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Montreal plays final tune-up before beginning postseason push
Winnipeg, MB (Sports Network) - With the postseason no longer a possibility, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finish out the string as they meet up with the Montreal Alouettes in the regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon at Canad Inns Stadium.
By virtue of their loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last weekend, 28-18, the Blue Bombers took themselves out of playoff contention as they dropped their second game in the last three outings. Even though it doesn't have any bearing on the immediate future, the Bombers are having trouble identifying their starting quarterback for this week with Buck Pierce being sidelined.
Obviously, the Blue Bombers would like to finish a disappointing season on a positive note, but they are also using this opportunity to assess their current talent and figure out what their needs might be moving forward.
Not only does Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke have to make a decision between Alex Brink or Joey Elliott as his starter this weekend, he also has to sort out how much playing time key performers need and when/if he can insert others who are further down on the depth chart. One of those players would be quarterback Justin Goltz who has a grand total of just nine pass attempts since joining the Bombers back in 2010.
Judging by how erratic the offense has been this season for the Blue Bombers, due to injury more than anything else, the question might be why would Burke put anyone out there who isn't 100 percent healthy. With nothing on the line, this is a perfect opportunity to see Goltz and others in actual game conditions rather than the preseason where the talent level fluctuates greatly from week to week and team to team.
After 17 games the Bombers are last in the league in overall passing with 4,308 yards and have far more interceptions (22) than aerial touchdowns (16), resulting in just a 74.8 efficiency rating.
Over on the other side, Montreal has come on strong with three straight wins and five victories in the least seven outings. The Alouettes have played well enough to seal up the top spot in the East Division with a record of 11-6, thanks mostly to the exploits of quarterback Anthony Calvillo yet again.
In the narrow 27-25 home win over Edmonton last weekend, Calvillo completed 21-of-35 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, although he was also picked off twice. Backup quarterback Adrian McPherson contributed to the scoring with his one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter as well.
While it wasn't quite enough to alter the outcome, the Montreal defense went to sleep in the fourth quarter as they gave up three touchdowns as backup quarterback Matt Nichols converted just nine of his 15 pass attempts for a huge 230 yards and all three scores.
With his effort against the Eskimos, Calvillo reached 5,000 passing yards for the season, the first player in league history to reach that lofty total in seven different seasons during his career. Calvillo, who currently has the most passing yards in the league and leads Hamilton's Henry Burris by 212 yards heading into the final week of the season, could also tie Doug Flutie with a total of five seasons in which he has paced the league in passing, one behind the record held by both Ron Lancaster and Sam Etcheverry.
However, now comes word that the Alouettes plan to sit Calvillo since they've already carved out their spot in the playoffs, which means McPherson will be the primary under center for Montreal against Winnipeg.
Even though the two teams might not have anything to really play for this week, some individual players do have some goals that they can achieve, one of them being Montreal receiver Jamel Richardson. While a recap of the game between the Als and Eskimos notes that Richardson has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fifth straight year, there seems to be a few discrepancies from several sources.
Richardson's own stats say he caught three passes for 44 yards to give him 59 grabs for 993 yards for the season, but the stats released by the league earlier this week state that he is ninth in the league in receiving yards with 998 yards on 60 catches. Needless to say, it might be prudent to leave no doubt and for McPherson to get the ball to Richardson several times just to be sure.
These two squads met up less than a month ago in Montreal where the Blue Bombers slipped by with a 27-22 victory in order to snap a two-game slide in the series. Nevertheless, the Als still own a 45-35-2 edge, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts, dating back to 1946.
10/31 11:31:14 ET