I’m going to put my own twist on a tweet from Twitter user @JockCartier regarding this Friday’s game: “Raise your hand if you think the Montreal Alouettes can beat the Calgary Stampeders. Okay, now put your hands down, you liars.”
It kinda feels that way, doesn’t it?
None of the experts and only the most die-hard (read: potentially delusional) Alouettes fans truly think that their team will win against the defending Western division champion Stampeders. It’s understandable to doubt this Montreal team; all of their wholesale changes have failed to generate any major points and their sole victory was more of a survival than anything else.
But don’t tell these birds that they can’t fly; As long as the defense comes out to play, there’s always a chance. Montreal’s defense has bent many times this season, but has not truly broken. They will be tested by the CFL’s premier quarterback in Bo Levi Mitchell. Ever since becoming a starter in this league, Mitchell has been a dominant force, only losing SEVEN times in 54 regular season games since becoming the full-time starter for the Stamps.
But one of those seven losses came against these Montreal Alouettes while playing at Percival Molson Stadium. If Montreal wants to have any chance of handing Bo Levi another L, they will have to shut down Calgary’s receiving corps. With names like Davaris Daniels, Kamar Jorden and Lemar Durant lining up, there’s no shortage of weapons for Mitchell to choose from.
But Montreal’s D doesn’t seem to be impressed, especially DB Tyree Hollins. He was quoted as saying that if you punch Calgary’s offense in the face early and often, they can’t handle it. The Alouettes have done a decent enough job keeping receivers in check this 2017 season. Hollins will have to step up big and show that he belongs in the same secondary as Ryan Phillips, who showed up big against the Lions last week and will look to lead another group of young Alouettes defenders.
One name on this defense that is far from being a rookie is Brandon Stewart, who will make his Montreal debut. He’ll be backing up Donald Unamba Jr., who himself is replacing Jonathon Mincy. When defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe believes in you, that’s not faint praise at all. It took injuries for Unamba and Jalen Rodgers to become starters in Montreal, but it was like that last season when a group of youngsters were thrown into the fire. That ended up working out okay.
Thorpe feels confident in not only them but also his young Canadians Dominique Termansen and Dondre Wright, who every week is THISCLOSE to a game-changing interception. Last week versus Winnipeg, Bo Levi was picked off twice and that first half was a clinic in shutting down this powerful Calgary offense. The Alouettes’ defensive corps could make Bo Levi’s night a long one if given the chance.
But as the past two Alouettes games proved, all that defense isn’t worth a hill of beans if your team can’t score touchdowns. Last week I was pretty harsh on Alouettes head coach Jacques Chapdelaine and his play-calling. I felt he has been way too conservative with this attack and I still believe that he needs to let his quarterback loose. Sooner or later, Darian Durant will have to trust his receivers on a more consistent basis and really huck the ball downfield.
Or better yet, keep handing the ball off to Tyrell Sutton! The current league leader in rushing yards, Sutton is dominating in spite of his coach’s reluctance to run. With only nine carries last week, Sutton still racked up first down yardage and even crossed the goal line. Darian Durant is not your typical zone-read quarterback, but he and Chapdelaine should strongly incorporating more of that style into their plays.
Especially when you look at the Stampeders’ beat-up defensive line. Montreal catches a break in not facing Charleson Hughes, but Micah Johnson and former Alouette Michael Klassen would love nothing more than to notch the very first QB Sack of the Darian Durant/Alouettes era.
There’s also the small matter of an Ernest Jackson not breaking out yet for a big game this season and this would be the ideal time for him to do so. He, Tiquan Underwood and B.J. Cunningham can test this Stamps secondary and make plays happen. Plus you also cannot overlook the potential impact of former Stampeder Nik Lewis, who always seems to get extra hyped when playing against his former team.
Lewis has been relatively quiet in 2017, but this almost feels like the kind of game that he’s been waiting for. Nobody believes in the Alouettes and maybe everyone has also been napping on ol’ Thick Nik. Calgary just may not want to wake this sleeping giant during their brief stay in La Belle Province.
Nothing is 100% guaranteed this Friday night; this could very well be a trap game for the Stampeders against a Montreal team that is easy to look past. To have any hope of winning, the Alouettes have to stay disciplined and not deter from their plan. Calgary’s O-Line is suspect and the D-Line is walking wounded; Montreal needs to do like Tyree Hollins suggested and punch them in the face right off the bat to set the tone.
Montreal needs to establish the ground game right away; both Tyrell Sutton and fullback J-C Beaulieu showed last week that they can pound away at the line and move the chains. If all Durant can do are these little screen passes, then it makes even more sense to run as much as possible.
You’re not going to beat the Stampeders with only Boris Bede field goals, so red zone production needs to be on point. This Alouettes team needs touchdowns by any means necessary. You’re not going to lull this Calgary team to sleep with boring football.
A win seems highly unlikely. But every once in a while, miracles happen at the stadium on the mountain. It could happen again Friday night, but Montreal needs to help themselves before the “football gods” can help them.
Be sure to follow along on Twitter for any last-minute thoughts and notes on the game. If you need something to listen to on the shuttle bus to the stadium, then download the latest edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast, available on Podbean, iTunes and Google Play Music.
Don’t forget to check out the tailgate by Les Gars Qui Vivent if you’ll be at the game live! Always a great experience and of course, all fans are welcome. Just look for the silver trailer and blue tent in the park on the eastern side of Percival Molson Stadium.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.