After being in the thick of it for so many games this season, the Montreal Alouettes’ defense picked the wrong game to not show up for.
The BC Lions roared out to a 24-6 lead in the first half of this game and never looked back. Despite the best efforts of the Rakeem Cato-led offense, the Alouettes lost 38-27 and now sit at 3-8, with this 2016 season looking more and more like another lost cause.
Cato started in place of Kevin Glenn and ended up posting some decent numbers, going 21 for 29 with 255 yards. It took a while for the former Marshall QB to get anything going, but he eventually was able to string together a few decent series and found Nik Lewis in the end zone for a touchdown.
But Cato had some mobility issues, unable to get his footing at times and it ended up costing Montreal some valuable yardage. For a quarterback who’s supposed to be able to move his feet swiftly to gain yards, he ended looking more like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time. The Lions defense was only too glad to stop this youngster in his tracks as a result.
This game was looking like a tragedy for Alouettes fans early on as BC was applying tons of pressure to this defense and they had no answer for the ground speed of BC running back Jeremiah Johnson, who had a monster game with 159 yards rushing and THREE touchdown runs. The former Ottawa RedBlack literally ran right past this defense, going through them like a hot knife through butter.
I do have to take umbrage with the CFL Command Centre on their review of Johnson’s second TD run, however. He was en route to the end zone until he met the undeniable force that is Marc-Olivier Brouillette. When both these forces collided, there was no give from either player and it showed on further review:
Despite never crossing the line with the ball, Johnson was still awarded the touchdown. His body may have broken the plane of the goal line but not the ball. Yet the command centre saw fit to award the touchdown anyways.
A more cynical view would be to say that BC would have scored anyways on the next attempt and they likely would have, as no Montreal defender seemed interested in putting their hands on this speedy Lion. But as others have said in recent weeks, even with all this technology in place the only thing that has changed is the inability to get these calls correct on a consistent basis.
Rather, it’s just further muddied the waters and helped make this game more and more unwatchable. It’s a pity, because more and more people are watching these games and the inability to get these calls correct doesn’t help improve the image of this league.
This wasn’t the reason Montreal lost this game, however. BC was prepared to play right from the start and the Alouettes took far to long to warm up the engine of their own race car. Had the Alouettes team that showed up in the second half played in the firs half, we could well be talking about the Alouettes’ fourth win of the season and second in as many years in Vancouver.
Despite letting BC run wild in said first half, the Alouettes defense came alive in the third quarter when Lions wideout Geraldo Boldewijn was unable to hold on to a Jonathan Jennings pass and Chip Cox was able to scoop up the ball and take it 58 yards to the house for Montreal’s first touchdown of the game.
Alouettes OC Anthony Calvillo seemed a bit more willing to open things up with his play-calling as the game progressed, perhaps feeling like he had nothing to lose being down by so much at the half. There was some beautiful passes to both Lewis and B.J. Cunningham, including one thrown to him by of all people, Duron Carter! When executed properly, a gadget play can be a thing of beauty. It used to be S.J. Green who’d throw these bombs to Duron. But on this night, the alleged “Worst. Teammate. Ever.” launched a beauty of a pass to budding superstar Cunningham.
The rest of Montreal’s scores came off the foot of kicker Anthony Fera, who was 4 for 4 on his field goal attempts. If you were trying to find positive in this game, you can say that Montreal’s attack looked a bit sharper as the game trudged on. They’ve marked more points in the second half of this game than they did in the their previous two games.
Between these things and Cato posting a better effort than expected, there was some positives for Montreal on sober second thought. Even Nik Lewis was effusive in his praise after the game for Cato’s leadership after being critical earlier this week of the coaching staff’s decision to replace Kevin Glenn behind centre with the enigmatic youngster.
But Lewis was correct in saying that this team needs to score touchdowns and not field goals. It will be interesting to see if the Alouettes stick with Cato as they head to Tim Hortons Field next week to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their own touchdown machine in Zach Collaros.
Before last night’s game started, news had broken earlier in the day when Alouettes Head Coach/GM Jim Popp had apparently told the team that he will not return as head coach for the 2017 season. He will stay on as general manager and be an active participant in choosing this team’s next head coach.
This certainly can be seen as good news for the future, as Popp has never been the answer when it comes to the head coaching position of this team. When Popp is involved in the head coach hiring process and he can find someone with whom he can work with, this team tends to do extremely well (see Matthews, Don & Trestman, Marc).
When Popp is saddled with a coach that ownership hires (Dan Hawkins, Tom Higgins), it becomes disastrous and Popp then feels that he must “save” the team and step in to coach himself, which also doesn’t lend itself to winning football. After four seasons of mostly middling football at best, this news of Popp stepping aside has the potential to be a relief for these fans.
However, there is major concern that this will also mean that Anthony Calvillo will be named the head coach in Popp’s stead. And I greatly fear that will also prove to be a tremendous mistake should it come to pass.
Don’t let yesterday’s game fool you; Calvillo still has a long, long way to go as a coach in this league. While Calvillo can make these rah-rah speeches and drop the occasional swear word to emphasize his point and set tongues wagging, it’s the play-calling and leadership that is crucial for this team’s impending success. And Calvillo is not even close to being there.
There’s no question that whomever will be hired as head coach for this Alouettes team will have to find a way to co-exist with Calvillo on this staff in some form, thus potentially making this search for a new field boss a tough one. A head coach needs to feel confident that the staff he has on board will work with him. If a head coaching candidate decides he doesn’t want Calvillo on board as OC or otherwise, will that mean that said coach won’t be hired? Would Calvillo be receptive to being demoted if it comes to a coach wanting to keep him on his terms versus AC’s desires?
So while this news of Popp stepping aside seems like it can be positive, there’s still a lot of variables to consider. Anyone who thinks that AC deserves to be a head coach next season needs to take off their blinders and stop thinking that it will work just because he’s the greatest quarterback in Alouettes history. The best case scenario for this franchise is finding a coach that is open to keeping AC on the staff and letting him develop slowly as a coach, be it as OC or QB coach or whatever the case may be.
Does such a coach exist or will this organization swallow its own tongue and promote someone who is still not ready? We are about to find out in the coming months.
The Alouettes now prepare for the first of two trips back to Tim Hortons Field, where they were actually undefeated last season! To see this team get ready, make your way over to Stade Hebert for practice this week. You can always find the schedule here.
Be sure to tune into the Alouettes FlightDeck this coming week to hear Tim Capper and myself discuss yesterday’s game, this Jim Popp coaching news and a preview of next Friday in Hamilton. You can always find the FlightDeck on Podbean, iTunes and Google Play Music.
Montreal now needs to build on the ending of this football game and salvage what they can of 2016. It’s on to the next one.