Maybe the Montreal Alouettes are only meant to be road warriors in 2021. For whatever reason, a win at home seems to be a fairly difficult task to accomplish.
Playing again in front of another near sell-out (by current provincial capacity limits) crowd, the Alouettes were unable to secure their third win of the season. Losing 27-18 to the BC Lions this past Saturday, Montreal failed to score any touchdowns, offensively or defensively. All of their eighteen points came off the talented foot of rookie kicker David Cote, who notched an impressive six field goals for the home team. But it takes more than that to win against an offensive juggernaut like the Lions, who scored on touchdown on their first series and never looked back.
The Alouettes were without the services of Head Coach Khari Jones, who was isolating at home after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week. In his place was Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Andre Bolduc, who was hoping to replicate the last time a Quebec-born position coach was temporarily installed as Alouettes head coach. Unfortunately for Bolduc, he didn’t have the same good fortune that befell Jacques Chapdelaine back in 2016.
What Bolduc did have was a talented quarterback that somehow managed to find the same form that he had back in August versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. After a phenomenal performance two weeks ago in Ottawa, Vernon Adams was back to making questionable decisions at the worst possible times. He did manage to throw for 270 yards but completed less than half of his passes and was picked off twice in backbreaking fashion.
It’s hard to say whether Adams would have played like this had his actual head coach been on the sidelines. But knowing what kind of talent Adams has and to watch him not be able to execute is death by a thousand papercuts for his loyal supporters. It almost feels like we don’t know which Vernon Adams will show up on game day; the calm, Zen-like gunslinger that gets everyone excited or the quarterback that we saw this past Saturday night.
Besides Cote and his sextet of field goals, there was another bright spot on offense. William Stanback had himself a great game statistically, rushing for 139 yards on 18 carries. He even made his first completed reception after so many drops! Stanback’s performance was incredible considering how pedantic the receiving corps was. Why the Alouettes didn’t use their rushing attack more makes this loss even more baffling. Stanback was good enough to get the yards needed, but then Adams would overthrow his targets and force Cote to come on and kick for three.
Perhaps the most insulting series came in the second quarter when the Alouettes managed to march down the field with some great grabs and even a bit of Houdini escape magic from Vernon Adams. Down by 11 and at BC’s four yard line, Stanback was tackled for no gain and then receiver Eugene Lewis dropped what would have been a sure-fire touchdown pass from VA. On third down, the Alouettes then elected to take the chip shot field goal from David Cote.
I’m sorry, but what?! All that work plus being so close to the end zone and you don’t go for it on 3rd and goal!? That’s beyond playing conservative; that’s playing scared. And as they say, scared money don’t make money.
The Lions, on the other hand, are finding their form and making a case to be a true threat in the Western division. Lions QB Michael Reilly is now 11-3 lifetime versus these Alouettes and it was business as usual for the battle-tested warrior. He went 21 for 25, throwing for 308 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Of his 25 throws, perhaps the most impressive was that 75 yard bomb to Lucky Whitehead, who turned on the jets and took it to the house as everyone’s stunned silence rang throughout Percival Molson Stadium.
Reilly didn’t make too many jaw-dropping plays besides that, but he went about his business and slowly chipped away at the Alouettes defense. He also took a pair of sacks but managed to not turn the ball over, unlike his Montreal counterpart. Reilly spread the ball around to his receivers and made good use of the ground game to move the chains. Essentially, Reilly played the sort of game that Alouettes fans had hoped or expected Vernon Adams to play.
But Michael Reilly is a grizzled veteran that simply knows how to win. You have to take a lot of lumps in order to put together the resume that he has. Winners find a way to win and there’s no question that this future Hall of Famer knows how to do exactly that. With any luck for Alouettes Nation, Adams was taking notes as he was being taught these lessons the hard way.
There’s a lot of blame to go around for this loss, which now sees Montreal in 3rd place in the East. The play-calling was conservative at best and when Adams would go off-script, it led to disastrous results. Going away from the ground game at inopportune times was a real head-scratcher, considering that BC’s run defense didn’t have much of an answer for Stanback.
I find it hard to believe that the bye week was enough to completely cool off this team after its strong performance against the RedBlacks. But after this abysmal performance, maybe it really was a matter of the Alouettes playing a bad team and being that much better than them. This is looking to be another season of inconsistent, hot and cold play from this team. There’s no denying the talent is there in the locker room, but when are they going to truly realize it?
The Alouettes have a prime opportunity to get back into the win column by playing an equally hot/cold team like the Toronto Argonauts and then facing a Hamilton team that is walking wounded but still finding ways to win. If Montreal wants to prove they aren’t what their record says they are, then they need to win these next two games. If they can, they’ll face that same Ottawa RedBlacks team at Percival Molson Stadium and perhaps finally get that much-needed first W in their barn.
I just hope for the sake of Alouettes Nation and this organization itself, that the right Vernon Adams shows up on game day. Especially when it comes to defending the nest on the mountain.
That’s all for now. As stated earlier, the Alouettes head back on the road for their first matchup against the Toronto Argonauts. Like the Alouettes, when they’re good they’re good. But when they are bad, they are bad. This divisional matchup will be key as this season has reached the halfway point. With only 14 games being played this year, no team can afford to have an off-night.
A win at BMO Field will be a boost to Montreal’s confidence, but after flip-flopping their last four games the Argos truly have a lot to prove and will look to exploit the Alouettes’ shortcomings with a good showing this Friday night. Safe to say that Alouettes practice will be a spirited affair this week.
Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself break down this loss to BC and preview Friday’s game versus Toronto. You can find the podcast here, on Youtube and on your favourite podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.
We’re on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.