In a rollercoaster season with more downs than ups, the Alouettes’ defence has, for the most part, been a model of consistency.
And there they were delivering the goods again in a 17-12 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Percival Molson Stadium on Sunday, snapping Montreal’s three-game losing streak.
It also provided the Alouettes with a four-point cushion on the Eskimos in the playoff race, a big tilt between the two looming large on Saturday in Edmonton.
“It’s a team game,” said defensive back Jerald Brown. “We just know we have to stick to it and (as a) defence we had to cut down on our mental (mistakes). We’ve been playing good all year but there were still some minor mistakes that were costing us. So we just had to fix that today.”
A highlight reel one-handed leaping grab by Brown late in the third quarter was one of three picks on the afternoon for the Alouettes. Geoff Tisdale came up with a big one in the end zone after a Brown penalty kept a Saskatchewan drive alive early in the second while Chip Cox denied the Roughriders a potential winning score with his game-ending snag.
Add to that three straight goal line stands to close out the first and start the second, forcing a turnover on downs.
“It seemed like the defence, most of the times when [the Roughriders] were threatening, they came up big and stopped them. Then we’d get back on the field and were able to change the field position somewhat, which made a difference today,” head coach and general manager Jim Popp said.
It was a slow first half, with punt singles on both sides and a conceded safety by the Alouettes marking the scoresheet. Points off offence finally came with five seconds left in the second quarter on Sean Whyte’s 32-yard field goal, putting the Alouettes up 4-3 at the break.
The inability on either side to produce points continued until late in the third quarter. With the teams tied 4-4, a second-and-eight situation for Montreal became a fresh set of downs on a pass interference call against the Roughriders. On the ensuing play, Josh Neiswander found Duron Carter with a 45-yard throw for the rookie’s third touchdown of the season.
It was one of team-high six catches for the 22-year-old, whose 152-yard haul – including a 46-yarder early on – led both sides.
“You can see he’s a special young man and he’s (got) big play potential,” said Popp. “For a guy playing his rookie season and really only has one year of college football, you can see what he’s capable of doing and what he’s going to be.
“He’s just learning and he’s got a huge future ahead of him. He’s special.”
Neiswander looked more comfortable in his third start of the season, completing 21 of 36 passes for 264 yards. And, for the second straight week, his tosses stayed out of opposing hands.
“Offensively we’ve really tried to do a better job of being more consistent and we wanted to keep from turning the ball over also,” he explained. “We had just one turnover today. As far as consistency, moving the ball effectively, I felt like we did a real good job of that today.”
The lone Montreal turnover came in the second half during Troy Smith’s brief appearance. Smith completing a 54-yard strike to Jerome Messam – the quarterback’s first CFL pass – before the running back lost it on a forced fumble near the end zone. It was one of two plays he would be in for.
“We planned on playing him more than that,” Popp noted. “After halftime we were like we have to play him and decided it was going to be the second series of the second half, and we still wanted to play him more than we did. Josh was doing well today and we didn’t want to get him out of rhythm.”