Seriously?? We waited over 600 days for that?!?!?
After playing their first two football games in Alberta with both positive and negative results, the Montreal Alouettes and their fans were eagerly anticipating that first home game of 2021. It was a chance to for this city to finally enjoy some live football and see their superstars live and in person. Facing a winless Hamilton team that was missing some key players in the lineup, the Alouettes had a prime opportunity to show that they weren’t the team they were in a losing effort to the Calgary Stampeders.
This past Friday, they surely weren’t that team. Unfortunately, they showed to be a much worse team than advertised. The Alouettes turned in a limp effort, losing 27-10 to the Tiger-Cats. Montreal now has the dubious distinction of helping the CFL’s last winless clubs post their first victory of 2021. Depending on your perspective, the Alouettes are either tied for 2nd place or tied for last in the East with Hamilton and Ottawa with a 1-2 record.
To call this a defensive effort would be putting it mildly. The Alouettes’ defense came to play, especially the defensive line. They would notch an impressive six QB sacks, including a pair from Michael Wakefield, who has made a lot of noise in these past two matches. Money Hunter and Chris Ackie made their presence felt as well, with 12 defensive tackles between them. Several times, this Als defense snuffed out potential TD drives for Hamilton, forcing them to punt the ball away or settle for field goals.
Hamilton replied in kind, making life miserable for Alouettes QB Vernon Adams. After a Quan Bray touchdown and a David Cote field goal in the second quarter, the Alouettes could only muster several two and outs after Adams and his receivers failed to connect on numerous passes. Coupled with Hamilton’s ability to stonewall Alouettes RB William Stanback, it made for a very long night on the mountain.
What was truly disappointing for Alouettes Nation was that Hamilton played just as poorly offensively as Montreal throughout the first three quarters. This truly was anyone’s game going into the fourth quarter. For Tiger-Cats QB Dane Evans, it was an opportunity that he wasn’t going to squander.
After a poorly-thrown Vernon Adams ball was intercepted by Frankie Williams, Evans and his crew went to work and made the Alouettes pay for their gaffe with a touchdown pass to Nikola Kalinic. Despite the 10 point deficit, the Alouettes kept trying to make something happen. The defense stood their ground and managed several knockdowns and QB sacks throughout the game. But this Alouettes’ offense was simply atrocious and had no answers.
For all the former Montreal Carabins that dressed for this match, it was ironically the one wearing black and yellow whose star shone brightly in the 514 this past Friday. Sean Thomas-Erlington has always had a solid career in the CFL and was a part of Hamilton’s Grey Cup performance in 2019. But playing against several former teammates (and his former coach in Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia), STE had himself a game. With time ticking down in the fourth quarter, he took a handoff and went for a sprint.
In doing so, Thomas-Erlington deftly hurdled over Alouettes defender Greg Reid and landed on his feet to gain even more yardage on the ground. He would then take another handoff from Dane Evans into the end zone to drive the final nail in the coffin for Montreal, much to the delight of several friends and family members who proudly wore the Montreal native’s Tiger-Cats jersey.
This was a completely winnable game by Montreal. But the very questionable play-calling on offense and inability to capitalize on opportunities put the Alouettes in a hole that they simply couldn’t climb out of. After looking great against Edmonton and even showing determination in a losing cause against Calgary, this Alouettes team looked more like the inept team that played from 2015-2018.
For a franchise that wanted to evoke memories of their magical 2019 run, they ended up bringing up other bad memories. At least Montreal’s current head coach didn’t have to wrestle his headset when the game was over.
And speaking of bringing back memories of 2019, the Alouettes organization clearly had that in mind when it came to the in-game experience of this first home game of 2021. Sadly, they completely missed the mark and proved that when you try to manufacture these magical moments, you typically end up falling flat on your face.
While they managed to get over 14,000 fans inside (with the allowable max of 15,000 as per government regulations), the idea of trying to replicate that amazing game atmosphere of their October 2019 game versus Calgary was poorly executed, to say the least. They put together a light show with Alouettes colours and gave fans mini-cowbells to help make noise. Problem was, whoever was coordinating the instances where fans were encouraged to make noise did so while the Alouettes were on offence, not defense.
The whole point of these exercises is to make life difficult for the opposing team. Instead, this organization tripped on their own feet and ended up making this effort to engage the crowd look hokey and amateurish. Even more irritating is the in-game PA announcer going along with the encouragement of the fans for this dog and pony show. You’d think someone with even the slightest sense of football awareness would properly sort themselves out in order to carry this out properly.
Heck, even take a quick glance on the field to see what’s going on before encouraging a whole crowd to get crazy. The insistence to do these promo contests or encouraging the wave (a very tired way to pop a crowd, but that’s another article for another day) just before the Alouettes’ offense takes the ball is one of the many, many reasons that people consider the Canadian Football League to be bush-league at the best of times.
Look at any NFL and NCAA game and you can see that the crowds there know when to make noise. They don’t even need noisemakers to try and disrupt the opposing team’s offense, rather doing so using their voices and clapping of hands! Good thing, because many NFL stadiums ban such items as noisemakers. Yet somehow, any football game in America shows how it’s done time and time again while teams in the CFL simply cannot manage to get it right; doing the exact opposite for reasons that will forever escape me.
Thankfully the Alouettes still have another 6 home games to get the game-day experience right. For the sake of those who go to Alouettes games to get a real football experience, here’s hoping their game-day crew can finally figure it out. And if not, I’m not very hard to find. I don’t feel like I should have to educate “professional football people” on what to do during a football game, but I am willing to offer my counsel.
That’s all for now. The Alouettes now head back on the road to take on the equally hapless Ottawa RedBlacks to start the usual series of Labour Day matchups for the CFL. While not a rivalry in the same vein as Winnipeg & Saskatchewan or Ontario’s other football teams, there’s still something to be said for these Highway 417 neighbors when they take to the field.
These two teams are looking more and more similar as these weeks fly by; very solid defense and decent special teams with a highly questionable offence. We’ll see who can get their collective heads back in the game this coming Friday evening at TD Place.
Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself break down this loss to Hamilton and preview the tilt versus Ottawa. You can find the podcast here and on your favourite podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and even on Youtube! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Once again, it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.