When it comes to the on-field product, it’s safe to say that the dumpster fire that was the Montreal Alouettes has been extinguished.
With a convincing 36-19 win on the road over the Ottawa RedBlacks, the Alouettes really made the rest of the league sit up and take notice. The Alouettes are now on a two game winning streak and anyone who suggested this team would go 0-18 looks pretty stupid right about now.
Yes, they canned their head coach six days before the season started. Yes, their starting quarterback went down to a severe injury. Yes, they have a defensive coordinator that hasn’t been a locker room in six years.
Your point being?
Whether it’s luck or simply a matter of trusting what you have in stock, this Alouettes team has certainly taken the words of several doubters and shoved them down their throats.
If there was doubt in the ability of Khari Jones to lead a team as its head coach, consider it erased. If there was a doubt about the viability of Vernon Adams Jr. as a starting quarterback in the CFL, you can go ahead and erase that too. If there was a doubt that this team can win on the road in a hostile environment….well, there’s a whole lotta Ottawa-based football fans that suddenly had to “beat the traffic” while getting out of TD Place this past Saturday.
The first half of this game was about as dull and uninspring as you can get, with both teams deadlocked at nine points. But in the second half, Adams got into a groove was not going to be denied on this sunny day in the nation’s capital.
He finished the day going 23 of 30 with 327 yards passing, zero interceptions, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who was #4 on the depth chart going into training camp for reasons we no longer need to go into. Vernon did a masterful job in making plays happen and with the help of his receivers, made some outstanding plays to stymie this RedBlacks defense.
Quan Bray has come out of nowhere to become Adams’ favourite target, hauling in 5 catches for 134 yards and a 75 yard touchdown. Jake Wieneke also added to his early legend as he connected with a touchdown pass from Adams. B.J. Cunningham was a true playmaker and even bulldozed Ottawa defender Antoine Pruneau while making a catch in traffic. Eugene Lewis is no longer MIA, making some jaw-dropping catches of his own. In total, Adams spread the ball to seven receivers and Ottawa simply had no answer for this aerial onslaught.
William Stanback would have been hard-pressed to turn in another 200+ yard ground game like he did the week before. But he did manage a respectable 100 yards of rushing on 18 carries. The RedBlacks knew they had to contain the speedy Long Islander as best as possible. Easier said than done as trying to contain Stanback simply opened up the opportunities in the air.
The Alouettes’ offensive line was a much more cohesive unit, creating lanes for Stanback, giving Adams plenty of time to make plays and only allowing one QB sack. Newly minted assistant O-line coach Luc Brodeur-Jourdain just may have been able to help this group see things in a whole new light.
Overall, it seemed like the Alouettes are able to lull their opponents into a false sense of security. Letting them think they are in the game and then Coach Jones flips a switch, unleashing a flurry of offense from out of nowhere.
Defensively, this Alouettes team needed to shine. I said earlier that they cannot afford to let Ottawa be the latest team to rack up 400+ passing yards on them. That message appeared to ring true this past Saturday.
Redblacks QB Dominique Davis could only manage 268 yards against this inspired defense. He was picked off very early in the game by Tommie Campbell, who has proven to be a tremendous acquisition. With three defensive tackles, a fumble recovery (which was more like a gift from the opposition!) and that INT, there’s no doubting Campbell’s presence on this defense.
Ryan Brown and Antonio Simmons have also bolstered this defensive line, each notching a quarterback sack and Simmons even forcing a fumble. Henoc Muamba and Greg Reid continue to lay the wood on their opponents. And watching Chris Ackie and Taylor Loffler working in tandem is everything I expected it to be. The best part? It can only get better as this season progresses.
If there was one fault on this defense, it was the inability to shut down the run from Ottawa on a consistent basis. The two touchdowns given up were from Davis on the ground. But there were very few breakout plays and the RedBlacks just didn’t look like a team that was 2-1 going into this match.
They have now lost two straight games at home and RNation is surely wondering where the team that beat the Calgary Stampeders on the road disappeared to.
After the game, I was able to speak with a jubilant Vernon Adams and there is no question that this is now HIS team. Statistically, this was his finest performance as a professional athlete. But when you consider all of the nonsense that he had to endure just to get this opportunity, it’s remarkable to hear how humble he has become.
There’s no denying that both Adams and Khari Jones are on the same page. They have a vision for this football team and it’s unfolding extremely well. Adams admitted that the first half in the last two games have been all about figuring out the opposition. And then, like solving a Rubik’s Cube, everything seems to fall into place.
The Alouettes are now 2-2, having beaten divisional foes both at home and on the road. Compared to where they were a year ago, this team is looking a lot more cohesive and there feels like an actual plan is in place. They will face a tough test at home against the Edmonton Eskimos, who handed the Alouettes their first loss of the season.
Montreal does have momentum on their side and let’s not forget that it was Adams at QB that nearly pulled off a comeback win against those same Eskimos. We could be in for a barnburner on the mountain Saturday night.
That’s all for now. Yes, some major news happened this weekend that affects the Alouettes off the field. We’ll cover that very shortly.
This column was just to remind people that there’s suddenly a very interesting football team to watch play a game. It may not feel like it was designed that way, but winning does help fix things.
Possibly even putting out dumpster fires. As always, thanks for reading.