Heading into this season, the Alouettes had three guys on their team who led the CFL in important offensive statistics: quarterback Anthony Calvillo (passing yards), running back Brandon Whitaker (rushing yards) and slotback Jamel Richardson (receiving yards). However, although Richardson was effective in the team's Week One 38-10 loss to Calgary, Calvillo and Whitaker weren't. While some of that was on them and some was on the offensive line, the line improved notably Friday evening and Calvillo and Whitaker followed, playing crucial roles in the Alouettes' 41-30 demolition of Winnipeg on a hot night in Montreal.
The first week of regular-season action was a nightmare for both Calvillo and Whitaker, and it brought forth performances CFL fans aren't used to seeing from them; Calvillo threw for just 174 yards with a lone touchdown, two interceptions and a 51.6 per cent completion rate, and Whitaker was held to 43 yards on 11 carries (3.9 yards per carry). They were looking more like their old selves Friday, though; Calvillo completed an incredible 31 of 39 passes (79.5 per cent) for 443 yards and two touchdowns, while Whitaker ran 16 times for 98 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown and added 11 receptions for 137 yards (12.5 yards per catch) and two further touchdowns. Again, some of that has to go to the improved showing from the offensive line in both the run-blocking and pass-protection aspects of the game, but Calvillo and Whitaker deserve a lot of credit, too. Both were clinical and efficient Friday, and they led Montreal to a superb victory.
There are still concerns for the Alouettes, of course. Their defence still looked vulnerable at times, and although one touchdown came in garbage time, giving up 30 points on any given night won't get you too far in this league. The defensive group looked to have adapted somewhat to both the new faces in their midst and new coordinator Jeff Reinebold, but there's obviously still a lot of work to do there, and that's important work. Keep in mind that the Alouettes' offence might have been in some of its best form ever in the playoffs last year, when Calvillo threw for 513 yards and three touchdowns while Whitaker ran for 79 yards and another touchdown, but they were betrayed by a defence that gave up far too many yards and points in a 52-44 overtime loss to Hamilton.
It's positive news for Montreal fans to see the offence clicking along the way it has in the past, and it's tremendous for them to see both Calvillo and Whitaker step up the way they did Friday, but this team will need a strong defence as well if they want to get back to the Grey Cup. Offensive firepower's great, and Montreal still has in spades, but the Alouettes will have to be able to stop opponents as well to have sustained success. It's nice for the team to earn its first victory of the season, but they can't get complacent. In a league with this much parity, you have to be effective on both sides of the ball to win consistently, and despite superb showings from Calvillo and Whitaker, Montreal only reached half of that goal Friday.