The hits just keep on coming. Unfortunately, so do the losses.
Once again, the Montreal Alouettes fail to take advantage of their few opportunities and once again find themselves on the losing side of a football game. The latest blow came at the hands of the Toronto Argonauts, who bested this once-proud Montreal franchise by a 30-17 score. This had all the makings of a great game but was marred by ill-advised penalties, costly errors and a rudderless ship that is quickly sinking in the ocean.
What was really maddening for Alouettes fans was that this team was still in this game right to the end. Even when Toronto came alive and hung 21 points on this Montreal team, you still got the feeling that they were just a couple of plays away from being back in it. But alas, penalties will hurt the best of teams and straight up murder lousy ones. Montreal was straight up murdered on the natural grass of BMO Field.
Despite Alouettes QB Kevin Glenn turning in some solid numbers, going 24 of 28 for 285 yards, he had himself some questionable decisions himself, turning the ball over deep in the red zone. He still remains this team’s best option at quarterback, even if the plays he’s given to work with are a poor crop at best. Perhaps this team’s biggest fault lies with its offensive line, which has been a complete embarrassment in 2016.
It’s a miracle that any of this team’s QBs can get anything going when this young line just looks so disjointed and incapable of doing the simplest thing possible: protect the quarterback. Glenn was sacked on a number of occasions and was even forced out of the game in the fourth quarter for a series. Rakeem Cato fared no better in his lone series behind centre. And when Brandon Bridge was given one shot towards the end to try putting points on the board, this porous line folded faster than Superman on laundry day and Bridge was stymied very deep in Argos territory, sealing the Als’ fate.
Simply put, they had ONE job. And they failed miserably at it.
I’m also not sure what to make of the curious case of Boris Bede. The France-born kicker has been as stale as a day-old baguette, missing all three of his field goal attempts against Toronto. I’ve heard of the sophomore jinx, but it’s truly remarkable how far this rookie phenom has fallen. As great as he was last season for Montreal, that’s how poorly he’s played in 2016. After the game Monday night, Head Coach/GM Jim Popp told media that he will start looking at other kickers.
It’s a shame because Boris is a great guy and I’m sure his ability to speak French is great for all PR purposes. But no matter what language you use, his play of late has been… well, merde. Something has to give and maybe some serious competition will get this prodigy with the booming leg back on track.
With this does seem like it was a completely hopeless cause, there was a lot of inspired play from certain players. Duron Carter is a major target for scorn and for Kevin Glenn passes. Glenn and Carter stunned everyone with a 61 yard touchdown strike in the third quarter and Duron finished with 124 yards in the air. Nik Lewis backed up his profanity-laced tirade from the last game with some true leadership. He was a perfect 8 for 8 in receptions, hauling in 81 yards and reaching 900 career receptions.
Jovon Johnson played with purpose yet again, notching a huge QB sack on Ricky Ray along with 5 tackles. Kyries Hebert brought the Angry Bird out, forcing a fumble and 6 tackles of his own. But despite the defense’s best efforts, Argos pivot Ricky Ray has seen this defense a number of times and was able to knife his way through them, catching the rookies on this unit with their pants down time and time again, leading to numerous gains and eventual touchdowns.
Ray’s heroics were dampened with an injury in the fourth quarter. But at that point, the damage was done. I had warned that he’d make money passes against this team and he certainly did, looking like the surefire Hall of Famer that he is.
I look at the overall effort of this game and it’s really hard to hang this loss all on the players. Yes, they failed to execute in a lot of ways but in the end it all comes down to preparation. Truthfully, this team deserves better than a rag-tag coaching staff that just simply doesn’t have what it takes. I just simply don’t have any faith in any of these coaches anymore.
Since 2012 the Alouettes have gone through a number of offensive coordinators, with names like Mike Miller, Ryan Dinwiddie and Turk Schonert all stealing paycheques from this organization with their insipid playbooks and equally predicated calling of games. Can we honestly say at this point that Anthony Calvillo is any better than these aforementioned names? Looking at this strictly from a coaching standpoint, I really can’t say that he is. A legendary quarterback? Sans doute. But true coaching material? It’s just not there, I’m sorry to say. At least not yet.
Noel Thorpe has done a tremendous job with this defense since joining the team. But for better or for worse, he’s not completely faultless here either. I don’t believe for one second that he’d tank this position of his in order to escape and be a coach elsewhere. Not even being constantly passed over for the head coaching gig here in Montreal would convince me that he wants out completely. So what’s with the lack of discipline on this defensive unit?
Of Montreal’s thirteen penalties in this game, SIX of them came on defense, giving Toronto 60 extra yards to work with. If you can’t get your charges in line and give up over half a football field to your opponents, how do you expect to be handed over the keys to the kingdom?!
But it all starts at the top and the current man in charge really needs to re-evaluate this experiment gone awry. Jim Popp the GM didn’t accept this level of failure from either Dan Hawkins or Tom Higgins, so he truly can’t expect to handle it from Jim Popp the head coach. The plan for this ersatz coaching regiment was to establish stability and leadership. But with little purpose or direction as of late, this team is destined to flounder and the hopes of making the playoffs in 2016 just seem so dim.
This Alouettes team started the 2014 season with a dismal 1-7 record and somehow found a way to pull itself together and came within one game of a Grey Cup appearance. But these are far different times and the other teams in the Eastern division are getting stronger with each passing day. A win against the Argos would not have solved all of their problems, but a loss has certainly highlighted them.
There’s a lot of change that needs to be made. I just want to know if this organization has the balls to make those changes or will they just whimper along through this season, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle like they did when Jonathan Crompton came out of nowhere to lead this team to redemption. Because there may be a saviour for this team somewhere, but it may not come so easy as pilfering another team’s depth chart.
Montreal doesn’t have much time to lick their wounds nor feel sorry for themselves. In a mere 4 days, they will be back at it again on the football field. This time, welcoming the no longer winless Saskatchewan Roughriders to their turf. Last season, the Riders won a paltry three games. Two of those victories came against these Montreal Alouettes.
If that plus the fact that Ben Cahoon will be in the house for his jersey retirement doesn’t get this Montreal team inspired to play, I’m not sure what will. Even a sellout is not guaranteed for this game, so this Alouettes team is going to have to dig deep and find some inspiration deep in the pits of their soul.
We’ll preview this game later in the week here on The ALSternative as well as on the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast. I will also join the fine folks at the Piffles Podcast to talk about this Friday’s game for all the Riders fans. There’s a lot of great football talk to be had out there and somehow, we’ll find a way to keep it positive for Alouettes Nation.
Good or bad, part one of this three-part tale has been told. As they say, on to the next one.