the young pivot. Sutton needs to get himself going as he has been plagued with injuries this year, but when he’s on he’s been a force. This Argos D-Line has been stingy and the team has kept a lot of running backs honest when they played. If anyone can overcome when the chips are down, it’ll be #20.
Defensively, Montreal has dealt with a number of injuries and now there’s a bit of relief, at least as far as the middle goes. Henoc Muamba will make his Alouettes debut tomorrow and his veteran presence will be welcomed. Nick Shortill has done a fine job replacing Kyler Elsworth but Muamba will be eager to hit the field and perform after his NFL adventure came to an abrupt end.
The big concern will be the weak-side corner, as there will be two rookies playing that spot in Terry Johnson and Cliff Coleman. Both had great training camps and have bided their time on the practice roster, but now their number has been called to fill some huge shoes. Jonathan Hefney is not only out for the season due to nerve damage suffered against Ottawa, but his career is in jeopardy as well.
Jeff Finley will also draw into the lineup for the first time in 2015. He had himself a solid rookie season but was hit with injuries to start this season. He’ll help shore up the defensive line, which is still one of the best that the CFL has to offer. He can deliver some punishing hits and had little to no trouble getting to opposing quarterbacks last year. Argos pivot Trevor Harris will have to keep his head on a swivel against the likes of Finley, John Bowman and Alan-Michael Cash.
Harris benefits greatly as he has the likes of Chad Owens, Tori Gurley and former Alouette Brandon Whitaker as offensive weapons. It will be an emotional homecoming for Whitaker, as he plays his first game back in Montreal since being released at the end of training camp this season. As expected by many, Brandon has been a solid contributor for the Double Blue, posting 424 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
Whitaker has actually been more a receiving threat in Toronto, with 349 yards and 3 TDs. And while he’s been the ultimate professional since being supplanted by the Alouettes there will surely be a part of him that will want to show up his former team, the only other he has ever played for in the Canadian Football League. Don’t be surprised if B-Whit comes out white-hot if he’s given the rock.
And Toronto will have to start fast, as they tend to let teams hang around a bit too often. Montreal hasn’t done well when it comes to coming back from behind, so the pressure will be on every time the offense of either team steps onto the field. Toronto’s got the edge though and they seem to thrive on the road, so AC best have his game plan ready. This is not the time for Montreal’s rookie OC to be conservative with his play-calling, not with a crossover playoff spot in the midst.
The Thanksgiving game in Montreal is fast becoming an annual tradition for Alouettes fans. Another great tradition that has taken off is the original Alouettes tailgate, put on by Les Gars Qui Vivent. In addition to the usual fun stuff that will be taking place, there will be the Thanksgiving dinner being served including some deep fried turkey!
All fans are welcome to attend and bring their own food/drinks to enjoy and share with all. If you haven’t been already to the party in the park on the east side of the stadium, come say hello and meet some great fans before the Alouettes take the field. The forecast is calling for sunny, hot weather so arrive early and take in a great atmosphere!
It’s been a rough season, to say the least. We may not know all the answers as to what has really happened this year in Montreal, but hope is still alive. String together a couple of wins against divisional opponents and that hope will grow stronger. I still can’t think of a better way to spend a day with family than with a great football game in the 514. I hope I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Be sure to follow along on Twitter during the game for more news and discussion. Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!