The journey has reached its final destination, much sooner than many had hoped or anticipated.
Yet the Montreal Alouettes were determined to go down swinging and they did just that, beating the playoff bound Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 32-25. This marks the third win in a row for both the Alouettes and their young quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who finished his rookie campaign as the starter and made his case heard to remain as starting QB for 2017.
Much like in his two previous games, it took a while for Adams to get going on offense. But once he did, he was practically unstoppable. He finished his day going 16/28 and throwing for three touchdowns. But perhaps most impressive was that he had zero interceptions, zero fumbles and was only sacked once. A vast improvement from the much-maligned Alouettes’ O-Line.
This was Adams’ first multiple TD game, as he was able to find former Tiger-Cat Sam Giguere for a pair of touchdowns as well as rising star B.J. Cunningham to complete the proverbial hat trick. We’ve come to expect scoring from Cunningham, who has emerged as a key part of this Alouettes offense. But making Giguere’s two TDs all the more impressive was that it happened despite him spending most of the day at a Montreal hospital to get his knee drained of fluid, only arriving in Hamilton very late Friday night.
Add to that some timely kicking by Boris Bede and an outstanding punt return for touchdown by the still-speedy Stefan Logan, who took it 86 yards to the house to jump-start this scoring cavalcade for Montreal. When the Alouettes score 30+ points in a game, they rarely lose. This past Saturday was no exception.
Despite Hamilton resting most of its starters, they wanted to set the tone for their playoff game versus Edmonton next week and were looking to get production from both Zach Collaros and Jeff Mathews, who is a free agent this coming off-season that was looking to improve his stock.
Which he did, as he put together scoring drives and moved the ball well for the Tabbies. Despite looking ordinary at best since coming back from his major injury of last season, Collaros will be the one who will lead the charge next week when the Eskimos roll into town. But now Hamilton head coach Kent Austin has a better idea of what he has with Mathews and should Collaros falter against the defending Grey Cup champions, there is a solid backup in black and yellow.
Once again Montreal’s defense came to play and made life difficult for the Tiger-Cats, who beat the Alouettes earlier in the year at Tim Hortons Field with a last second field goal that secured the season series. Despite losing players due to injury, this remains a championship-calibre defense and its coach Noel Thorpe has once again set the identity of this franchise as a defensive juggernaut.
The secondary has taken its lumps throughout the year but both the veterans and rookies of this unit shined yesterday, as youngsters Jonothan Mincy and Tyree Hollins made their case to be in the mix for next season. While proven vets (and pending free agents) Jovon Johnson and Marc-Olivier Brouillette also added to this team’s success and showed that they both still have a lot of football left in them.
The win Saturday afternoon was the fourth of six for Alouettes interim head coach Jacques Chapdelaine, who removed any doubt that he belongs on a CFL team’s sidelines. Throughout the game and afterwards, many of the Alouettes’ players were effusive in their praise for the long-time CFL OC’s teachings and leadership during a difficult time.
When proven stars like Nik Lewis and Stefan Logan make it crystal clear with their words that Chapdelaine needs to return in 2017 to lead this team, you tend to take that seriously. The two losses under Chapdelaine came as a result of playing arguably two of the most powerful teams in the CFL and many other factors far beyond the reach of this coach, ensuring that Montreal would be missing its second straight postseason.
The next coming days, weeks and months will determine a lot of what direction this team will be taking. We can speculate all we want, but changes will be coming and nothing appears to be set in stone when it comes to this Montreal Alouettes franchise.
But for now, fans of this team can hold their heads just a little bit higher knowing that this team never gave up and despite what some critics thought, finished better than what was expected in 2016. However, trust me when I say that a 7-11 record is nothing to crow about.
Remarkably, Hamilton has that exact same record and will get to host a playoff game. It’s been a pretty rough year for the CFL’s Eastern division. But it could have been a lot worse, believe it or not.
As this column goes viral, the Alouettes players are cleaning out their lockers and preparing to return to their respective hometowns to reflect on the season that was. The coaching staff will meet up again to review this last game and possibly discuss their future as well. Despite Chapdelaine et al finishing this season with several positives, there’s no guarantees as to whether this will remain.
Has Coach Chaps proven enough to this organization? That appears to be the million dollar question. IF he is named the full-time head coach of this team, just who all will be joining him? Will he be allowed to name his own staff or will he be expected to keep certain members of the current staff as part of the conditions of said appointment?
The team will be holding another press conference Monday with both Jim Popp and Alouettes president Mark Weightman and there’s a very good possibility that the team may head in another direction entirely as far as the coaching staff and even the general manager position goes.
Popp still retained his titles of VP of Football Operations and General Manager when he stepped aside as head coach back in late September. The decision to install Chapdelaine as interim head coach was allegedly at the behest of Andrew Wetenhall, son of Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall and also current lead governor of the team within the CFL. So now there is speculation on whether Popp’s clout has taken a considerable hit within the ownership group.
As as I said, there’s a lot of moving parts here and so much is speculation at best. The next few days will undoubtedly set the table for next season. No matter what, we’ll be discussing it all here on The ALSternative and also on the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast, which you can download on Podbean, iTunes and Google Play Music.
So this concludes the 2016 playing season for the Montreal Alouettes. But there’s still a lot of more football to go for The ALSternative.
Several Alouettes are up for league awards and we’ll be discussing that more as the CFL season winds to a close. And it’s never too early to discuss the potential free agents for the Alouettes; a list which will be revealed soon by the team.
Who will be retained and who will test the waters of free agency come February? A lot will depend on whether the story of this team being over the salary cap by 300,000 has any legs. I still have a hard time swallowing that but where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. And there has been a LOT of smoke regarding this particular tale.
The 104th Grey Cup will be played at BMO Field in Toronto later this month and I plan on covering as much of it as possible from a Montreal Alouettes perspective, regardless of which two teams end up playing for this league’s most cherished prize.
So be sure to stay tuned for more of this great Canadian festival and how it unites an entire nation, regardless of team loyalties.
As always, I thank you all for allowing me to present this Montreal Alouettes team to you, good bad or other. No matter the results, it’s always a wild ride.
The ride is far from over for this year, so ensure that you’re still buckled in.