One final defense of the Nest in 2016

It’s the last chance you will have to enjoy the party on the mountain until next June.

For the last time in 2016, the Montreal Alouettes will host a game at Percival Molson Stadium. They will have the tough task of facing the Calgary Stampeders, who will be looking to cement their place in CFL history as they aim to post a regular season record of 16-1-1 with a win Sunday afternoon.

The Alouettes will not simply roll over and die. Although their playoff dreams were snuffed last weekend, they still came out and played a solid game versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Montreal sent out Vernon Adams to make his debut at quarterback and he played a solid game, allowing Montreal to come back home with their fifth win of the season.

On Sunday he’ll face a much more serious test as he takes on the best team of the CFL. Calgary has not lost since Week ONE and have been on an absolute tear, just finding ways to win again and again. They faced the Alouettes two weeks ago and despite a strong defensive effort, the Stamps barely broke a sweat in beating Montreal 22-8.

It would be easy for Calgary to mail it in on Sunday as they sewed up the Western division quite some time ago and have a bye the following week. After Sunday, their next game will be the Western Final on November 20th. So while it would be tempting and possibly even smart to rest their starters in what is essentially a nothing game, they will want to leave one last reminder of just how impressive they truly are.

Getting the start tomorrow for Calgary is Drew Tate, who has seen limited action this season. With Bo Levi Mitchell playing on another level entirely, Tate has been relegated to placeholder duty on field goal attempts. Calgary has a budding young National quarterback in Andrew Buckley that has shined in short yardage situations, so it’s a bit surprising to see Tate get the nod this Sunday.

Tate will have some great weapons at his disposal, including a powerful tailback that once roamed Montreal’s backfield. Jerome Messam has been a beast this season, trucking defenders with his massive frame and racking up the yards on the ground. He leads the league with 1162 yards rushing along with scoring 11 rushing TDs. He will be looking to feast on an Alouettes run defense that has been non-existent in recent weeks.

Calgary has a slew of talented receivers but the one name that stands out immediately is breakout star DaVaris Daniels, who started the season on Calgary’s practice roster but has blown everyone away, posting 849 yards receiving in a mere 11 games. Despite losing Eric Rogers to the NFL, Stamps GM John Hufnagel still knows where to find talent that can catch a pass.

Also looking to add to his stats is second year National star Lemar Durant, who was grossly overlooked in last year’s CFL draft and has quietly made a case to be an everyday receiver for the Stamps this season. While Anthony Parker and Simon Charbonneau-Campeau usually get more looks, I expect Durant to get a lot of touches tomorrow.

The Stampeders’ defense has been outstanding and will not be impressed with Vernon Adams’ heroics from last week. They will be looking to blow past Montreal’s porous O-Line and plant Adams on the Percival Molson grass. There’s two names to keep an eye this Sunday: Charleston Hughes and Alex Singleton.

Hughes is cut from the same cloth as John Bowman, blowing through offensive lines and getting his paws on the QB. Hughes currently leads the league with 15 QB sacks and has to be licking his chops at the thought of facing this rookie quarterback making only his second start of the season. Singleton has been no slouch either, making all kinds of defensive plays and once again proving Hufangel’s genius in drafting Canadian talent as Singleton was overlooked in this year’s CFL draft.

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Can Montreal win tomorrow? Not facing Mitchell certainly gives them a chance. It will depend on how well Vernon Adams can capitalize on the opportunities he’s given. Montreal’s defense did hold Calgary to a mere 9 points in the first half of their first meeting two weeks ago, so if Adams can move the ball like he did versus the Riders he stands as good a chance as any.

Last week Adams was very slippery and created several opportunities. I doubt he’ll get the same chances against the CFL’s best pass rush. But should he be able to find targets like Nik Lewis and B.J. Cunningham, that will work to his advantage. Adams did make better decisions compared to what Rakeem Cato did in his QB starts; that trend will have to continue in order to make his case to be the Alouettes’ future full-time quarterback.

No matter the result, this will be an interesting game to watch. We will either see history from Calgary or a massive boost of confidence from Montreal in order to send their fans home happy. Those fans could use it; it will be the last live football they will see until June 2017.

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As always, the last game of the year will be the Fan Appreciation game. That means tons of prizes and giveaways at Percival Molson Stadium. It will also be the last tailgate of the 2016 season, so get there early and take in one of the best things about Montreal sports.

If you’re looking for something to listen to on the shuttle bus en route to the stadium, be sure to download the latest Alouettes Flightdeck podcast. In addition to that link, you can also find it on iTunes and Google Play Music.

It seems hard to believe that we’ve finally arrived at this point. And this time next week it will be completely over for another year, far too soon. There are a ton of questions that will need to be answered starting on November 7th.

But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. All we can hope for as fans is a strong effort and a chance to stun everyone with a victory that on paper, seems inconceivable.

Last one leaving Percival Molson, turn off the lights on your way out. Enjoy this second to last game of the 2016 season, regardless of where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!

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