Despite the fact that the Montreal Alouettes ever since they moved from the Olympic Stadium to the friendlier confines of Molson Stadium have been a successful (on the field and at the box office) team there has been one thing that they have been criticized for. Lack of playing time for the back up quarterbacks.
Alouettes veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo (his 38th birthday is on Monday) has been widely recognized as one of the best if not the best in the CFL for many years now. He has been so good and so durable (he has missed only 6 games over 13 years with the team) that he plays every game and almost every minute. Now, that was not a problem when he was a young pup, but now that he is getting a little older it has become one. The Alouettes younger, back up quarterbacks have not gotten much playing time behind Anthony and if ever he was to go down with an injury they would be thrust onto the field without much game experience. Well, those chickens did come back to haunt the Als on this evening.
The 5-2 Montreal Alouettes are defending Grey Cup Champions and they were facing the struggling 2-5 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This would be the two teams last game before the entire Eastern Division of the CFL has their bye week next week. Faced with the daunting task of playing the strong Saskatchewan Roughriders in back-to-back games after the bye the Bombers really needed a win on this evening.
Montreal has not been a welcoming place for visiting CFL football teams over the past few years. Though oddly enough Winnipeg is the last team to have won a game in Montreal. The Alouettes have quite a home winning streak going. The Alouettes have won their past 12 games at home.
What might play in the Blue Bombers favour is the fact that Montreal is on a short week. After having played just last Saturday evening and again last night (Thursday) Coach Marc Trestman did not have his team practice at all this week. They just went through walk throughs and did mental preparation.
Plus regulars like running back Avon Coburne (ankle) and linebacker Diamond Ferri (stomach ailment) would be out of the game. Second year player Brandon Whitaker would be taking Coburne's place and Ramon Guzman was inserted in Ferri's roster spot. The aforementioned Calvillo also suffered a dislocated index finger on his throwing hand two games ago, but he has it just taped up and insists that it is "just fine".
Winnipeg kicked off to start the game. Montreal, under the guidance of Calvillo, got down to the 23 yard line, but was stopped there. Kicker Damon Duval missed the 34 yard field goal attempt so they only came out of their opening drive with only a single point.
The game in the beginning was like a hockey game in that points were being scored one at a time. On their next offensive series Duval had to punt and again Winnipeg conceded the single point when it went into the end zone.
Feeling like maybe the offense needed some help, on the Blue Bomber's second offensive series the Alouettes, namely John Bowman and Guzman, got to Bombers' QB Steven Jyles causing him to fumble the ball. The always alert Chip Cox scooped up the bouncing ball and scampered off to the end zone. 9-0 Alouettes and that is the way the 1st quarter ended.
Prodded on by the defense, the Als offense got it together in the 2nd quarter to score a couple of touchdowns. Calvillo connected with wide receiver S.J. Green for a pair of touchdowns of 10 and 35 yards. The two touchdowns were followed by another fumble by Jyles and a, you guessed it, single point by Duval. It was now 24-0 Alouettes and they were putting the hammer to the Bombers.
The entire complexion of the game changed late in the 2nd quarter. With 4:52 to play a seemingly routine play turned into disaster for the Alouettes. Calvillo could not find an open man and that allowed defensive end Odell Willis to sack him. It was not an especially punishing hit, but Calvillo had the misfortune of landing on the football. That can't tickle! And it didn't.
Calvillo did not get up. The training staff came on the field and still Calvillo did not get up. He stayed down a while and it become more and more apparent that this was not a minor injury. He seemed to be clutching his chest and be having trouble breathing. Five minutes later he finally got up, but as he was walking off he went down again. Now we had crossed over to scary territory! Even Coach Trestman came onto the field he was that concerned. A hush came over the crowd and players for both teams kneeled around the prone Calvillo. Finally a cart is brought out onto the field and Calvillo was taken to the dressing room. Later he was taken from the stadium on a stretcher to go to the Montreal General for x-rays.
Besides worrying for the man's health what must have also been on people's minds was the fact that the very inexperienced Chris Leak would now be the Alouettes' quarterback. His time would be now.
Winnipeg was helping Montreal's cause by shooting themselves in the foot offensively. Jyles, in his 5th start, had fumbled the ball three times and the receivers had dropped at least four balls, two of which probably would have been touchdowns.
Late in the 2nd quarter the Bombers finally got on the scoreboard when Jyles connected on a 29 yard touchdown pass to Brock Ralph, his first career touchdown.
Thankfully for the obviously discombobulated Als it was half time and they were still ahead 24-7. Coach Trestman, I'm sure, used the half time break to regroup the team and figure out the game plan for the 2nd half.
Winnipeg continued inching closer to the Als with a 46 yard field goal by rookie kicker Justin Palardy and a 74 yard punt return touchdown by Jovon Johnson to make the score 24-17 by the end of the 3rd quarter. Fans in the stands and even the Als themselves had to be getting nervous.
Once again Winnipeg helped out the Alouettes cause by getting a major penalty for a horse collar tackle on Tim Maypray's next punt return. Subsequent to the penalty the Alouettes' drive began on the Winnipeg 41 yard line. Running back Whitaker rumbled into the end zone on a 19 yard run. Duval then got another of his single points followed by Whitaker getting his second rushing touchdown. The final score was Alouettes 39 and Winnipeg 17.
It was the 13th straight home win for the Alouettes, but at what cost? According to the news today the rib injury to Calvillo is not as serious as first believed. It is a dislocated rib, but no internal organs were affected. It is bruised and painful. Doctors are said to be optimistic. Maybe the Alouettes' leader will not be out for a long period…or at all considering they have two weeks off. Only time will tell.