It has been playoff drought for Montreal of late. The Canadiens have not been in playoffs for 2 years, the Impact have not made playoffs for 3 years and the last time the Alouettes were in the playoffs was 2014. Not much to cheer about as a fan of Montreal teams. That streak came to an end on Saturday and it was the Als who stopped it.
Ever since the retirement of star quarterback Anthony Cavillo, the Montreal Alouettes have not been a good team. Mostly because it seemed like they could not find a good quarterback to replace him. Since he retired in 2013 Montreal has gone through a string of quarterbacks like Kevin Glenn, Rakeem Cato, Brandon Bridge, Vernon Adams Jr., Jonathon Crompton, Antonio Pipkin, and Johnny Manziel. And I am probably leaving some out. Besides being unstable at that key position the team has also gone through several coaches and general managers. This season began with general manager Kavis Reed being fired and head coach Mike Sherman leaving the team. Not good signs. Yet, somehow, this team has come through that.
In my opinion, there are two reasons for the Als having a strong season so far. They say that with age comes wisdom and that everyone deserves a second chance. Both of these can be applied to quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. After a short stint with the Als in which he did not impress, he is now back for his second kick at the can and has everyone talking about an MVP nomination. The 26-year-old took over from injured starter Antonio Pipkin and has strung together one good game after another. His strong play in part has to be attributed to the second reason for Alouettes’ improvement – the appointment of longtime CFL quarterback Khari Jones to the head coach position.
Adams Jr. was making the start after serving a one game suspension for ripping off the helmet of a Winnipeg Blue Bomber player and striking him with it. Showing no ill signs of the week off, on the team’s first offensive series, he led them down the field for a touchdown and early lead. Calling his own number from the five yard line, the QB rumbled in for the touchdown.
The rest of the 1st half was more problematic offensively for the Als. It was pretty much all Calgary. Their quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell, was just back from injury and started off hot. Because the home side could not get any pressure on him, Mitchell was able to stand in the pocket and pick apart the Als’ defence. Receivers found pockets of space in the Als’ largely zone defence and settled there.
Coming out of the half time break down 17-10 the Als had to count themselves lucky. They stopped the Stamps on their first offensive series and set themselves up for a punt return. Another aspect of the Alouettes’ game which has been sorely lacking of late has been their kick return. With that in mind, the team signed Mario Alford this week and he became the kick returner. That paid off right away as he returned the punt 85 yards for a major. This tied the score at 17-17.
Though Adams Jr. had a decent game going 18 for 29, running for a touchdown and passing for 206 yards, it certainly was a bit of a struggle offensively for the home team. MVP for the game certainly would go to the defence. Once again it was the team’s defence which shone. After surrendering 17 points to the Stampeders in the 1st half they held them off the scoreboard completely in the 2nd half. The defence has been good all year round. Though they surrendered plenty of yards they did come up with big plays when needed. This included a turnover on downs, an interception and three forced fumbles.
This allowed Adams Jr. and the offence to scrape together enough points to eke out a win. Despite benefiting from five turnovers, the offence only got three points out of that. Opportunities wasted!
Boris Bede got the team a single point off a punt and then three on a 24 yard fieldgoal. Putting Montreal up 21-17.
It was still nail biting time with Calgary having time on the clock to try to march down the field for the win. Once again the defence came up big. It wasn’t until safety Boseko Lokombo batted down a third down Mitchell pass with 49 seconds remaining that fans could breathe easy.
Besides Adams Jr. stellar play and Jones’ coaching what the Alouettes have done well this season is show heart. They never lower their arms and give up. Several times they have come back from behind to win. There is a desire there that has been missing for a few seasons.
With the win Montreal guaranteed themselves no lower than 2nd place in the East, so a spot in the playoffs. Not only a spot, but they would be the home team for the Eastern semi-finals on November 10. As for the regular season, the team has four games remaining with two at home. Next up is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
-Final Score: Montreal – 21
Calgary – 17