The Montreal Alouettes did something Friday night that they haven’t done since late 2016; They put together a winning streak.
The Birds of Prey handed the Ottawa RedBlacks a L in their own house, besting them in a 21-11 game that could be generously described as a defensive battle. The kickers for both teams earned their pay this week, with lots of punts and several field goals.
Once again, the 23 year old phenom known as Antonio Pipkin was called upon to get the win and he did. Pipkin went 18 for 27 with 242 passing yards and two INTs. But he did score another rushing touchdown that iced this game for Montreal. Pipkin spread the ball to five different receivers and helped B.J. Cunningham break the 100 yard plateau against a very good RedBlacks defense that couldn’t keep Montreal off the board.
Pipkin also leaned heavily on rookie running back Ryder Stone, who had 14 carries for 81 yards that included an impressive 21 yard run early on that set the tone for this offense. Once again, Pipkin got creative with his play and kept the chains moving. But too many times, the Alouettes left points on the field at TD Place, settling for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
Perhaps the fear of competition has snapped Boris Bede back into place. He was a perfect 4 for 4 in field goal attempts plus scored a pair of Rouges. Simply put, Bede was on point tonight in Ottawa. With the Alouettes bringing in former Winnipeg kicker Felix Menard-Briere, perhaps the France native needed that proverbial breath on the back of his neck to get his act together.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was the play of this defense. I said that the Alouettes had to contain Ottawa’s Trevor Harris and shut down his receivers to have a chance at winning this game. By only allowing him to complete just over 50% of his passes and denying him the chance to successfully throw any touchdowns, this defense nearly pitched a shutout. And against the best team in the Eastern division?!
Not too shabby.
Defense was the name of this game early on, as Montreal failed to capitalize on scoring while Ottawa just couldn’t get anything going on offense. Both defenses were able to sack the QB and knock down passes. But the main reason why Montreal won its third game of the season? They won the battle that has gotten the better of them all season long: Time of possession.
Montreal’s offense spent 36 minutes and 24 seconds on the field. That is a remarkable turnaround from the previous games, where the Alouettes defense had spent far too much time out there and was gassed by the third quarter. But with Pipkin behind centre, the Alouettes were able to eat up a lot of clock and keep Trevor Harris on the sidelines.
Once again, the last three minutes of the game ended up being the most exciting part.
With the Redblacks driving down the field, the Alouettes were able to force the RedBlacks to go on 3rd and 10. A major QB sack by Jesse Joseph was wiped out by a penalty that gave Ottawa a fresh set of down. Then after the defense kept Ottawa in check again, a pass interference call put the ball on Montreal’s three yard line with another new set of downs.
In a remarkable display of play-calling, the Ottawa RedBlacks opted to pass on all three downs despite having the always reliable William Powell in their backfield. And on all three pass attempts, Trevor Harris failed to connect with his target. I imagine that Seattle Seahawks fans can easily relate to that sort of malaise suffered by the members of RNation.
Still down by two scores, Ottawa’s defense now had to somehow force Pipkin and the Alouettes to make a crucial mistake as Montreal took over on their own three yard line with 2:06 left on the clock. But Ottawa forgot one very important element to this Alouettes attack; the educated feet of one Antonio Pipkin.
With everyone biting on the fake handoff to Ryder Stone, Pipkin went off-tackle and did a virtual victory lap, scampering 28 yards to get out of the shadows of his goal posts. A couple more runs to kill the clock and Montreal ended up kicking the ball back to Ottawa, which they in turn managed to turn over with a pick by the returning Tevaughn Campbell. That proved to be the final nail in Ottawa’s coffin.
With the win, Montreal now has equaled their win total of last season. There is still a lot of football to be played, but this Alouettes team went from looking like a sadsack troop of charlatans to a team that is making people sit up and take notice. Perhaps even start to worry about.
When you can beat the first place team in your division, that is a major feather in your cap. Montreal now goes into a bye week and they also find themselves in quite the interesting situation: There now seems to be a true quarterback controversy in La Belle Province.
Can you honestly afford to sit Antonio Pipkin now, even if jersey salesman Johnny Manziel has a clean bill of health? The Alouettes traded a LOT to get Manziel and it sure as hell wasn’t so that he can hold a clipboard on Montreal’s sidelines. Johnny will get back behind centre this season. But do the Alouettes dare make the change even with Pipkin’s impressive play?
Any other team would have no problem leaving Pipkin in until he gets injured or starts to falter. But I think there is still a lot of pressure to play Manziel, even if Pipkin’s remarkable play these past two games cannot be ignored either. What honestly can you do if you are the Montreal Alouettes?
That’s a question that will be answered after the bye week. For now, Alouettes Nation can’t help but be just a little excited, maybe even hopeful. As I said last time, many people believe that the CFL season truly begins on Labour Day weekend. If that’s the case, the Alouettes are currently 1-0 and could be looking to go on a real run.
Enjoy the ride, folks. This Montreal Alouettes team has shown signs of life and at the best time possible. Thanks for reading.