Not even Mother Nature could completely derail the momentum train that is currently the Montreal Alouettes.
For the first time in modern history, a weather delay fell upon a game being played at Percival Molson Stadium. It was ridiculously hot this past Saturday throughout the Montreal area, but add a bit of heat lightning to the mix and both teams ended up being sent to the locker room for a slight repose.
But that only served to delay the inevitable as the Alouettes had the lead in this game and kept it, beating the Edmonton Eskimos by a 20-10 score. It was their first win over the Eskimos in 11 tries and the Als are now riding a three game winning streak, something that hasn’t happened since late 2016.
Interesting to note that the quarterback who was behind centre for that last three game winning streak is the exact same who is currently behind centre. Vernon Adams Jr. has been instrumental in helping change the dynamic of this football team, along with his head coach Khari Jones. This is not the same team that football fans have become accustomed to.
I’m willing to bet that the Eskimos seriously underestimated just how dangerous this team could be, especially based on their first meeting with Montreal earlier this year. In that match, Edmonton was able to waltz all over this Bob Slowik-led defense virtually untouched. But oh how times have changed.
This past Saturday, the Eskimos were only able to put three field goals and a Rouge on the board, completely shut out of the end zone. Once again, this defense made plays and set the tone early. Greg Reid and Taylor Loffler did something that hasn’t been done in over 300 attempts; they picked off a pass from Edmonton QB Trevor Harris.
The Alouettes defense once again kept the opposing quarterback honest, only allowing 320 yards of total offense. Many people, including myself, had serious doubts about this Alouettes defensive coordinator upon hearing of his hire. But Slowik has taken the time to learn just how this Canadian game is played and it shows. Having some tremendous studs like Henoc Mumba, Patrick Levels and Tommie Campbell on defense certainly helps the cause as well.
The Eskimos are a very good team, which makes this win even more legit. Keeping guys like Greg Ellingson and C.J. Gable in check is no small feat and this defense shut them right down.
When the hire of Slowik was made public, my hope was that he and this defense was going to make me eat my words. It’s early still and a lot could change, but as it stands right now it would appear a trip to the word buffet is going to be happening.
Alouettes Nation is loving them some Vernon Adams and it’s about time they realized what they’ve had all along.
It would have been a very tall order for Adams to have a repeat performance like he did against the RedBlacks in Ottawa. Especially against this Eskimos team. But Vernon just looks so fluid in his play compared to other quarterbacks that have tried to lead this Alouettes team.
Adams went 15 for 22 with 291 yards passing and threw one touchdown to Jake Wieneke, who’s been on a tear when it comes to finding the end zone. Despite not having Devier Posey or B.J. Cunningham in the lineup due to injury, Adams still found several targets on Saturday. In one instance, he even became a target himself!
On the Alouettes’ third series in the first quarter, Adams got the team down to the 21 yard line and pulled off the following masterpiece; a quick hand-off to William Stanback, who in turn flipped the ball immediately to Eugene Lewis, who lobbed the ball right into the waiting hands of one Vernon Adams! A quick scamper to the end zone followed and the Alouettes were first on the scoreboard.
Interesting to note that when he was with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then head coach June Jones wanted to get Adams on the field as a receiver. Vernon, being the team player that he is, would actually line up as a wideout in camp sessions and apparently made some great plays catching passes from Hamilton’s QBs.
But it’s clear that Adams is best leaving the catching of touchdowns to his talented teammates. This young man displayed true leadership and even when he had was saved from some ill-advised throws by penalty calls against Edmonton, Vernon never lost focus.
The ground game was crucial again for Montreal on this sweltering day. Stanback only managed 47 yards on thirteen carries but it was clear that Edmonton’s coaching staff wasn’t going to forget what kind of damage this tailback can do. Instead, Adams deployed both Jeremiah Johnson and Ryder Stone, who each got some nice runs in.
While this wasn’t the offensive display that we’ve seen in the past two games, the Alouettes worked their plan to perfection and made everyone who doubted this team look foolish yet again.
As mentioned previously, Adams is the first quarterback to lead the Alouettes to three consecutive victories since….Vernon Adams. It’s truly remarkable not only how far he’s come but how he’s remained humble in the process.
In speaking with Adams after the game, he once again refused to take credit for leading this team. There’s no question that the path that’s taken him to this point has not been an easy one, but the journey is well worth it. Vernon has proven that he belongs in the discussion when it comes to the premier quarterbacks in this league.
To compare him to a Bo Levi Mitchell or Mike Reilly may still be a tad premature, but there’s no denying how Adams has played with this current opportunity and how this team responds to him in the huddle. Leadership is not easily taught and Vernon has shown the willingness to evolve and grow.
Compare where things sit now to where they were a year ago, when Vernon’s lone 2018 start was marred by fans screaming for an overhyped NFL washout to now everyone comparing Adams to names such as Tracy Ham and even Anthony Calvillo. This calendar year alone has really been a trial by fire for the former Oregon Duck and it’s made him a better man and a better player as a result.
But Adams won’t focus on the past. He’s believed in this locker room from day one and the proof is undeniable. This team on the field has the potential to be something special. Despite all of the turmoil that has surrounded this team off the field, you’d never know it in speaking with guys like Adams and Coach Jones. They have successfully tuned out the noise and let their work on the field do the talking.
And like the crowd at Percival Molson, that talking has been very loud. The Alouettes have yet to taste defeat at home this season and this upcoming bye week will hopefully inspire more fans to sacrifice the comfort of air conditioning to come out and support this winning team.
There’s an energy around this team again. The light at the end of a very dark tunnel is getting brighter with each successful practice, with each hard-fought win. There’s an undeniable joy in watching this team play football once again. People laughed at the Montreal Alouettes for far too long. But he who laughs last, laughs best.
It’s still very early in this CFL season, but right now there isn’t nearly as much laughing at this team as there was before. A lot of smiles though. And smiling, like winning, feels pretty damn good.
Enjoy the bye week, Alouettes Nation. On to the next one.