Alouettes: It's not all about the numbers

Alouettes defensive back Dwight Anderson figures his team's defence is just fine. Anderson could be...

Alouettes defensive back Dwight Anderson figures his team's defence is just fine. Anderson could be seeing a lot of Chad Owens in Sunday's East final. (QMI AGENCY/PHOTO)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

MONTREAL - Numbers don’t lie, at least that’s what many will have one believe.

But numbers don’t always tell the entire story, a view the Als defence has embraced as Montreal gets ready to play host to the Argos in this Sunday’s East final.

In Toronto, Chris Jones was given the keys to the team’s defensive car, metaphorically speaking, in complete control of virtually every aspect on the defensive side of the ball, scheme wise, personnel wise.

He demands his secondary be capable of playing man coverage when so much pressure from different angles will be applied.

He demands his front seven be versatile enough to line up on the line of scrimmage and athletic enough to drop off into coverage.

On most nights, the Argos defence has played well, assuming players aren’t committing foolish penalties.

There have been stretches when the run defence has been exposed, but in-game adjustments get made and more often than not areas are addressed.

In Montreal, it’s been a defensive tale of patience, perseverance and moments of productivity.

“People don’t realize what goes into a defence when an entirely new scheme gets put into place,’’ said defensive back Dwight Anderson, who, depending on the look, will likely see plenty of Chad Owens on Sunday. “It does not happen overnight, it takes time, and we feel we’re playing our best football going into this big game.”

A lot had to change in the wake of last year’s semifinal loss to the visiting Ticats when Hamilton ran amok whenever it got its hands on the football.

Injuries played a part, injuries that began to expose how thin the Als were on defence.

Enter Jeff Reinebold, whose return to three-down football was received with some curiosity given his colourful background.

But Reinebold has shown maturity and awareness in getting his players to buy into system that will apply pressure.

The knock has been on the back end, especially in man coverage, but the many pieces forced to assume new roles are beginning to feel very much at ease, including Anderson.

“This whole season has been a process, at times challenging,’’ he said. “When you have guys filling in here, having to play there, it’s a matter of time, continuity and chemistry.”

Sunday has the potential to be a high-scoring affair if Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo are able to sit back in the pocket and deliver the football.

It may turn out to be one of those games where the last team with the football will win.

At the same time, it may turn out that defences dominate.

“I can understand why everyone’s jumping on the Toronto bandwagon,” Reinebold said. “They’re playing their best football right now. The pundits can say what they choose. Ultimately, the game comes down to stacking enough good plays on one another. You need to have more good plays than the opponent. How you get them is less relevant than getting them.

“The fact that we’re still on the journey with four other teams sitting at home says we’ve been good enough to be here. Will we be good enough as a team to win and go one more step along the journey? I hope so.”

The loss of linebacker Rod Davis, who can cover, play run defence or come with pressure, will hurt Montreal’s chances against an Argos offence that has clearly peaked at the right time.

Given the amount of changes both teams have initiated, it’s hard to tell who has the edge, but how Montreal’s defence decides to get to Ray will go a long way in determining the winner.

It’s why the 27-point average the Als yielded this season is of little consequence going into Sunday’s showdown.

It’s why Anderson puts no stock in how the defence was perceived by many around the league.

It’s why the Als will win if their defence hangs in and limits Toronto’s big-play capability.

“People get caught up in the number of points (Montreal’s defence surrendered), yet we’re four games over .500,” GM Jim Popp said of a team that finished the season at 11-7 and the all-important bye.

“At the end of the day, stats can go out the window. It’s about getting to this point, winning your division and playing this game. All people care about is who won the Grey Cup.”

In the end, that’s what everyone will remember.

MONTREAL ‘HOME’ FOR GREEN

Even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s apparent S.J. Green made the right call when the Argos reached out and called the Als about this promising receiver toiling on the practice roster.

Green could have an Argo had he decided to exercise what many have usually exercised when a team is going to provide a game cheque and an opportunity.

“The situation just wasn’t right,’’ Green said. “It wasn’t right for my family and it wasn’t right for myself at that time.”

Green would sit down with Als GM Jim Popp when the Argos inquired.

“At that moment, it was best for me to stay here and it’s worked out for the best, for the organization, for myself,’’ Green said. “This is home for me.”

Who knows what would have happened had Green gone to Toronto in 2008.

And how knows how many balls Green will catch in Sunday’s East final.

A playmaker who is as physical as any receiver, Green understands the kind of coverages the Argos like to use and realizes virtually anybody who lines up in the secondary may have to cover Green.

“I plan on winning my routes, simple as that,’’ he added.

Naturally, it all starts up front with pass protection.

Green has been in this position before, playing at home with a shot of playing for a championship.

“If I could put it all in one word, I’d say it’s ready,’’ said Green when asked to sum up the team’s mood.


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