With 6 games left in the CFL season the Montreal Alouettes set up the goal of going 6-0. They felt that this would get them into a good position for the playoffs and that they would be going in on a good run. This challenge started off well with two straight wins against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos. Next up was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It seemed like things were going to go according to plan coming up to the vital home and away series against the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
With a victory Montreal would knock Winnipeg out of the race for the playoffs. Winnipeg was 2-12 coming into the game, but they were not mathematically eliminated yet. Gotta love the CFL! The Als could not take the Blue Bombers lightly as one of their 2 wins was in week 2 of the season right here in Montreal.
All we heard all week from the Alouettes including GM and head coach Jim Popp was “…throw all the records out of the window – all that matters is the win”. With the coach saying that you would have thought that Montreal would come out smoking. Instead they played very hesitantly and were completely flat. This was especially true of the offense under Josh Neiswander, which couldn’t get any rhythm going. Not that the defense was any better. Surprising that a unit that has been excellent all season long relinquished 34 points to the Blue Bombers, but they cannot be completely blamed as the offense put them in trouble several times.
It started off as a gray and misty day on this Thanksgiving Monday in Montreal. Max Hall, ex of the NFLs Arizona Cardinals, was the starting quarterback for Winnipeg. Winnipeg’s offense has had the most turnovers in the CFL so I’m sure the Montreal defense was chomping at the bit to get at them. In what was like a page out of the film Freaky Friday, Montreal’s and Hamilton’s offenses swapped personalities for the afternoon and the Als shot themselves in the foot committing 6 turnovers to Winnipeg’s 2.
On the first offensive series for the Alouettes they got a 1st down on the ground courtesy of the tandem of Jerome Messam and Tyrell Sutton. Then Neiswander’s pass to Arland Bruce deflected off his fingers into the arms of Desia Dunn. This first interception happened deep in the Montreal zone with Winnipeg getting the ball 1st and goal on the Montreal 10 yard line. The defense did not allow the Blue Bombers in for a touchdown, but they did relinquish a 16 yard field goal by Sandro DeAngelis.
The bad start for the Als continued in the 1st quarter and Winnipeg was looking like the team that had come to play. On their next offensive series Montreal did not look any better. Neiswander was still not looking steady with passes behind receivers (Bruce) or too long (Eric Deslauriers). On a 3rd and 1 back-up quarterback Troy Smith was brought in to run the quarterback keep and he ended up fumbling the snap and the Als turned over the ball on downs. Then late in the quarter kicker/punter Sean Whyte fumbled the snap on a punt deep in Montreal’s end. He just managed to fall on the ball before Winnipeg got them, but the Blue Bombers started another series deep in the Montreal end getting the ball on the 17 yard line. With 0:27 left in the 1st quarter Hall completed a 17 yard catch and run play to his running back Will Ford for Winnipeg’s first touchdown and a 10-0 lead for the visitors.
The 2nd quarter continued as the first with Winnipeg’s Alex Suber intercepted a Neiswander pass intended for Bruce. We were just over a minute into the 2nd quarter and Montreal had already committed 4 turnovers. Coming into the game Neiswander had 9 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions, so this game was not going to help his totals. Troy Smith was brought for his usual (lately) one offensive series at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. The Als got a couple of 1st downs in which Smith demonstrated his arm strength. It all culminated with Smith’s first touchdown pass in the CFL on a 12 yard pass to SJ Green which made the score 10-7.
After stopping the Blue Bombers on 3rd-and-1 Smith came back out, but on his first play from scrimmage he tried to air it out and his hand was hit as he released the ball and it was intercepted by Cauchy Muamba. Turnaround, or in this case turnover, is fair play they say, so Winnipeg gave the ball back to Montreal via a fumbled snap that was picked up by Mike Edem. This time Neiswander came back in and he got the team on a roll. Mostly due to a couple of forward pass interference calls on Duron Carter, to be honest. After a big 40 yard pass completion to Carter that brought the Als to the Bombers’ 1 yard line, Smith came back in to hand the ball off to Sutton who rumbled in for a touchdown. This gave the Als their first lead of the game of 14-10. Sutton is not the biggest running back, but runs like he is big. He also has good hands as a receiver coming out of the backfield.
Montreal got 3 more points with 1:29 left in the 1st half via a 20 yard Whyte field goal after Ben Wells partially blocked a Mike Renaud punt. The ball was picked up by Shea Emry who returned it to the Winnipeg 12 yard line. These were not the last points of the half as Winnipeg scored their second touchdown on a 40 yard pass from Hall to Clarence Denmark. So the score at half was 17-17.
In the 3rd quarter there were fewer turnovers and the score went back and forth. At the 10:20 mark Whyte put Montreal back up again with an 11 yard field goal. After a couple of Montreal penalties back-up quarterback scored Winnipeg’s third touchdown on a 1 yard sneak. Whyte then booted a 48 yard field goal with under 2 minutes remaining to make the score 24-23 Winnipeg.
Montreal went back up 26-24 after a couple of more forward pass interference calls on Carter led to another Whyte field goal. Montreal was back on top for the last time in the game. The hero for the Blue Bombers was Ford as he scored the winning touchdown the second play after he broke it for a 69 yard run to the Montreal 1 yard line. He managed to punch it in from there.
That pretty much sealed the deal as Montreal was not able to get neither a touchdown nor field goals as the game ended 34-27 Winnipeg. A heart breaking defeat due to the flat nature the Als played an important game. Montreal was not nearly good enough. At times it looked like they were sleepwalking through the game while Winnipeg had come to compete.
Next up for the Alouettes is a home-and-away series against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. To finish in 2nd place in the East and host a playoff game Montreal will have to win both of these games and hope that Winnipeg defeats Hamilton in the last game of the season. Montreal and Hamilton play in Montreal (their last home game of the season) on Sunday afternoon.
Name Comp Att Yards TD Int
NEISWANDER, J 19 38 199 0 3
SMITH, T 3 6 35 1 1
Name Comp Att Yards TD Int
HALL, M 16 27 223 2 0
BOLTUS, J 0 1 0 0 0
Name No Yards Lg TD
SUTTON, T 5 35 20 1
MESSAM, J 11 32 9 0
BRUCE, A 1 5 5 0
SMITH, T 1 2 2 0
CARTER, D 1 1 1 0
Name No Yards Lg TD
FORD, W 13 93 69 1
HALL, M 1 4 4 0
BOLTUS, J 5 1 1 1
-Player of the Game: Will Ford (93 yards – ground, 20 yards – receiving, 2 TDs) – Winnipeg
-Final Score: Montreal – 27
Winnipeg – 34