Jacques Chapdelaine’s mind hasn’t changed since Wednesday night. He still believes backup quarterback Vernon Adams picked up the necessary yard on a third-down play from the Ottawa eight-yard line in the game’s final moments.
And the Alouettes head coach told his players he would run the identical play again under similar circumstances.
“I think it was well executed. I thought the push was good. Obviously, it’s subjective. The people on the field didn’t see it as a gain that was sufficient for a first down. We obviously beg to differ. At the end, they have the (final) decision. We abide by it,” Chapdelaine said Sunday when the Als returned to practice at Olympic Stadium.
Trailing by five points with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Als took possession from their 19, quarterback Darian Durant producing an 11-play, 84-yard drive that consumed 4:16. The visitors were already forced to run one third-down play, with B.J. Cunningham sweeping to the left and gaining seven yards.
This time, following a one-yard gain by J.C. Beaulieu, the Als were faced with third and one. Although Adams was officially credited with a one-yard gain, when the officials spotted the ball and measured to see whether it was a first down, Adams was deemed to have been stopped inches short.
Montreal lost 24-19, its third defeat in five games. The Als are 0-2 on the road this season heading into Thursday night’s match in Winnipeg.
Chapdelaine had run out of challenges by that juncture, but the point is moot. Because of the turnover on downs, the play was reviewed by the Canadian Football League’s Toronto-based command centre. In a text message to the Montreal Gazette, Glen Johnson, the senior vice-president of football, confirmed a review had occurred, but the command centre saw no reason to alter the on-field decision.
“For our angle, we still feel good. Let me put it this way,” Chapdelaine said. “I don’t want to contradict what the CFL officials are saying. We still feel good about what we did on that play. As I told the players … same play, same situation, we’re calling the same play and I expect a positive outcome in a different world.”
Any coach or player will argue a game’s outcome isn’t decided by one play alone. On the short gain by Beaulieu that preceded the Adams sneak, there was a breakdown in the blocking scheme, according to Chapdelaine, which would have made the third-down scenario irrelevant.
The Als were also denied certain points in the second quarter from the Redblacks’ five-yard line. Durant attempted a pass into the end zone for Tiquan Underwood that was intercepted by Antoine Pruneau. Had they played it conservatively and kicked a field goal, they would have kicked another chip-shot late in the game instead of having Adams attempt to gain the yard.
That would have left Montreal ahead by a point with 1:33 remaining — no guarantee of victory.
Durant was intercepted twice — including his second pass of the game — and also fumbled. Tailback Brandon Rutley, starting for the first time this season for the injured Tyrell Sutton, fumbled in the opening quarter, resulting in an Ottawa field goal.
“Personally, I have to play better, up to a level I’m used to playing at,” said Rutley, who gained 48 yards on 13 carries, adding four receptions for 41 yards. He’ll get the start again this week.
“I have to do a better job of preparing myself and being locked in … so I can go out there and execute like I’ve always done,” Rutley continued. “Those kind of mistakes can’t happen. You know that. I’ve been playing too long to make mistakes like that. Even if I thought I was down, I have to finish through with the ball always in my hand.”
The Als, arguably, deserved a better fate in Ottawa. Durant passed for a season-high 452 yards and two touchdowns, while the visitors had 27 first downs and nearly 500 yards of net offence.
But the bottom line, once again, proved insufficient. Teams in the CFL can’t win games when they’re held below 20 points and find the end zone only twice. It marked the fourth time this season the Als have failed to score at least 20.
“We certainly had a lot of production. The yards are good,” Chapdelaine said. “You can say we don’t have that many points, but the yards were good. If you intermingle the two and analyze why, we turned the ball over on first and goal. We turned the ball over on that third-down attempt. That’s probably another set of points.
“I’d be somewhat upset if we didn’t have offensive production. We can fix isolated mistakes. We can’t fix schematic outcomes. The schematic outcomes are good. The isolated mistakes are keeping the points (off) the scoresheet.”
• Underwood suffered an ankle sprain and might miss this week’s game. He would be replaced by Eugene Lewis, if necessary.
• Canadian defensive-back Dominique Termansen has strained ligaments in his knee, but suffered no structural damage. That creates an opening for a non-import on the Als’ 44-man roster.
• New to the practice squad are offensive lineman Jeremy Lewis, wide receiver Jay Lee and running back Amir Carlisle. Lewis spent time in the CFL with Hamilton.