The Montreal Alouettes were reborn in 1996. That first year, they made the playoffs. Since then, this team has been in the post-season every single year since. So really, why should 2014 be any different?
This past Sunday at Percival Molson Stadium, the Alouettes fulfilled their destiny by claiming one of the two remaining playoff spots left with a 17-14 win over the Toronto Argonauts. The win also assures that the Alouettes can finish no worse than 2nd place in the East division at 9-9. But the hope for a positive record of 10-8 is very much alive and this Saturday at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field, their final test of the regular season waits for them. I’ll delve more into that later.
Once again, I am very grateful that ugly wins count just as much in the standings. If you were expecting a tight, defensive battle from both Montreal and Toronto, you got your wish. If you wanted to see the scoreboard light up like a Christmas tree, you were very disappointed. Neither offense really clicked during this contest as both teams were constantly trading two and outs. Both Ricky Ray and Jonathan Crompton were moving the ball downfield, but finding the end zone seemed to be a difficult task.
Whereas Ricky Ray had his way with the Alouettes back in August, he had no answer for the stout Montreal defense on this windy day on the top of Mont-Royal. In fact, it was his backup Mitchell Gale who notched Toronto’s lone TD on the day. Ray certainly played like an elite QB, but just couldn’t find the way to put more points on the board.
Going strictly by numbers, Jonathan Crompton wasn’t going to win this game without a lot of help. Thankfully, he had just that in the form of Tyrell Sutton, who’s done a fantastic job filling in for Brandon Whitaker. Sutton finished his day with 135 yards rushing, including Montreal’s first TD of the day. He missed the first part of the season to injury, but Sutton has found his form at the best possible time.
Much like last year, Tyrell came in out of nowhere and has quietly put together a strong running game. Crompton does have a powerful arm that is perfect for chucking some deep passes, but that arm will last a lot longer if he’s able to hand off the ball and get some big yards from his running backs.
And of course, Duron Carter is making some incredible memories for Alouettes fans with his tremendous play. Even with a few miscues, he’s been simply a treat to watch. And much like his Hall of Fame father, all he does is catch touchdowns all day long. In fact, Duron would have caught two touchdowns this past Sunday had the gadget play with S.J. Green throwing to him worked as planned.
But as long as the team of Crompton and Carter are on the field or “JC/DC” as they are quickly being known as, you can almost always be assured to see these two connect and rack up points for the Alouettes.
Two scoring streaks came to an end on Sunday: Sean Whyte’s streak of completed field goals and Tanner Marsh’s streak of consecutive games with a goal-line TD. But both figured prominently in the win with their play, as did the defense. They made the Argos earn every single one of those 14 points.
Once again, the crowd at Percival Molson Stadium got very loud when needed. And in speaking to the players afterwards, they could not believe just how loud it can get with this being one of the smaller stadiums in the Canadian Football League. But as I told them, if you give this crowd a reason to cheer and be loud, they are more than willing to do so. This city loves a winner and this Alouettes team is doing just that; winning.
It was also a bit of a historical day this past Sunday; 17 years ago to the day, the band U2 played a concert at Olympic Stadium that forced the Alouettes to play their Eastern semi-final game at Molson Stadium and rekindling the city’s love for outdoor football. The Alouettes won on that day and never looked back.
If you ever wonder why the team plays U2’s war anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday” before kickoff for games played on Sunday, it’s not just a clever choice of music but rather a tip of the cap to the Irish rockers who refused to budge on their tour date and inadvertently breathed new life into this Montreal football franchise.
Now the final game of the regular season must be played with some pretty big playoff implications. Simply put, in order to clinch the Eastern division the Alouettes need to beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this Saturday. Here’s where it gets a little tricky:
A win by the Alouettes 100% seals the deal. BUT if Montreal loses the game by 7 points or less, they would still win the Eastern division because of point aggregate. Both teams would finish the season at 9-9 and each would be deadlocked at 1-1 in the season series against one another. So the third tie-breaker would be points scored against the other team. Montreal beat Hamilton earlier this season at home by a score of 38-31, so the Alouettes have a seven point cushion in the tiebreak.
So even if the Tiger-Cats kick a last-minute field goal to win the game by 3 points, it would not be enough to secure that first-round bye. In fact, Friday’s game featuring the Argos and RedBlacks could also impact what has to happen on Saturday. Despite the loss on Sunday, Toronto still has a faint chance to end up in the playoffs as well! I told you good readers that this playoff race would come down to the last weekend and sure enough, it will come to pass.
Southern Ontario hasn’t been the kindest to the Alouettes in recent years. But in order to stake their claim as the best in the East, they will have to find a way to hand the Tiger-Cats their first ever loss at the refurbished Tim Hortons Field.
That’s all for now. I apologize for the delay in submitting this, but I will be back later this week to preview the final regular season game for the Alouettes. It’s been a long, strange, crazy trip this season, friends…. and it’s far from over.