The losing skid is over and the Montreal Alouettes have their defence to thank.
Led by CFL tackles leader Chip Cox, the Alouettes held the slumping Saskatchewan Roughriders to 15 yards on the ground, picked off three Darian Durant passes, sacked him four times and stuffed a third-and-one attempt on the goal line in their 17-12 victory on Sunday.
“We win and lose as a team,” said Cox, who picked off Durant in the end zone to stop Saskatchewan’s final drive and secure the win. “The team needed that from us today and that’s what we did.
“The team’s been needing that from us for the last few weeks and we haven’t been able to pull it through for them. Today, we did and we got the W.”
Duron Carter scored the only touchdown for Montreal (5-8), which ended a three game losing run. The slotback was named the star of the game as he caught six passes for 152 yards, including a 45-yard effort to set up one of three Sean Whyte field goals.
Weston Dressler had the lone TD for the Roughriders (8-5), who lost a fourth game in a row.
The highlight for the visitors came about 10 minutes into the opening quarter, when slotback Geroy Simon made history by hauling in his 1,018th career reception, breaking the record of former Alouette Ben Cahoon. He ended the game with 1,020.
A message of congratulations from Cahoon was shown on the scoreboard, but the Riders will wait until they are at home Oct. 12 against Edmonton to celebrate his feat.
Simon was in no mood for that after the game.
“We’re just not executing now,” the 15-year veteran said. “The defence is holding up their part of the bargain by holding them to minimal points, but I can only speak for the offence.
“We’re just not making plays we need to make. The leaders have to lead. We just have to figure it out. We have to take a long look in the mirror and ask if we’re doing everything we need to win.”
Despite near-perfect sunny weather and the largest crowd of the year at Percival Molson Stadium of 24,105, neither team used the conditions to move the ball consistently.
Durant completed 24 of 46 passes for 339 yards, but he missed open receivers repeatedly and threw the three picks.
Chris Garrett, filling in for injured running back Kory Sheets, gained nine yards on five carries. The Riders have not won in three games since Sheets sprained his right knee against Toronto.
Alouettes’ quarterback Josh Neiswander was good on 21 of 36 passes for 264 yards. He was not intercepted and was never sacked.
Montreal’s woes came from dropped passes and some bumbling moments on special teams. But the defence erased any errors.
After Whyte tied the game at 1-1 late in the first quarter, Durant hit Chris Getzlaf with a 70-yard pass that gave the Roughriders first down inside the five. The Alouettes defence stopped all three attempts and took over the ball at the one.
Montreal conceded a safety, and Saskatchewan threatened again when it got the ball back, only to see Geoff Tisdale pick off a pass in the end zone.
Another Roughriders drive at the end of the third quarter was stopped by a leaping, one-handed interception by Jerald Brown.
Troy Smith, now the backup with both Anthony Calvillo and Tanner Marsh injured, got in for two plays in the third and nearly produced a score, but Jerome Messam was stripped of the ball near the goal by Terrell Maze after a long run off a screen pass.
The win took some pressure off the Alouettes, who went into the weekend in danger of being caught by the Eskimos for a crossover playoff position, with a showdown coming on Saturday in Edmonton. The Eskimos’ loss to the Argonauts on Saturday, coupled with the Alouettes win gives Montreal a four-point cushion, each with five games left to play.
“The pressure’s still on us,” said Cox. “We need to win more games.
“We’re not in the playoffs, so we can’t just go home and relax. We have to play even better next week (Saturday in Edmonton) to get another W.”
The Alouettes led 4-3 at the intermission, but Ricky Schmitt tied the game with one of his three punt singles on the opening drive of the second half.
Neiswander hit Carter with a short pass and saw the slotback zig-zag his way for a 45-yard touchdown at 13:12 of the third quarter.
Durant struck back to open the fourth, as he hit Taj Smith, Simon, and Dressler with passes before finding Dressler uncovered at the Montreal goal-line to tie the game at 3:05.
Montreal went ahead on Whyte’s 40-yard boot at 6:18. After another Rider single, Whyte hit from 19 yards with 1:32 left to play.