Bedell's Blitz: Calvillo Scores a Knockout with His Record Toss
Montreal Alouettes QB Anthony Calvillo set a professional football record with this pass to Jamel Richardson. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Published Tuesday, October 11, 2011 2:37PM EDT
Anyone tuning in to Monday's tilt between the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes expecting to see a beauty pageant would've been sorely disappointed.
The way the game played out, it was more slugfest than love fest. But on a day Anthony Calvillo was set to make history as the CFL's all-time passing leader, how could you want it any other way between two East Division rivals?
If the Als' hard-fought 29-19 win proved anything, it proved there are no cakewalks on the CFL schedule regardless of what the standings might imply and irrespective of what records are on the line.
Playing for their slim playoff lives, the Argos threw everything they could at the Alouettes defensively to make it an uphill climb for Calvillo and the Alouettes' offence. But in the end, that just made the pivot's accomplishment all the sweeter for the effort.
The Argos also turned their most dangerous playmaker, returner Chad Owens, loose on the Als on special teams. And Owens didn't disappoint, giving the Argos their only major on the day with a 59-yard punt return.
In the end, though, Calvillo's sharpshooting and the Als' tireless defence were too much for Toronto to handle.
And with a beautiful 50-yard catch-and-run by Jamel Richardson to end the third quarter, Calvillo got his record and landed a knockout punch on the same play to end Toronto's post-season dreams.
Granted, the day was always going to be Anthony Calvillo's. The profundity of his accomplishment was going to draw the spotlight no matter how the game played out.
That said, though, it would be shameful not to turn the fringes of that spotlight on a couple of Alouettes' playmakers who shouldered a good bit of the heavy lifting Monday.
On a day when Toronto's defence held nothing back, Brandon Whitaker and Jamel Whitaker definitely put their hands up to carry the load offensively for Montreal.
Whitaker bit off consistent gains on his way to piling up 126 yards on 17 carries. He also added 43 yards on five catches to help move chains all game long. The success of the running game on first down went a long way toward turning the Als' offensive fortunes in the second half. And that was all Whitaker.
Richardson's work catching the ball had equal impact tilting the field for Calvillo and company. With much of his success coming YAC-style, Richardson tore off 134 yards on eight grabs. When he wasn't pulling balls away from Argos' defenders in traffic, Richardson was catching balls in stride to turn possession passes into long gains. His record-breaking 50-yard TD from Calvillo was the perfect example of the hard work he put in all game.
Defence Turns the Tide
Lined up against a mobile, strong-armed quarterback, a powerful runner, and a host of young receivers with absolutely nothing to lose, the Als' defence bent but never broke.
By game's end, Montreal had allowed the Argos only 332 yards on 55 plays offensively. Even when Toronto's drives were extended by penalties or the occasional big play, the Als' defence came up with enough plays to keep the Double Blue out of the end zone.
Montreal's defensive line posted five sacks on the day, two by veteran Anwar Stewart, to keep Jyles off his point and off his game. They also held RB Cory Boyd to a measly 27 yards on seven carries, making him a non-issue to the outcome of the tilt.
And when a big play needed to be made to swing the game the Als' way for good, Stewart provided a whopper with his safety of Jyles in the end zone early in the second half. More than just two points on the board, Stewart's play jumpstarted a second-half run in all three phases of the Als' attack.
Five Plays that Swung the Game
1) Chad Owens' Punt Return TD. (1st Quarter, 11:11)
With the game locked 3-3 late in the first quarter Sean Whyte punted from the Alouettes' 17-yard line. Immediate pressure up the middle from S Willie Pile forced Whyte to get the ball off quickly. As a result the punt fell short of the mid-field stripe and dribbled straight to returner Chad Owens at the Argos' 51-yard line. Initially Owens was surrounded by Kitwana Jones, Martin Bedard, Brian Ridgeway, and Walter Spencer. When Michael Giffin lunged to make the tackle, however, Owens sidestepped and then spun into a slight crease in the coverage. Owens' sudden juke surprised Kerry Carter who let the speedy returner shoot past him without making contact. Once through the traffic upright, Owens was flat gone for a 58-yard major. The TD was exactly the kind of big special teams play the Argos needed to get control of the game at 10-3. And it was exactly the kind of error the Als couldn't afford against such a desperate team.
2) Diamond Ferri's Unnecessary Roughness Penalty. (2nd Quarter, 9:09)
Facing second and 6 from the Als' 47-yard line, the Argos were stuffed for no gain trying to run a middle screen to RB Cory Boyd. On the play, push from the Alouettes' defensive front forced Steven Jyles to retreat more than he intended before releasing the pass to Boyd. That gave LB Ramon Guzman plenty of space and time to flow to the ball quickly before Boyd could make any headway. In front of the play, just on the fringe of the tackle area, centre Dominic Picard held his block on LB Diamond Ferri a little late after the whistle and a little too aggressively for Ferri's taste. In retaliation, Ferri pulled Picard's helmet off to draw the unnecessary roughness call, giving the Argos 15 yards and a fresh set of downs that would lead directly to three points. With his team struggling to claw back into the game at 10-6, Ferri had no business losing his cool on the play, and his indiscipline extended a drive for an Argos offence that seemed to have little chance of doing so without his help.
3) Anwar Stewart's Sack of Steven Jyles in the End Zone (3rd Quarter, 6:15)
Backed up under the shadow of his own goal post, Steven Jyles made the mistake of flushing out the back door of his pocket to avoid the Als' pressure. With Anwar Stewart rushing hard upfield off the left edge, Jyles was done-for as soon as he rolled backwards and to his own left behind the goal post to buy time. Stewart ran the QB down within three steps to secure a vital two points for Montreal with the safety to close the score to 16-15. More importantly, though, Stewart's play returned possession to Calvillo and the Als' offence with decent field position and some momentum to mount an attack at the goal line. There's no doubt Stewie's play woke up every phase of the Alouettes' game, making it possible for the team to play on its front foot the rest of the way with energy and conviction.
4) Anthony Calvillo's 19-Yard TD Scramble. (3rd Quarter, 10:48)
Lined up on the left hash on second and 14 from the Argos' 19-yard line, the Als set up a pass play with three receivers to the field and two to the boundary. SB S.J. Green ran a corner route from high motion on the left side of the formation to draw defenders out of the centre of the field. Jamel Richardson ran a post into the void from the right side of the formation. When Calvillo stepped up into the pocket to avoid the outside rush of DT Claude Wroton, his pump fake to Richardson at the post pulled Toronto's secondary toward the receiver. It also opened a running lane for Calvillo straight to the end zone you could've driven a truck through. Not only did A.C.'s scramble give the Als a 22-16 lead they wouldn't give back, it gave the QB a chance to show off a little of his underrated speed on a day when his arm was destined to get all the press.
5) Calvillo's Record-Breaker to Jamel Richardson. (3rd Quarter, 15:00)
On the final play of the third quarter, Montreal faced a second and five from the Argos' 50-yard line. With the ball dead-centre on the field, the Als ran to receivers into the pattern from the right side of the formation and three to the left. Operating out of the shotgun, Calvillo hit Richardson on a 12-yard slant at the left hash. When S Willie Pile tried to cut Richardson at his ankles instead of taking the big receiver high on the tackle, Richardson bounced outside off contact to streak right into the end zone untouched. Needing 45 yards to break the all-time passing yardage record, Calvillo got 50 on Richardson's beautiful grab-and-go. There simply couldn't have been a better way for A.C. to get the record than on such a perfectly-timed TD throw that hit his receiver in stride to let the playmaker do his work. The one and only hitch to the play came when Richardson tossed the ball into the stands after the score, not realizing the magnitude of the keepsake. Luckily, the recipient of the gift in the stands returned the ball for Calvillo to put on his mantle as professional football's all-time leading passer.
The Alouettes get their final regular-season shot at the Hamilton Ticats this Sunday at Percival Molson Stadium. And I'll be in the house to see all the action go down in person.
Be sure to check back Saturday for my take on how the Als can take care of business at home against an East Division rival.
Until then, take care. And be on the lookout for a Louisianan walking the streets of your fine city this weekend.