Montreal was coming off two emotional wins and as such coach Mark Trestman gave his troops ample time off this past week to allow them to have the energy (emotional and physical) required for this game.
Besides being Thanksgiving Monday and a beautiful 21 degrees, which is much warmer than your typical mid-October CFL game, this was not the most remarkable thing about the Montreal Alouettes-Toronto Argonauts game. This was the 300th career game for Als’ quarterback, Anthony Calvillo. Even this significant benchmark had fallen under the shadow of the fact that this was another game in a series this season of Calvillo vying to break a league record. Actually let me correct that. Calvillo was on his way towards breaking the professional football record for most career passing yards. Before the game, Calvillo was 258 passing yards behind Damon Allen. Last week during the game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calvillo passed 72,000 yards.
The Alouettes, led by Calvillo, are a juggernaut on offense. Besides the number one quarterback in the league they also have the top receiver (catches, touchdowns and yards) in Jamel Richardson and top running back in Brandon Richardson. It is a multi-pronged attack that is very difficult to stop. You cannot focus on one or two or even three players. This tends to stretch even the best defenses too thin.
Steven Jyles, the starting quarterback for Toronto, does not have that luxury. Their strengths are its kicking game with Noel Prefontaine and special teams, coached by former Argo player Mike O’Shea. Toronto has a horrible 3-10 record this season and pretty much the players are now competing for an invite to training camp next season.
Toronto kicked off the ball to start the game. On the first offensive series Whitaker goes over 1,000 yards on the ground for the season. It is a successful first offensive series that unfortunately stalled on the Toronto 21 yard line. Sean Whyte came on and was good on a 28 yard field goal. It was good to see Whyte was able to play as the Als weren’t sure their kicker could play this week. Whyte was hurt during last week’s game on a blocked punt.
Answering right back, Toronto’s Prefontaine is successful on a 36 yard field goal. Then they hem Montreal deep in their own end. Whyte’s punt is a short one which Argos’ returner and former Alouette Chad Owens allows to hit the ground. Owens picks the ball off the ground near midfield. He spins through the first line of defense, after that the second line was nowhere to be found. 58 yard run by Owens equalled touchdown Toronto.
While the Alouettes have a strong offense they have weak special teams. This was the third game in a row Montreal’s special teams have given up a touchdown.
Montreal’s offense continued to stall and got even worse when Calvillo threw an interception on a pass attempt to S.J. Green. It was only the fifth interception Calvillo has thrown this season. Maybe the spotlight being on him was too much as Calvillo was having trouble finding his rhythm. Nothing was clicking. Calvillo was over or under throwing his receivers.
After trading field goals, making the score 13-7 Toronto in the 2nd quarter, Montreal’s offense began firing on all cylinders again. Calvillo led them down to the Toronto 5 yard line. Back up quarterback Adrian McPherson came in at 2nd and 2 yards. Based on history Toronto was expecting McPherson to just plunge forward behind his offensive line for the 1st down. Using that McPherson took the ball and ran to the right side of his line and into the end zone untouched. This was his third running touchdown of the season.
Both defenses played well. Toronto was making things uncomfortable for Calvillo and his receivers and Montreal’s had all but eliminated Toronto running back Cory Boyd from the equation. But Montreal’s stepped up for big sacks when the team most needed it. Veteran lineman Anwar Stewart did just that a couple of times during the game. His first pushed Toronto out of field goal range and the second in the 3rd quarter resulted in a safety and put Montreal within one point of Toronto (16-15).
The sack seemed to settle the Als and Calvillo. He replicated McPherson’s running touchdown with a 19 yard one of his own at the 10:37 mark of the 3rd quarter. Montreal was now up 22-16 and they never looked back. It was Calvillo’s first running touchdown of the season and the 32nd of his illustrious career.
After another Prefontaine field goal then the magic happened. Calvillo found his favourite target Richardson for a touchdown on the last play of the 3rd quarter. A record breaking pass as it was a 50 yard touchdown. It made the game 29-19 Montreal and Calvillo had another record. He had now passed for 72,382 yards – a professional football record.
The game was stopped and a ceremony happened. The tribute video starring Allen, ESPN’s Chris Berman, Dan Marino, and Warren Moon (no Brett Favre. Too busy?) was a nice touch. Calvillo was joined on the field by his kids, wife and mother. He has played 18 years in the league with 14 being with Montreal. Calvillo looks like he can play another couple of years at a high level. We have been spoiled.
There was still one quarter of football to play, but nothing really happened. It was as if all the emotional air had gone out of the balloon. It was just another day at the office with Montreal winning another game and their quarterback breaking another record.
The next game for the Alouettes is Sunday at Molson Stadium against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Montreal, with the victory, has moved into 1st place in the East ahead of Winnipeg. Toronto falls to 3-11 and are firmly in last place.