Last second field goal keeps Alouettes firmly in the basement

If only moral victories counted in the standings….

The Montreal Alouettes, replete with more drama and heartache than your run of the mill romance novel, desperately needed a win this past Friday night against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats if they wanted to salvage any par of this 2016 season. After an emotion-filled  week and more questions that ever swirling around this beleaguered franchise, a hard-fought victory would have stemmed some of the bleeding and kept hope alive for the faithful fans of this Montreal team.

But it simply wasn’t meant to be. Instead, Hamilton hung tough and handed the Alouettes their ninth loss of the season, kicking a game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock. The final score read 20-17 as Hamilton managed to grab hold of first place in the East and for the FOURTH straight season, Montreal will not have a positive win/loss record. After so many years of dominance in the Canadian Football League, the mighty truly have fallen.

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Many will call last Friday’s game a defensive tilt and there’s a good argument for that. Only two total touchdowns were scored by both teams. The rest of the points came off the feet of both Anthony Fera and Brett Maher. Neither quarterback cracked 300 yards passing and both turned the ball over at key points in the game.

But Tiger-Cats pivot Zach Collaros managed to march the Tiger-Cats down the field at the end and wisely ate up the clock late in the fourth quarter to ensure that Montreal would not be able to answer back from any score. Normally at this point Montreal’s defense would be spent from spending so much time on the field. But in this case, they simply just ran out of time and couldn’t keep Hamilton from notching the game winner.

This past Friday was the end of a very long week for Alouettes QB Rakeem Cato, who many had hoped would come out like a ball of fire after a week from hell. In the end, the only thing he proved was that he has no business leading this team. Throwing for a paltry 168 yards and throwing an interception is simply not going to win football games.

Cato now sits at 4-9 as a starter and despite having the support of his teammates and coaching staff, he simply doesn’t have what it takes to win in the Canadian Football League. Perhaps the energy he used to scream and fight with his receivers should have been put to better use against, say, his opponents Friday night.

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On the other hand the self-proclaimed “CFL Villian” Duron Carter, one of the targets for Cato’s scorn, was the only one who was able to find the end zone for Montreal. And oddly enough, it came as a result of special teams play! He was able to put his large wingspan to great use and not only blocked a Brett Maher punt, but was able to recover said punt and return it 46 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

Say what you will about Carter and his attitude, but there’s no denying his talent. He’s borne the brunt of abuse from everyone and simply doesn’t care what people think anymore. He apparently begged for the opportunity to play on special teams in order to help out and he made the most of it when his number was called.

Montreal’s defense did a respectable job keeping the Tabbies in check throughout the game. Zach Collaros was picked off twice and had his cage rattled several times by this defensive unit. But Collaros was able to find the back of the end zone and despite being stymied on several occasions, was also able to get Maher in field goal range four times.

Collaros is a pretty good quarterback, but is still trying to find the form that had many whispering his name for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player for the 2015 season before a major injury cut short his campaign. He’s had to fight to the bitter end for every win this season and this game against Montreal was no different.

For the most part, the Alouettes have managed to keep Collaros in check during his brief CFL career. But winners find a way to win and while this wasn’t the prettiest win for the Tiger-Cats, it’s a real victory nonetheless over a tough divisonal foe.

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It cannot be overstated just how over-matched Anthony Calvillo is as offensive coordinator of this Alouettes team. Once again, the play-calling is truly an abomination in Montreal and it’s simply not going to get any better. In this case, the emperor has no clothes and the greatest quarterback this franchise has ever seen may very well be one of the worst coaches this team has ever seen.

I don’t blame AC for this. He wanted to be the winner on the sidelines that this team desperately needs, but this is way too much to bear. Nobody fears this team anymore and it’s clear that not only should Calvillo not be considered as head coach in 2017, he should also consider asking to be demoted from offensive coordinator in order to save himself from himself.

It’s truly sad to see how far this team has fallen. The Alouettes have had worse losses this season but you’d think after all the shenanigans of this past week, they would have found the way to rise above it. Instead, this team is highly unlikely to post another victory in 2016. Not at this current pace and certainly not with this coaching staff.

Montreal would have to win its six remaining games just to be at 9-9. Here’s a look at their next six opponents:

  1. At home versus Toronto, who’s better coached and is more talented all around.
  2. At home versus Edmonton, with a far better quarterback than Montreal has.
  3. On the road versus Calgary, who haven’t lost a game since WEEK ONE.
  4. On the road versus Saskatchewan, which is always a tough place to play.
  5. At home versus Calgary. See #3
  6. On the road versus Hamilton, who will be extra motivated for a playoff push.

Of these six games, I could MAYBE see Montreal winning two of them. And even if a miracle would happen, would a 9-9 record even be enough to garner a spot in the playoffs with the West surely looking like it can crossover and potentially run roughshod against this weakened Eastern division?

If you truly think Montreal can truly win all six of these games with their current quarterback and offensive coordinator, I invite you to kindly share whatever drugs you are smoking with the rest of us. I’m afraid there’s simply not enough lipstick that you can put on this particular pig to make it look any prettier.

Nik Lewis said it best earlier this year, “We f–in’ suck.”

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The last thing I want to do is sound like the misanthropic beat reporter of this football team, who delights not only in this team’s failures but also in his own inflated sense of self-worth. But reality has set in and this Alouettes team is overdue for a cleansing. Depending on who you ask, that may already be underway.

It was reported that current head coach Jim Popp addressed the team after the game in Hamilton and said that he would not be back to coach once this bye week is finished. The team and Popp himself have denied saying that. Popp had already gone on record earlier this season in saying that he will not be the Alouettes head coach in 2017.

Whether or not this incident actually occurred is speculation at best for the time being. Would Popp leaving now really have any impact on what happens from here on out? I highly doubt it. At this point, all that can be done is evaluate the talent that is there and prepare to make some serious decisions about this team going forward.

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This has been a painful column to write. My passion and loyalty for this Montreal Alouettes team will never waver and I fully intend on attending the remaining games in hopes of finding positive stuff to share with you all. And there have been a few bright spots so far. There have been a few moments where the stars aligned and you could actually feel good about the future of this team.

But changes do have to be made for the greater good. I’ve said before that the architect of this team has to realize that he cannot fix this mess alone and certainly not in the capacity that he is in now. I said that Jim Popp needs to look deep within himself and answer some very difficult questions. He may have already answered the toughest question of all, that being “Can I fix the current Montreal Alouettes football team on my own?”

He knows it and we now all know it; The answer is a begrudgingly but resounding, “No”.

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The Alouettes are now on their second bye week. I have no plans on taking the bye week off. Be sure to tune back here to The ALSternative for more thoughts and analysis. Don’t forget to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast, as Tim Capper and myself sift through this latest loss and try to find a sliver of hope. You can find the podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music and of course, on Podbean.

2/3rds of this season is done. The results so far aren’t what we had hoped, but this team soldiers on. Enjoy the bye week, Alouettes Nation.

GO ALS GO!!!

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