October 9, 2018

Close, but no cigar. The defence hits hard on the Stamps.

It wasn’t because of a lack of effort or desire to win that the Alouettes fell short to the Calgary Stampeders. A loss is a loss, but there was so much more to that game than its final score of 12 to 6. Like his Head Coach, Johnny Manziel made sure to highlight the tour de force performed by the defensive squad that completely shut down Bo Levi Mitchell’s offence until the fourth quarter. ”What a job by our defence! It’s a darn shame that we didn’t perform the way we should have on the offensive side.”After 45 minutes of play, the good guys were leading six to nothing. Rich Stubler’s unit successfully contained what is arguably the best offence in the league until the end. One single touchdown allowed, 46 tackles, six knockdowns, three interceptions; the harvest was fruitful.

The first quarter was rather uneventful; both teams seemed a little frozen by the chilly weather. Branden Dozier and Chris Ackie hit the ground running early in the second though with a knockdown (Dozier) and a pick (Ackie) to halt the Stamps offence as it was getting dangerously close to the end zone. The intervention turned out to be much more than a one-two punch. From then on, the entire defensive group played with remarkable aggressiveness, showing that late or missed tackles could be a thing of the past.

Dominique Ellis had the busiest work day. Nine defensive tackles, one QB sack, one interception… his locks could be seen flying everywhere the ball was. Had the outcome of the game been different, Dom’s plays would have been described as difference makers. His pick in the third quarter was certainly one of the highlights of the matchup – that deep throw by Bo Levi Mitchell was headed to cause serious damage – and, a few minutes earlier, he managed to take down running back Don Jackson as he was just about to rush into a wide open field.

”I don’t miss open field tackles, I say it all the time”, claimed the confidant defensive back in a post-game interview. ”We are not holding anything back. Calgary has the number one offence in the league and we didn’t hold back. We’re going after everyone.”

While the defence has made immense progress throughout the season, the absence of touchdowns remains the team’s main concern. We can’t, however, only be critical towards the offensive unit led by Johnny Manziel. As a matter of fact, the starting QB managed to get by despite being under duress  A LOT. He threw for 250 yards, more than his counterpart. He made the longest pass of the game, a 52-yard gain completed with the help of Eugene Lewis. The receiving corp didn’t make any deplorable mistakes either. Quite the opposite, actually. Ernest Jackson and TJ Graham made back-to-back spectacular catches, allowing Boris Bede to cap off the first half with a second three pointer. Even ball carrier William Stanback maintained an average of 5.6-yard per carry, 1.7 more than his Stampeder rival Don Jackson. The guys didn’t miss many opportunities, other than the opportunity to step foot in the end zone.

Boris Bede was the sole contributor to the score for the Alouettes as he nailed both his 44 and 41-yard field goal attempts in the second quarter. Things could have radically changed on the last possession of the game when Stamps kicker Rene Paredes missed his ultimate field goal attempt. It was 12-6 with 49 seconds to play. An eternity, right!? Manziel to Jackson for 10 yards. Manziel run for eight. Manziel to Bowman for another 10. And just like that, there were five seconds left on the clock. We were all hoping for the hailmary, we got the sack.

We must admit that Tony Washington, out due to a foot injury, was greatly missed. Whether you want to make excuses or not, the fact of the matter is that moving around personnel, especially within an offensive front that had to constantly adapt to different quarterback styles throughout the season, isn’t an easy feat.

”Sometimes, unfavourable matchups can dictate how the game goes”, said Coach Sherman immediately in his post-game press conference. ”We had to jigsaw some people and we weren’t able to overcome the obstacle.”

Linemen shoulders are wide, but it wouldn’t be right for them to take all the blame.

Following his initial statement about the o-line, the Head Coach added: ”In some cases, Johnny should have gotten rid of the ball faster instead of taking the sack. Defensive linemen can be just as fast as you up here. He needs to get used to that.”

Yet, Johnny claims he is fully aware of his opponents’ speed. He might even be a little too aware of it.

”They did a good job rushing the passer’‘, Johnny admitted. ”When you get sacked, it affects the following plays. You try to play quicker than you have to.”

What should we expect now that the playoff hope is officially gone? According to both Dominique Ellis and Johnny Manziel : more hard-fought battles. Because one thing that isn’t gone is the positive atmosphere in the locker room.

”There are three games left. I’m going to keep playing”, concluded Johnny. ”I wish we had a game this week actually rather than a bye. I’m going to savour every day, every practice, because I know I’ll be missing it soon enough.”