Alouettes’ Nik Lewis: ‘I Told Them to Put it on my Back, and They didn’t do it’
We’ll never know what might have been had Duron Carter played, but this was a game that screamed for a big-play receiver, someone who might have carried this struggling Alouettes team over the hump.
But Carter, the Als’ leading receiver and one of the few on offence capable of making big plays, was serving a one-game suspension. Without him, the undermanned and overmatched Als hung tough but, again, came up just short.
This 19-14 defeat Thursday night to the Ottawa Redblacks at Molson Stadium was a microcosm of their season. Another valiant performance by the defence fell short as Montreal’s struggling offence was held to one touchdown. The defence, for the second consecutive week, held the opposition to one touchdown.
“I told them to put it on my back. They didn’t do it. I told them to put it on my back, and they didn’t do it,” slotback Nik Lewis said, perhaps repeating the sentence for more significance. “I made every play that came my way, didn’t I? Pretty much every play. Let me carry you. I didn’t get a chance to carry them like I wanted to.
“We keep grinding. I keep playing receiver, making plays when they give me an opportunity,” Lewis continued.
Montreal Alouettes slotback Nik Lewis rolls over on his back after catching a pass as they face the Ottawa Redblacks during second half CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, September 1, 2016.
Montreal Alouettes slotback Nik Lewis rolls over on his back after catching a pass as they face the Ottawa Redblacks during second half CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, September 1, 2016. Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Lewis, as usual, was selling himself short. On this night, he did everything humanly possible to carry this struggling team, now 3-7 and faced with the stark reality of missing the Canadian Football League playoffs for a second consecutive season — something that seemed unheard of not so long ago.
Lewis is 34 now, in his 13th CFL season, but continues wearing his heart on his sleeve, consistently carrying this team and being one of the best Montreal offensive players, if not the best. He caught 10 passes for 92 yards, including one for 26 yards. Forty of his yards came after the catch, the 5-foot-10, 240 pounder bulldozing his way over opponents. He also scored the Als’ only touchdown, a five-yard reception in the second quarter, capping an eight-play, 62-yard drive.
No other Montreal receiver had more than three catches. Kenny Stafford had a 36-yard catch that set up the touchdown — and never caught another ball. At one point, he could be seen criticizing general manager and head coach Jim Popp on the team bench, Stafford’s frustration obviously boiling over. Moments later, the two were seen hugging.
For the first time this season, the Als lost a game they were leading at halftime. Montreal was outscored 13-6 in the second half, including 6-3 over the final 15 minutes. For those keeping score at home, the Als have now been outscored 85-33 in the fourth quarter through 10 games.
The Als have played six games at home, losing five. At least they’re 2-2 on the road, where their next two games will be played, starting next Friday, at British Columbia.
“For me personally it’s very hard. It’s frustrating,” Lewis said. “I want to be better and do more.”
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Kevin Glenn, left, is sacked by Ottawa Redblacks defensive lineman Zack Evans during second half CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, September 1, 2016.
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Kevin Glenn, left, is sacked by Ottawa Redblacks defensive lineman Zack Evans during second half CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, September 1, 2016. Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Quarterback Kevin Glenn completed 21 of 33 passes for a modest 205 yards. One week after being intercepted four times, the Redblacks pilfered two more. One, on the Als’ opening possession, appeared to deflect off Corbin Louks into the hands of John Boyett. Louks, who was replacing Carter, caught two passes for nine yards.
In the fourth quarter, Glenn underthrew B.J. Cunningham. That pass was intercepted by former Alouettes cornerback Mitchell White. His 29-yard return set up one of Christopher Milo’s four field goals.
When Glenn finally was brought into the interview room — after providing an official with a post-game urine sample — he said he wouldn’t discuss the interceptions. Cunningham, meanwhile, said he didn’t help his quarterback enough on the play, claiming he should have been inside. But Popp claimed he believed the route, and ball, were supposed to go outside.
With the passing game not working, it was a night that begged for a ground attack. Tyrell Sutton, the league’s leading rusher in 2015, gained an impressive 71 yards but received only a modest 10 carries — clearly not sufficient. When your tailback is averaging 7.1 yards per carry, a team should keep riding that horse. That’s football 101.
“We were lethargic. No points in the fourth quarter, yet again,” said Sutton, overlooking the field goal. “We’re down by two points going into the fourth quarter and don’t pull it out. The defence gave us every opportunity to be the hero. We didn’t do it.”
One of Sutton’s carries generated a 27-yard gain. He should have received more touches. “I don’t know. Maybe. Who knows,” said Sutton, when asked whether he was sufficiently utilized. “Probably. Hindsight’s 20/20. What do you think? We have to find a way to win. I can always say I want the ball more.”
Penalties, another recurring theme this season, came back to haunt the Alouettes again. On the Redblacks’ only touchdown, an eight-play, 94-yard drive in the third quarter, Winston Venable was called for objectionable conduct after Brendan Gillanders was stopped on second down. Three plays later, Jeffrey Finley was penalized for roughing the passer.
There was some thought the officials might have incorrectly nabbed Venable, but he refused to make any excuses.
Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris is sacked by Montreal Alouettes linebacker Winston Venable (31) during first half CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, September 1, 2016.
Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris is sacked by Montreal Alouettes linebacker Winston Venable (31) during first half CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, September 1, 2016. Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS
“It was a rough one. Obviously I made a mistake out there and the refs chose to call a penalty,” Venable said. “It was a big turning point in the game. I think that was an unfortunate circumstance, an unfortunate penalty. It was a crucial play of the game.
“Hopefully we get better. We have to stick together as a team and figure out ways to score on defence, create more turnovers. Keep playing hard and figure out a way to get more points on the board as a defence.”