Alouettes Nik Lewis, left, and Darian Durant sit on the bench in the closing minutes of loss to the Ottawa Redblacks Thursday night at Molson Stadium. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette
The abyss from which the Alouettes must attempt to extricate themselves continues getting deeper and deeper. Mathematically, they remain alive for a playoff position in the weak East Division, but truthfully, is there any reason for optimism?
The Als on Thursday night appeared very much like a team that might not win another game in the Canadian Football League regular season, as incredulous as that statement sounds. Montreal was listless and lethargic while dropping a 32-4 decision to the Ottawa Redblacks at Molson Stadium.
The loss was the third consecutive for the Als, dropping their record to 3-7, as they prepare for a game next Friday night at British Columbia, in a venue where this team traditionally loses.
Montreal has a 3-3 record at Molson Stadium, but is winless in four road games. Five of the Als’ remaining eight contests are on the road, including long trips to Vancouver, Calgary and Saskatchewan.
The defending Grey Cup champion Redblacks are first in the division, at 4-6-1, following their third consecutive victory, while Toronto sits second at 4-6 heading into a game this Monday at Hamilton against the winless Tiger-Cats. The Als already have lost the season series to Ottawa, in the event the teams complete the schedule tied in the standings, and have split two games with the Argonauts.
The Als haven’t hit rock bottom, yet, but the inevitable seems not far in the distance.
“They’ve got four wins. We’ve got three and Toronto’s got four. As crazy as it sounds and as sad as it sounds, everybody still has a chance to win,” rush-end John Bowman said. “Everybody still has a chance to accomplish what they set out to do at the beginning.”
Als quarterback Darian Durant, operating behind a makeshift offensive line, was replaced by Drew Willy late in the third quarter with the score 21-1. Durant’s last play was an attempted pass to Ernest Jackson — into triple coverage no less — from the Ottawa 30-yard line following a 21-yard punt return by Stefan Logan.
Durant completed 12 of 21 passes for 140 yards. He was worse two weeks ago, at Toronto, held to 93 yards passing.
“It’s tough to lose in that manner. Nothing could go right in every phase of the game. We got beat,” Durant said. “We didn’t match their intensity.
“I was upset, of course, to be pulled,” he added. “I didn’t think I was playing bad. I just thought there were other elements of the game that contributed to us not being able to move the ball. I always take responsibility for my mishaps. I thought I was in a rhythm. I thought I was playing solid football. Coach made a decision and I’m 100 per cent behind him. Whatever he decides, I have to go with it.”
Left-tackle Jovan Olafioye, who practised most of this week despite suffering from a bad back, was a late scratch for the Als. That meant Canadian Kristian Matte had to replace him, while Chris Greaves replaced Matte at right guard.
Head coach Jacques Chapdelaine, attempting to diffuse any potential quarterback controversy, stated Durant, as expected, would start against the Lions. Willy, signed early this season following his release by Toronto, completed eight of 11 for 98 yards but was a non-factor, forced to run for his life most of the time.
The Als were held to 12 first downs and 235 yards’ net offence. They controlled the ball offensively for slightly less than 24 minutes — a recipe for disaster.
“I don’t think (Durant) was playing that badly,” Chapdelaine admitted. “At the same time we weren’t getting anything finished. We needed to move in a better direction at this point in time. I don’t think we were that productive on offence. We had some short series. It was unfortunate with the interception at the end when we had decent field position.
“I certainly don’t think you can lay it all on Darian. There were some dropped balls. The left tackle didn’t play. There were a lot of parameters that basically led to this lack of production. Drew proved the quarterback position wasn’t the sole parameter for our demise on offence.”
Defensively, meanwhile, it appeared all too easy for Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris to move the ball, usually at will. He passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game.
But perhaps the biggest story on this night was the disparity in penalties. Referee Al Bradbury and his crew penalized the Als 11 times for 138 yards. The visitors, conversely, took only four infractions for 45 yards. On one 11-play, 101-yard scoring drive, Montreal was penalized five times alone.
“The officials were great. You’re not going to bait me into that one,” Bowman said. “The officials were great. They were fantastic.”
On Ottawa’s opening possession, head coach Rick Campbell threw the challenge flag, which went undetected, the visitors running a play. But after completion of the play, an incomplete pass, the challenge was reviewed and ultimately rejected. Harris ended up fumbling on the next play, but Chapdelaine, along with everyone else, was understandably confused.
Last season, Chapdelaine threw a challenge flag but the officials didn’t notice and the play counted. “I’m just wondering what would have happened if (Ottawa) would have scored a touchdown on the play that didn’t exist? What would have happened if a player got hurt seriously? What would have happened if we picked it off and scored a touchdown? Because that play doesn’t exist.”
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