Alouettes 33 Eskimos 23
EDMONTON — Trailing in the fourth quarter, the Montreal Alouettes needed a big play to avoid opening the 2010 CFL season with a second straight loss.
Jerald Brown delivered for the defending Grey Cup champions.
Brown’s interception return for a touchdown was the difference as the Alouettes got their first win of the season, defeating the Edmonton Eskimos 33-23 on Sunday night.
Facing a 23-18 deficit after the three quarters, the Alouettes surged ahead by three points five minutes into the fourth. Brown bounced off of Kamau Peterson to intercept a pass from Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray and return the ball 22 yards for the TD.
Montreal quarterback Anthony Cavillo added a two-point conversion on a pass to Jamel Richardson for a 26-23 advantage.
“We needed something big to happen at that point and that got us back into the game,” said Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman.
On the next series Ray was picked off again, this time by Etienne Boulay at midfield.
A pass interference call on Edmonton’s Jason Goss took the ball to the Edmonton six-yard line, where Cavillo found Kerry Watkins to make it 33-23.
With 2:29 remaining, the Eskimos caught a late break as Kenny Pettway blocked a punt. Edmonton got the ball on the Montreal 40 yard-line, but they couldn’t do anything with the opportunity.
The Als moved into a three-way to for first place in the CFL’s East Division with Toronto and Winnipeg at 1-1.
“It was a very tough win on the road,” Trestman said. “Our focus was to improve our focus from our loss last week. We wanted to eliminate the spaces that allowed a team to do what they did to us last week. And the other thing we didn’t want to do today was look at the scoreboard until the game was over.
“Our guys played very, very hard at the end. We finished the game and that was important. That means we got better than we were a week ago.”
Calvillo said Montreal’s defence forced the Eskimos to take field goals through most of the game, allowing the fourth-quarter comeback.
“They kept them out of the end zone, that was the biggest thing,” he said. “Even though we weren’t moving the ball that great, they sure gave us a chance. They created those turnovers and we were able to capitalize and come away with a big victory.”
The Eskimos (0-2) have already dug themselves an early hole and now trail West-leading Calgary and Saskatchewan by four points.
“We have more important things to worry about than our record,” Ray said. “The difference was that they scored touchdowns and we didn’t. We had plenty of opportunities to take it to them and didn’t do it. We just kept on letting them hang around and hang around. We created a lot of opportunities and couldn’t finish and it came back to haunt us in the end.”
Eskimos head coach Richie Hall was shaking his head after the late collapse.
“It was like all of a sudden Murphy’s Law kicked in,” he said. “Whatever could go wrong, went wrong. We allowed some things to happen. We let them off the hook.”
Montreal started the scoring with a field goal on the first drive of the game by Damon Duvall. Edmonton also got within field goal range on its first possession but the attempt by backup kicker Derek Schiavone, a game-day substitution for injured Noel Prefontaine, was wide.
The Alouettes added a punt single before the Eskimos came roaring back with a quick 75-yard drive, capped off by a 43-yard pass from Ray to Fred Stamps that put Edmonton ahead 7-4 after one quarter.
Edmonton added three points to start the second on a short Schiavone field goal but Montreal responded quickly with a workmanlike drive, culminating in a two-yard plunge into the end zone by backup QB Ricky Santos, in for Calvillo for the short-yardage situation.
The Eskimos then regained the lead on a pair of field goals by Schiavone to make it 16-11.
Edmonton made it 22-11 to start the third with two more field goals, but several strong Eskimo drives fizzled out within scoring range.
The Eskimos looked poised to finally score another touchdown as Stamps was wide open on his way to the end zone with three minutes left but the fourth-year receiver dropped the perfect pass from Ray.
It was a turning point in the match and Stamps was well aware of it after the game.
“I felt the game came down to that one play,” he said. “It was the perfect pass and those are the hardest ones to catch sometimes when you are wide open. I took my eyes off it to get ready to run to the end zone. I didn’t realize I had dropped it until it hit the ground. I let the team down.”
The Alouettes made it a five-point game again on the final play of the third quarter as Calvillo tossed a 20-yard touchdown to Brian Bratton to cut Edmonton’s lead to 23-18.
Montreal heads to B.C. for a game against the Lions on Friday, while the Eskimos travel to Saskatchewan on Saturday.
Notes: In order to fill in for Prefontaine, Schiavone came in off of the nine-game injured list. Teams are allowed to make a roster move like that once in the season, meaning kick returner Tristan Jackson will not be available to return to the team until September, regardless of his progression. … Key Edmonton injuries included defensive end Greg Peach and defensive tackle Dario Romero, both out with ankle injuries. It was slotback Ben Cahoon’s 200th start with the Alouettes. … Eskimos running back Calvin McCarty reeled in his 100th career reception in the contest. … Eskimos linebacker Mark Restelli left the game with a knee injury. … The two teams came into the game 14-14 against each other since Montreal rejoined the league in 1996. However, Montreal has struggled at Commonwealth Stadium over the years, coming into the game with a 4-17 record and loser of the last three straight in Edmonton. … CFL commissioner Mark Cohon was in attendance for the game.