Another business trip, another thrilling win. That’s the 2019 Montreal Alouettes for you.
The Birds of Prey landed in Moncton, New Brunswick this past weekend to be a part of Touchdown Atlantic. They participated in the last TD Atlantic game back in 2013, losing a tightly-contested affair to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This time around, it would be the Toronto Argonauts that served as the “home” team at Stade Croix Bleue Medavie Stadium.
But in 2019, the Alouettes would not be denied. Montreal escaped the Maritimes with a 28-22 win in a battle that literally needed all 60 minutes on the game clock. The win puts Montreal at 5-4 for the season, equaling their win total from 2018 with still another NINE games to be played. The Argos now sit at 1-8 and this appears to be another lost season for the Double Blue, just two years removed from their winning the Grey Cup.
Once again, Vernon Adams Jr. proved why doubting his leadership abilities is a foolish thing to do. This was yet another game where he appeared to struggle in the first half, only to figure his opponent out and turn on the offensive fireworks. Adams finished the day going 19 of 25 with 335 yards passing, two touchdown throws and one interception.
Adams also dove into the end zone towards the end of the first half to finally get the Alouettes on the board, who were down 16-0 in the second quarter. The most incredible part of watching Vernon behind centre is his ability to create plays out of nowhere. Yes, he makes mistakes early on but by the time the fourth quarter gets underway, it appears like the opposition simply has no answer for the young veteran from Pasadena.
Down by ten to start the second half, Vernon and the Alouettes decided to make noise right away in the third quarter. And when I say right away, I mean their first freaking play of the third quarter!
Starting at his own 45 yard line, Adams loaded up and heaved a bomb to a wide-open Eugene Lewis, who then sauntered 65 yards to the end zone to get the Moncton fans up off their feet. Almost immediately, the mood started to shift on the Alouettes bench. The defense, which had been taken apart by Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the first half, knew they had to step up their game and they did, keeping the Argos in check.
Montreal wasn’t done scoring in this third quarter. They decided to reach into their bag of tricks and pull out an absolute beauty of a play, to great results.
Adams handed off the ball to Jeremiah Johnson, who then pitched it to DeVier Posey to go back the other way for a run. But then Posey chucked the ball BACK to Adams, who launched the football skywards for it to land in the very capable hands of Quan Bray for another touchdown!
Call it a flea flicker, a triple reverse or even the “Moncton Special“, as some have dubbed this play. Needless to say, the fans in this university barn exploded with delight to see such a display of football razzle-dazzle. Quite possibly, they bore witness to the CFL’s highlight play of the year!
The switch had been flipped yet again and this Montreal Alouettes team looked again like the squad that suddenly nobody wants a part of.
Nobody, except McLeod Bethel-Thompson. A battle-tested football journeyman, he knew that beating these Alouettes could very well be the spark needed to save the season in the 6ix. A couple of quick Montreal touchdowns certainly weren’t going to faze him.
On the very next series, McLeod sacked up and led his men back into the end zone. A couple of quick strikes to Derel Walker (including a tip-toe dance by him en route to the house for six) and the Argos were back in the lead of this hotly-contested affair.
Both teams settled down and Bethel-Thompson wouldn’t be rattled. Not even a Jeremiah Johnson touchdown scamper (followed by a successful two-point convert) that gave the lead back to Montreal was going to shake this QB. He knew what the Alouettes did last week versus Calgary and the hero status that followed for Vernon Adams. McLeod was ready to experience that for himself.
With 0:56 left on the clock and starting at his own TEN yard line, Bethel-Thompson chipped away at this Alouettes defense. A defense that was sucking wind throughout the fourth quarter, having spent far too much of their Sunday on the playing field. Even with time against him, McLeod was determined to make magic happen.
At the 0:07 mark, he completed a terrific pass to receiver Rodney Smith, who had the presence of mind to get down and stop the play clock with 3/100ths of a second left!! Now at the three yard line and needing to score a TD to tie the game (and a successful point after attempt for the win), Bethel-Thompson fired a bullet into the end zone towards Armanti Edwards, who’s no stranger to big game heroics on a university field.
But there was someone in the end zone that McLeod didn’t count on. Or rather, hoped would be taking this particular play off.
Ladies and gentleman, “The Takeover” is in full effect for the Alouettes. Led by none other than Greg Reid. Part-time defensive back, full-time assassin.
Dropping a sure-fire interception earlier in the game, Reid had to make a major play happen to atone for his error. With a deft slap at the ball heading towards Edwards, Reid snuffed out the dreams of Argonauts fans who wanted to go into their annual Labour Day Classic game with a 2-7 record.
Instead, Montreal hung on for a thrilling victory over a Toronto team that proved to be tougher than a two dollar steak and a lot better than their win-loss record indicates.
The Alouettes go into their third and final bye week with a 5-4 record and shattering all the expectations of everyone in the CFL along the way. This is a legit football team.
There’s still a few tough tests remaining for this team as they prepare for the second half of this 2019 season. They have yet to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, currently the class of the league. They have another match against a very good Saskatchewan Roughriders team that hopefully will be played to completion this time around. And of course, divisional games that will surely determine whether or not Montreal can return to the Grey Cup playoffs for the first time since 2014.
There’s really something about this 2019 Montreal Alouettes team. They’ve answered the call every single time. Even in three of their four losses, you had the sense that this team wasn’t defeated and could come through. It’s been far from perfect, but this has been an extremely fun ride for Alouettes Nation to be a part of. And folks, the ride is not even close to being over!
Here on in, every game counts. When these guys return from the bye week, there will be no days off. They need to embrace that championship mindset, even if only a handful of these players have raised the Grey Cup over their heads in the past. If these fellas want to still be playing football in late November, the work towards that lofty goal must begin next week when they return to La Belle Province.
I for one cannot wait to see how this second half unfolds. I bet you can’t wait either.
As always, thanks for reading.