A weekend to remember in the Canadian Football League opened Friday night with a pair of teams struggling in the East Division. The Montreal Alouettes (1-2) faced the Ottawa Redblacks (1-2) for the first of four times this season in a game between two offences that couldn’t score points for most or all of the season. Somehow, this was the real high-scoring affair in the CFL this season. I guess some things just don’t make sense.
Dominique Davis Is Ottawa’s Best Quarterback
Dominique Davis took a fair amount of first-team reps in practice leading up to this game, and you had the feeling going into the game that the leash on Matt Nichols was going to be tight. It seemed like an eventuality that Davis would get on the field at some point, and when he did, he showed that he gives the Redblacks the best chance to win.
In 2019, Davis had his moments where it looked like he could be a starting quarterback in the CFL, but with little to no help at receiver and no real offensive coordinator, things didn’t work out for him. There may have also been some injuries in there for him, but no one really knows for sure other than Davis and the team themselves. All three of the Redblacks’ wins in 2019 came with Davis under centre and it was clear then that there was some talent there.
The Redblacks headed into the offseason unsatisfied with Davis as the long-term starter, traded for Nick Arbuckle who was eventually released without ever playing a game. Nichols was signed and has struggled all season until now. Insert Davis on Friday, and the struggling Redblacks offence found some life. Three offensive touchdowns later, the Redblacks now know who the best quarterback on their roster is.
The offence scored 27 points in this game (the defence scored two points on a safety late in the game), a number that is enough to win football games in the CFL. The defence let them down in this game, but had they played like they did in the first three games of the year, they would have likely won the game. While they didn’t win, it’s certainly encouraging to see what happened on Friday night from a Redblacks offence perspective.
Montreal Lives and Dies On the Deep Ball
With the win on Friday night, the Montreal Alouettes move to 2-2 on the season. One of the most interesting trends for them however is in their two wins, the deep ball was working and in their two losses, it was functionally non-existent. One thing is clear here, the Alouettes need the deep ball to be working to get wins.
In this game, the deep ball was working flawlessly for the Alouettes. The Redblacks simply could do nothing to stop it, especially with the number of injuries in the secondary. Not only did the Alouettes score points off the deep ball in this game, but it opened things up for shorter routes to break big and for Williams Stanback to have a big game.
Montreal is hard to stop when they get to play the way they want to. When they can’t is when they get into trouble. When they can’t go deep, defences have a much easier time stopping Stanback and the short routes often get stopped before the sticks. It’s a very bold strategy, but when it works, the Alouettes are incredibly fun to watch, that is for sure.
Redblacks’ Defence Faulters
The first three weeks of the season had the Redblacks’ defence looking like potentially the best unit in the league, but Friday night was a much different story. After what looked like a quick stop on the Alouettes’ first drive of the game, the Redblacks were called for pass interference and things seemed to turn for the worst after that. From then on, the Redblacks were chasing the Alouettes who would go on to score 44 points, including a one-yard touchdown run from defensive lineman, Almondo Sewell.
The protection for Adams Jr. was good, and one of his receivers always seemed to be open deep down the field. In the odd times where someone wasn’t, there was a massive running lane that Adams Jr. gladly took. You have to credit the Montreal offence, however. It wasn’t just because Ottawa’s defence was bad, Montreal’s offence was stellar.
As of right now, it seems like this performance was more of an out of character lapse than the true identity of the Redblacks’ defence, and I expect them to be back to form in Vancouver next week, especially if they can get some of their defensive backs back into action.
Passing Yards: Dominique Davis (OTT): 291
Rushing Yards: William Stanback (MTL): 112
Receiving Yards: Eugene Lewis (MTL): 120
Touchdowns: Eugene Lewis (MTL), Jake Wieneke (MTL), Daniel Petermann (OTT): 2
Tackles: Adarius Pickett: 8
Special Teams Tackles: Kerfalla-Emmanuel Exume (MTL), Rodney Randle Jr. (MTL), Rashaun Simonise (MTL): 2
Sacks: Praise Martin-Oguike (OTT): 2
Interceptions: Patrick Levels (MTL), Greg Reid (MTL), Jermaine Grace (MTL): 1
13th Man Sports Player of the Game
POTG: Vernon Adams Jr.
18/23 passing, 288 yards, 35 rushing yards, 4 touchdown passes