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CFL Preview - Montreal (1-2) at Calgary (2-1)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 20, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: For just the second time since 1997, the Montreal Alouettes find themselves dealing with a 1-2 start as they prepare to challenge the Calgary Stampeders for the second straight week, this time at McMahon Stadium.
Montreal, which lost only two home games all of last season, was taken out at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium last week by the Stampeders in a 22-14 final, which wasn't nearly as close as the final score might indicate.
The Als, one of the most successful clubs in the CFL over the last decade, have now dropped two straight games after slipping by Winnipeg in the opener on the road, 38-33. The good news for Montreal, if there is such a thing at this point for new head coach Dan Hawkins, is that all four squads in the Eastern Conference have only one win in three chances, therefore keeping Montreal from being lost in the standings already.
A 19-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Calvillo to Brandon London in the first quarter got the Als off on the right foot last week, but then the offense went cold. The only other score for Montreal in the meeting came on a blocked punt return by Ed Gainey late in the fourth quarter, giving the hometown fans some much-needed hope before Calgary kicker Rene Paredes knocked through a 39-yard field goal in the final minute of regulation.
Calvillo, who has been taken to the ground far too often in the early going this season, hit 22-of-36 passes for 205 yards, was sacked twice and picked off once in the outing. Arland Bruce, a new addition to the Montreal offense for this season, showed signs of life with five catches for 80 yards, but that made little difference in the outcome.
The Montreal offensive line provided much better protection for Calvillo in Week 3, after permitting seven sacks a week earlier, but the unit did take a significant hit when guard Scott Flory went to the locker room with an injury in the third period.
The prognosis for Flory is not good, with the team expecting him to miss the rest of the season with a torn biceps. One of the all-time greats along the offensive line for the Als, Flory had started every regular-season contest for Montreal for the last 12 years.
The change along the line could not come at a worse time for the Als and Calvillo, seeing as how the signal-caller is suffering through one of the worst three-game stretches in his illustrious career. The league's all-time leader in most passing categories, Calvillo has completed fewer than 59 percent of his attempts thus far in 2013, resulting in just three touchdowns and four interceptions. Because of those numbers, Calvillo is in rare territory with an efficiency rating of only 69.0.
Making Calvillo's life more difficult is the continued absence of left guard Andrew Woodruff who was placed on the nine-game injured list after suffering a concussion during the team's home opener in Week 2.
From a defensive standpoint, Chip Cox is making a name for himself on the other side of the line for the Alouettes, currently tied for the league lead in total tackles with 24 (along with JC Sherritt of Edmonton). Cox, who has spent his entire eight-year career in Montreal, is coming off a career-high 82 stops from a year ago and could easily surpass that number if Calvillo and the Als offense doesn't find a way to remain on the field for more snaps the rest of the way.
For the Stamps, quarterback Kevin Glenn took his lumps from the Montreal defense last week, suffering through five sacks, but still he was able to convert all but six of his 28 pass attempts for 268 yards and a score. Backup signal-caller Bo Levi Mitchell, who could have given his team a huge lead in the second half, was sacked near the goal line as well by the Als.
Jon Cornish helped out with 18 rushing attempts for a game-high 90 yards for Calgary as well.
With quarterback Drew Tate out of the lineup last week, the open roster spot gave Brad Sinopoli a chance to show his value to the franchise and he did not disappoint. Included as one of his five receptions for 81 yards, matching Nik Lewis who made his gains on six catches, was a fantastic one-handed grab along the sidelines which has to be encouraging for the receiver and his coaching staff.
Also earning a piece of the spotlight for the Stamps last week was Paredes who knocked through all five of his field goals, en route to being named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
Paredes has now made good on all seven of his field goal attempts and leads the league in scoring with 30 points through three games. The kicker has converted 25 straight field goals, leaving him five shy of tying Paul McCallum for the all-time record in that department.
In 2012, these teams played twice in the first three weeks of the season, with each winning on its home field. Obviously the Als can't make that happen this time around, but still the squad could press for a split nonetheless.
We keep waiting for Calvillo to break a game wide open, but maybe time has finally caught up with the aging passer, with key injuries adding to the problem for the Alouettes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 26, Montreal 18
07/17 10:32:20 ET