A new month, a new chance to gain some ground for the Birds of Prey.
The Montreal Alouettes kick off the Canadian Football League’s Labour Day Weekend a bit early by hosting the Ottawa RedBlacks on Thursday night. This will be the third and final regular season meeting of these two teams in 2016. Both teams hold a victory in this series and there was no such thing as home field advantage in the two previous tilts.
Remarkably, only THREE points currently separate these two teams in the standings. Montreal needs this win badly, as they have been absolutely dreadful at home this year. Their sole victory at Percival Molson Stadium came at the hands of the hapless Saskatchewan Roughriders. While road wins are nice and have been the hallmark of nearly every CFL team this season, the Alouettes also need to send their fans home happy for a change.
It won’t be easy. Montreal will be without their superstar receiver Duron Carter for Thursday’s game. The arbitrator that was hearing the appeal case for Carter has upheld the one-game suspension that was handed down to him earlier this season. Coincidentally enough, he was given that suspension as a result of the shenanigans that ensued when the Alouettes and Redblacks first played each other at Percival Molson Stadium this season.
The Alouettes will simply have to allow another receiver to shine against Ottawa. The first logical place to look is towards their budding superstar B.J. Cunningham, who’s been shining bright this season in replacement of S.J. Green. But there’s plenty of capable hands for Alouettes quarterback Kevin Glenn to pass to.
A new set of hands was added this week with the signing of National receiver S.J. Haidara. With the National receiver spot being occupied by Samuel Giguere and the failure of others Canadian players to truly make an impact in this offense, this can be the prime opportunity for the former Rouge et Or star to re-establish himself in this league.
Two weeks ago, the Alouettes throttled the RedBlacks at home thanks to Kevin Glenn spreading the ball around and finding numerous targets. He’ll have to do it all over again against this suspect Ottawa defense. He will also be leaning heavily on Tyrell Sutton to run roughshod on this RedBlacks team and regain his 2015 league-leading form. The Alouettes will also have to get under the skin of the league’s most penalized team and force them to make mistakes again and give up prime real estate.
Ottawa will counter with the quarterback who notched that first win of this series in Trevor Harris. This RedBlacks team is his again and he’ll be looking for a repeat performance of that Week Two game. He was able to carve up Montreal’s secondary with some money passes to Chris Williams and Harris kept the chains moving all night long.
Harris will also have to keep finding guys like Brad Sinopoli and Greg Ellingson downfield to further test this Alouettes team. Another viable threat is Ernest Jackson, who has had a touchdown catch in his last four games. With all of these weapons in the lineup, the RedBlacks are on pace to notch another season of having four 1000 yard receivers playing for them.
But Montreal’s secondary has been put to the test and thus far, is coming through. They’ve faced the best that this league has to offer and played well as a result. They played this Ottawa team extremely well in front of a noisy TD Place crowd and they had Henry Burris‘ number all night long. Now they will have to shut down Smilin’ Hank’s successor.
Ottawa’s ground game got a boost when Trayvon Van returned to the lineup last week. He had an outstanding game against Montreal in Week Two and will be looking to put his speed to good use. They will have to show no fear against this Alouettes defense, who have been pretty undisciplined themselves in recent weeks.
The past two games have been blowouts and I don’t see that changing for this third game. Whoever sets the tempo early and doesn’t let up will walk out the winner. Also, keeping the flags in the refs’ pockets would be a wise course of action. Easier said than done when these two teams take the field.
This will be Montreal’s last home game for a while, as they won’t see Percival Molson Stadium until October 2nd. With the current streak of road teams winning, that could bode well for Montreal. But winning is something that has to be done regardless of what building they play in.
Once again, we are seeing a very weak Eastern division being up for grabs. The Alouettes have benefitted from Western teams beating the other Eastern teams, but have failed to capitalize on the opportunities when called upon. Next month sees a trip to BC Place, where Montreal DID win last year as well as the first of two trips to Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton…where the Alouettes won twice last year!
As dysfunctional as this team has been in recent weeks, they have pulled together when it has mattered. That same team that destroyed the RedBlacks at TD Place needs to show up Thursday night and hope to start the month of September on a winning note. If they can somehow go undefeated in September, they will pull to .500 and surely be back in the thick of things in this parity-filled division.
Writing off this Alouettes team is very easy. But there’s certainly no quit in them and as fans, there should be none in you as well. Like it or not, this Alouettes coaching staff is staying put for the rest of this season. OC Anthony Calvillo has gone on record as saying that he truly wants to put his imprint on this team.
I sincerely hope so, because it’s been looking like the 2013-2015 early Alouettes teams for far too long. If Calvillo wants to truly win the faith of those who loved him as a player but currently loathe him as a coach, he’d better find a way to control this offense and turn them into the juggernaut that he had when he was the one wearing pads and a jersey.
That’s all for now. There’s no special promotion for Thursday’s game at Percival Molson Stadium, but you’re welcome to make as much noise as you want and eat as many hot dogs as you crave.However, they will be at full price. 🙂
The tailgate will be rocking as per usual and the first 2000 fans through the doors will receive a free Budweiser mini Bluetooth speaker, so make sure you bring your tickets and gear to work so you can head right to the stadium when you clock out!
The one nice thing about this being a Thursday game is that the rest of your long weekend will now be freed up to do all those last-minute summer things before it’s back to school and back to reality.
So why not get the party started a bit early and take in some great football action? These games are starting to matter more and more now. Your team needs you to bring the noise and the passion, Alouettes Nation!
Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.