Something amiss with Als

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

TORONTO - All is not well with these Als, a team that can’t save its best for last because so much is already assured.

It’s a dangerous game of trying to peak for a playoff run when one is basically playing for nothing.

But here stands Montreal, the CFL’s reigning Grey Cup champs who are one win away from defending their crown.

Vulnerable, at least based on the way they’ve played the past two weeks; volatile, which is evident in the litany of selfish and careless penalties, and now no longer a sure bet to be in Edmonton in late November.

That’s been Montreal’s way this past decade in an inferior division where the Als have clearly been the superior team, a team that basically wraps up first place by Labour Day and then spends the balance of the season trying to be relevant when nothing can substantial can be gained.

The way they jumped out to a 14-0 lead against the Argos on Friday night was precisely what was required following last week’s 40-3 humiliation at the hands of the host Ticats.

There was Anthony Calvillo releasing the football in rhythm, playing pass and catch with whichever receiver was getting behind Toronto’s secondary.

The sparse crowd didn’t even have time to catch its collective breath when the scoreboard read 14-0, courtesy of TD strikes to Jamel Richardson and Avon Cobourne.

But as good as they looked, the Als were sloppy, an overthrown pass to a wide open Ben Cahoon on a deep corner route and a drop by Cobourne in the flat the prime examples of Montreal’s wayward ways.

When the Als are truly playing at a high level and are imposing their will, such glaring gaffes are non-existent.

A week ago, they were guilty of seven turnovers, physical errors that were either self-inflicted or the result of a very aggressive Hamilton defence.

Against the Argos, the periods of head-scratching could be found above the shoulders. More than anything, Montreal’s mastery of the East, and to a large extent the CFL until Grey Cup arrives, has been its mental toughness.

It begins with Calvillo and Cahoon and it just seems to filter down through the team.

But it’s hard to understand why the Als would even attempt to punt the football in the direction of Chad Owens, the only threat not named Cory Boyd capable of producing long gains for the Argos.

When they weren’t tempting fate, the Als were getting caught for illegal contact in the defensive secondary, going offside, making braincramps that gave the Argos life and provided further proof that these Als are no longer bulletproof.

The Als are far from bad, but they’re making too many missteps when they should be stepping on foes.

Up until last week’s meeting in the Hammer, the Als had owned the Tiger-Cats, winning nine of the past 10 meetings, but more importantly Montreal had a huge psychological edge.

If Hamilton is to advance to the Eastern final in Montreal, no longer does it go into the kickoff with that monkey on its back.

If the Argos are to play the Als with a Grey Cup berth at stake, they, too, now know that it can beat a team that was once unbeatable.

Their struggles notwithstanding, the Als do have the luxury of a bye week once next week’s return game against the Argos in Montreal is completed, and homefield advantage in the East final.

In the past, whether it was Toronto, Hamilton, a Western cross-over or even woeful Winnipeg, a visitor to Montreal had no chance with so much on the line. With so much being exposed in back-to-back weeks, anything is now possible.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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