Matthews doesn't regret going for two
9/18/2005 1:21:02 PM
VANCOUVER (CP) - Conventional wisdom says play for a tie on the road but Montreal Alouettes coach Don Matthews rolled the dice against the undefeated B.C. Lions.
They came up snake eyes and the Lions won 27-26 on Saturday to preserve an 11-0 start to their CFL season.
Dave Stala had just caught a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Calvillo with 50 seconds remaining to bring Montreal to within a point and cap a furious comeback.
Kick the virtually automatic convert for the tie, silence the raucous crowd of 36,066 and go for the win in overtime, right? Matthews didn't become the winningest coach in CFL history by playing percentages. He ordered a two-point conversion.
Calvillo lofted a pass to Ben Cahoon but he lost a battle with B.C. cornerback Dante Marsh in the corner of the end zone. In any event, the Als were flagged for illegal substitution.
"I felt it was very difficult to play offence with the crowd (noise)," Matthews said of his decision which will be analyzed by Monday morning quarterbacks and could have playoff implications.
"We were having a difficult time a lot of the time with the penalties ... I thought we could get the two points. And I'd do it again."
Perhaps it was professional courtesy but B.C. coach Wally Buono was non-committal after Matthews let him off the hook.
"If you're a coach and you want to win, you play like you want to win," Buono said after the Lions' 14th consecutive regular-season victory tied the 1954-55 Edmonton Eskimos for second on the CFL's all-time list in that category.
"They had the momentum at that time. Was it a good call or a bad call? I'm not going to say it was a great call, and I'm not going to criticize it."
Defence and special teams keyed the victory for the Lions who were outplayed by the Alouettes who had 496 net yards of offence to 360 for B.C.
Costly fumbles - Montreal lost four - and penalties either killed Alouette drives or gave B.C. quarterback Dave Dickenson short fields to work with. Dickenson engineered TD drives from the Montreal 41 and 19 yard lines and the B.C. 50.
He threw six yards to Geroy Simon after Otis Floyd forced an Ezra Landry kick return fumble. Tyrone Williams recovered a Calvillo fumble and two plays later Jason Clermont scored on a three-yard toss.
A 45-yard Aaron Lockett kick return in the fourth quarter led to a 16-yard scoring strike to Jerel Myers for a 27-20 lead for the Lions who also had a 15-point advantage with 11:31 to play.
Duncan O'Mahony kicked two B.C. field goals - one set up by a 78-yard Lockett-to-Antonio Warren reverse on the opening kickoff return - two converts, a single and conceded a safety.
"If we didn't get the turnovers from our defence, we'd have taken it on the chin," said Dickenson who completed 27 of 36 pass attempts for 314 yards but was sacked seven times.
"If we win this game we know if we go up to (second-place) Edmonton next week and win there, we're looking real good for the West."
The inconsistent Als, now 5-6 and below .500 for the third time this season, missed a chance to close to within two points of the East Division-leading Toronto Argonauts.
Calvillo, who completed fourth-quarter TD passes to slotbacks Ben Cahoon, Terry Vaughn and Stala, was confident Matthews' conversion call was correct because Montreal had momentum.
"The coach put it on us and we didn't come up with the big play," said Calvillo who threw for 419 yards, completing 30 of 46 attempts.
Cahoon returned from wrist and elbow injuries that cost him four games to lead all receivers with 113 yards. The Alouettes made one two-point conversion when Calvillo passed to Kerry Watkins. Damon Duval added a field goal and a convert.
"Offensively, I was a little disappointed we turned the ball over in the score zone," said Calvillo who also found Stala, the CFL's leading Canadian receiver, for 99 yards. "Against a team like that you just can't afford mistakes."
But Montreal made them and the B.C. turned two into TDs.
"We've got some very athletic guys," said Williams, the 296-pound defensive tackle who's undefeated this deep in the season for the first time since high school.
"It's just a great team effort. We've got a lot of pride and we're taking this serious. We feel we can score on defence and help win the game."
Buono said his pride stems from the Lions' tenacity.
"I'm most proud of how we lined up and we won. We're going to get ready to play Edmonton and we'll get ready to be 12-0."
NOTES: Montreal linebacker Jeremiah Garrison ended his CFL debut with a torn quad muscle ... the teams have a rematch Oct. 16 in Montreal.