Well, it took a long while but Alouettes Nation finally got to see what all the hype was about. But what they really needed couldn’t be purchased at the souvenir stands or watched on Youtube.
Since he became a member of the Montreal Alouettes in July, the real Johnny Manziel was being promised to the fans of this beleaguered franchise and they just had to be patient. Once he gets the playbook down and feels comfortable in the offence, he will be the greatest thing since sliced bread, his many fans and well-wishers loudly claimed.
This past Sunday, just over 18000+ were able to see what everyone was claiming would happen; There is a talented quarterback inside the six-foot frame of Johnny Manziel. He can make plays happen and get the fans out of their seats. And if that same quarterback had shown up a lot earlier this season, perhaps the Alouettes may have been able to string more than three wins together.
Manziel will have to wait another day for his first CFL win, however. The Saskatchewan Roughriders were able to escape La Belle Province with a 34-29 victory, improving their stock in the CFL’s West while dealing Montreal’s slim playoff hopes yet another body blow. The numbers don’t tell the entire story, but this was a winnable game for Montreal as the Riders had an answer for all of the Alouettes’ plucky efforts.
I wondered which Zach Collaros was going to show up for this game, as he hasn’t always fared the best at Percival Molson Stadium. Turns out it was the Zach that has made this Riders team a true contender. Going 29 for 41 with 394 yards passing, he was able to spread the ball around and make plays happen. His one TD and INT again belies the work he did to get Saskatchewan their many scoring opportunities.
The Riders’ ground game was nothing short of sensational, as running back Tre Mason notched a 27 yard rushing TD and short yardage specialist Nick Marshall contributed with two goal-line plunges into the end zone. Saskatchewan took full advantage of the Alouettes’ inability to make any tackles and quite literally ran over and through the Birds of Prey.
After having the dubious honour of being the first team to lose to the Alouettes in 2018, the Riders were eager to prove that they were better than the team who played in late June. This past Sunday, they did that and then some.
But you’re not here for the Riders side of things; you want me to sing Johnny’s praises, right?
Well, I still won’t quite go that far. But I will say that when it came down to trying to live up to the image of the Johnny Football that left tongues wagging and football fans agog with excitement in years gone by, this particular Johnny Manziel did a pretty decent job.
Manziel’s numbers were not spectacular, just like all of his other games in an Alouettes uniform. Going 9/16 for 138 yards is certainly nothing to write home about. Also, being sacked five times was not going to help Manziel pad his stats so easily. But throwing ZERO interceptions along with his first and second CFL touchdowns certainly is something to be excited about.
Especially when your first TD comes with a little wizardry like this:
So for you trivia buffs, Adarius Bowman will be the official answer when it comes to the question of, “Who caught Johnny Manziel’s first CFL touchdown pass?”. An exciting flea flicker play to get the fans up and cheering before the Riders were able to bounce back.
Johnny’s second touchdown pass was set up by Manziel’s trademark ability to extend plays with his feet. After missing Ernest Jackson earlier in the series and finding William Stanback for a 14 yard gain, Manziel faked EVERYONE out, tucked the ball under his arm and went for a brisk 25 yard run. The next play was a pure strike to Jackson that the Alouettes needed in order to try to tie the Riders at 31 late in the fourth quarter (The ensuing 2 point convert attempt did not work, however.)
Lost in those plays was that of another Alouette who has been missing from the score sheet. It’s been close to two years since Stefan Logan was able to return a ball booted his way for a touchdown. But the 37 year old showed that he could still turn on the jets when a lane is cleared for him. Logan returned a Josh Bartel punt 74 yards to the house for a score that was desperately needed to try to swing momentum back in Montreal’s favour.
Say what you will about the Alouettes, but they can play some inspired football when they want to. Or have to.
So why didn’t the Alouettes claim this game as their own? In all reality, it came down to the Montreal defense and their inability to scare opposing teams anymore.
They started off hot, causing Zach Collaros to turn the ball over to Montreal leading to the Alouettes’ first touchdown. But then Collaros slowly got into a rhythm and just kept chipping away at this Rich Stubler defense, ten yards at a time.
As has been the theme all season, the Alouettes missed a LOT of tackles. And in one instance, the tackling attempt was cringe-worthy. Starting at the Riders’ own 12 yard line, Collaros made a 3 yard pass to Kyran Moore who in turn was “caught” by Chip Cox. But either Moore is stronger than a Clydesdale horse or Chip is not the tackler he once was, because Moore dragged Cox alongside of him and actually gained another TWENTY yards in the process!!
Between the half-hearted tackling along with very little pressure on Collaros and his receivers, it almost felt like Manziel and the Alouettes offense had to contend against TWO defenses in this game. In speaking with a few of the Alouettes’ defensive players after the game, they all said more or less the same thing; Saskatchewan threw them a lot of different looks and they couldn’t get the pressure they needed to on Collaros and company.
Remarkably, the Montreal Alouettes are still not eliminated from the Grey Cup playoff race even after this loss. But they could have given themselves a helping hand with a win and now the belt tightens even more.
But anyone who was wondering when this team was going to showcase the real Johnny Manziel needn’t wonder anymore. He has arrived and whether you like the guy or not, he’s come to play and finally prove his worth. Manziel is contractually obligated to the Alouettes until the end of the 2019 CFL season and the starting job is his, barring injury.
If he’s willing to make it work here, are the Montreal Alouettes ready to surround Manziel with some true talent that will compliment him? Or will this still be a team fumbling around in the dark, hoping to accidently trip over some world-class talent along the way?
After 14 games, I don’t feel that this team is any closer to finding its true identity. That’s a real bitter pill for true Alouettes fans to have to swallow.
There’s a lot of questions that will need to be answered at season’s end. But will the ones who have been asked the questions before still be the ones who will provide the much-needed answers? The last four games of the 2018 season just may answer that.
Thanks for reading. As always, on to the next one.