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55 Yard Line

Montreal Alouettes show up in B.C. Saturday—for a single quarter

Andrew Bucholtz
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John Bowman and the rest of the Als couldn't shut down Travis Lulay and the Lions Saturday.

For the Montreal Alouettes, Saturday afternoon's game in B.C. against the hometown Lions got off to an auspicious start. The Alouettes scored on their first drive and were tied at 10 after the first quarter, but were unable to do much after that. They didn't score again the rest of the way and could barely move the ball, while the Lions dissected their defence en route to a 43-10 victory. It was a dominant performance from B.C., and one that puts them in sole possession of the West Division lead. For Montreal, this isn't a crushing blow, and the Alouettes are still tied for the lead in the East Division. However, their failure to perform in the final three quarters Saturday does raise some concerns.

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Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo has been arguably the most dominant player in the CFL this year, leading the league with 2,978 yards heading into this week's action, but his remarkable streak of eight consecutive games with 300-plus passing yards ended Saturday. Like his team, Calvillo's game varied dramatically depended on the quarter; in the opening frame, he threw for 77 yards and led his team on a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive the first time he got the ball, but he only managed 75 passing yards in the rest of the game. That wasn't all on Calvillo, as B.C.'s famed defensive line sacked him twice and got pressure on him all day, while the Lions' linebackers and defensive backs did an excellent job of covering his receivers. The run game was better, with Brandon Whitaker averaging seven yards per carry, but the Lions pulled ahead 20-10 by the half and forced Montreal to take to the air. Usually, with Calvillo and his talented receivers, that's a recipe for success. It wasn't on Saturday, though, and although a lot of that can be chalked up to B.C.'s excellent defence, the Alouettes' passing offence will have to figure out ways to deal with good defensive teams.

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The Alouettes' defence also regressed substantially from their recent impressive performances. Over their last five games heading into Saturday's clash, they'd allowed 23, 26, 25, 29 and 25 points, for an average of 25.6 points per game. That's not all that dominant in the grand scheme of things (for example, B.C. was allowing a league-low 19 points per game heading into this), but it's notably better than the 29.7 points Montreal had conceded on average over the whole CFL season thus far. The defence also looked pretty good early on, holding the Lions to a field goal on their opening drive, but it all fell apart after that; they conceded 43 points on the day, let Andrew Harris and Tim Brown run for a combined 114 yards on 19 carries (six yards per carry) and allowed Travis Lulay to throw for 262 yards (with a 73.1 per cent completion rate) and four touchdowns. They'll have to improve as well if this team's high ambitions are to be fulfilled.

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This won't cause a crisis in Montreal in the same way Hamilton's loss earlier Saturday did for the Tiger-Cats. The Alouettes are still a very good team, with perhaps the best quarterback in the league, one of the best receiving corps, a terrific running back, a solid offensive line and more. They also have talent on defence and had shown signs of melding that into a cohesive, effective unit before Saturday's game. Still, this wasn't a close game that could have gone either way like Montreal's win over B.C. last week. This was a blowout, and an embarrassing one for the Alouettes. Their first-quarter performance and their season to date suggest they're capable of much better, but potential's nothing if you don't achieve it. We'll see if this loss helps them get better, or if it's instead revealed that they might not be as strong as they seemed.

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