There’s no point suggesting the Alouettes have hit rock bottom — not when this team still has seven games remaining in what is quickly becoming one of the franchise’s worst seasons in Canadian Football League history.
There’s still almost two months remaining in the schedule, plenty of time for this club to sink to further depths. Look, this is a crazy league. Montreal, only three seasons ago, started 1-7 only to finish 9-9 and get to within a game of advancing to the Grey Cup. But is there any reason to believe lightning will possibly strike twice for a club that continues to make one mistake after another in a season that has fallen off the rails?
It has deteriorated into a comedy of errors, but nobody’s laughing at the punchline the Als have become. And if the players believe squeaking into the playoffs in the terrible East Division will cure what ails this franchise, they’re only fooling themselves.
“I don’t see any light. It’s dark as hell. If we don’t get better, we ain’t going to be here,” linebacker Kyries Hebert said following the Als’ latest embarrassing defeat, 41-18, to the British Columbia Lions Friday night at BC Place.
“It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing as a pro athlete, a pro football player, to have this amount of talent and not produce,” Hebert continued. “Producing means coming up with wins and we’re not doing that. There’s nothing positive to take from that. It’s embarrassing. You get your ass whupped, you should be embarrassed.”
Does it really matter the Als are now 2-15 in Vancouver since 2001? Or that they’ve now lost four consecutive games, their record dropping to 3-8? Does it matter they’ve lost all five games on the road and have now been outscored 29-0 over the first quarters of their last four games? Or that they’ve been outscored 145-59 during this losing skid?
People can blame quarterback Darian Durant all they want. Yeah, he’s not playing great, but he has been saddled with a receiving corps that doesn’t strike fear into opponents. And he’s operating behind an offensive line that simply hasn’t lived up to expectations.
The teams in the CFL have figured it out. Take Ernest Jackson out of the game and defy the Als to beat you with B.J. Cunningham, who can be hot or cold, and the always-reliable Nik Lewis, who will play his heart out — eight yards or so at a time with each reception.
All the promise and optimism that came with Jacques Chapdelaine being named head coach last September, and the 4-2 record that followed, has now evaporated. Instead, he has been saddled with the horses with which he was presented by rookie general manager Kavis Reed, who tried his best to provide this team with a fighting chance.
The Als’ dressing room was closed for what seemed like an eternity after this game. Chapdelaine addressed the team. Then it was Lewis’ turn. And long after that, Lewis and Reed spent an inordinate amount of time in the trainer’s room, hashing this one out.
“He wanted to make sure I was cool and wasn’t going to go off the handle,” Lewis admitted. “It’s frustrating, losing four (consecutive) games. I basically just said (to the players) you have to make your career what you want it to be. You can’t have long careers on losing teams. Everything is us. We have to figure out how to win.”
On this night the Als came apart in the second quarter, outscored 18-3 when they already trailed, 8-0. In the span of less than a minute, just before halftime, Chris Rainey scored a touchdown. Then he blocked a field goal that Anthony Gaitor recovered and returned 73 yards for a score.
The score went from 12-3 to 26-3 in the blink of an eye.
“At some point I find myself repeating the same message from week to week,” Chapdelaine said. “Players are accountable for their mistakes. This isn’t players against the coach. We can all be accountable. We have to stop coming off the field and saying that was my mistakes. It can’t be a mistake anymore.
“We finish the half with a blocked field goal after we get a couple of plays. It seems that whenever good things happen, we find a way to shoot it down. It’s regrettable. I don’t want to get into a negative rant with the players. That would be trying to get water out of a rock. It would be counter-productive.”
It’s the old guys who are doing their best to lead by example. Hebert, approaching his 37th birthday, made a critical third-down stop at the Montreal one-yard line after his end-zone interception was negated by a coach’s challenge. John Bowman, 35, had three tackles, a sack and three quarterback pressures. Chip Cox, 34, had four tackles and recovered a fumble. But it’s not nearly enough.
And after the Als finally scored an offensive touchdown in the third quarter, narrowing the deficit to 26-12, the Lions immediately marched 70 yards for a touchdown. But how can you criticize a defence that was on the field more than 34 minutes?
“We have to make stops. It doesn’t matter how many times we have to go out there,” Hebert said. “We have to have a sense of urgency. We recognize that we don’t have that much time. The older guys know that.”