The football game this past Friday was bowling shoe ugly. Last year, the Montreal Alouettes would have found new and exciting ways to blow games like these to stay in the CFL basement.
But in 2019, the Alouettes are now finding ways to claw back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And for their faithful fans, it’s a joy to behold.
The Alouettes survived a tightly contested match at home with the BC Lions, emerging with a 21-16 victory in front of a decent crowd of 17,000 boisterous fans. The Alouettes now sit at 6-4 and establish a firmer grip on second place in the Eastern division. The Lions are still looking for their second win of a long and challenging season.
BC certainly didn’t play like a team that only has one victory to their name. Lions QB Mike Reilly played his usual hard-nosed style of football, going 20 of 29 with 230 yards passing and finding Bryan Burnham for the Lions’ lone touchdown. Even more remarkable was that Reilly was only sacked twice, a marked improvement compared to previous games for this porous Lions O-Line.
Where Montreal excelled was on the ground, as William Stanback appeared to have shaken off the injury rust and returned to that punishing form that made him a breakout star earlier this season. He had himself a game, racking up a solid 78 yards on the ground and finding that second gear of speed as soon as he gets hit. He also hauled in a pair of deep passes for 55 yards in the air.
But the star of the show once again was Vernon Adams Jr., who is quietly putting together an MOP season despite numbers that would suggest otherwise. He went 18 for 25 with 232 passing yards, an INT and a touchdown pass to Quan Bray. Adams also put his educated feet to good use yet again, rushing for 14 yards and scoring a pair of goal-line touchdowns.
Adams did a great job in spreading the ball out to his receivers this past Friday. This was evidenced on the drive in the fourth quarter that led to Adams’ lone touchdown pass. With Lions kicker Sergio Castillo notching the second of his three field goals to make it a one point lead for the Als, Adams had to respond to ensure this game stayed in Montreal’s favour. As he does every game, he flipped the switch and went to work.
With surgeon-like precision, Adams knifed his way through BC’s defense with sharp passes to Bray, Jake Wieneke, Stanback and Eugene Lewis. Adams also handed off to Stanback a couple of times just to keep the defense on its toes. This ten play drive resulted in Vernon finding Quan with a quick 4 yard strike to the house to distance themselves further from this tough Lions sqaud.
Adams was no doubt inspired to play well in front of his five year old son Kash, who was in the stands for the first time to watch his dad play pro football in Montreal. And the little guy also enjoyed his time in the spotlight afterwards, upstaging Vernon in hilarious fashion during the post-game press conference.
Montreal’s defense played well, but wasn’t its usual lights-out self. Yes, they did force a fumble as well as the sack master John Bowman putting Reilly on the ground not once, but twice. But in many ways, this defense seemed like they were playing at their bare minimum; as though a full effort wasn’t going to be required against these Lions.
Despite not relinquishing the lead once in this game, the Alouettes had to play the role of cardiac kids yet again. Up 21-16 with 2:40 left to go, the Alouettes had to kill time and as safely as possible. Despite a great pass to DeVier Posey that got the Alouettes closer to the end of the game, the offense gambled on third down with a QB sneak that saw Adams fumble the ball.
The Alouettes recovered the ball behind the line of scrimmage, but it remained a turnover on downs. Giving an elite QB like Mike Reilly even just a snowball’s chance in hell of a comeback is a very dangerous thing to do. Montreal’s defense was going to have to come up in a major way against one of the league’s best. At least they had an entire Nation in the stands making things extremely loud when it was needed the most.
Reilly’s first pass went to former Alouette Duron Carter and he couldn’t handle the pass from the man he expected to set the league on fire with. Reilly lined up again on second down and for the second time in the evening, had a freight train named John Bowman collide with him. Third down and with the game on the line, Reilly once again took aim at #89 in hopes of keeping the drive (and hope) alive. He fired the ball towards Carter and……
Duron dropped it. The crowd explodes in a fevered pitch and the Lions turn the ball over on downs. A quick kneel by Adams in victory formation and the Alouettes are once again the proud owners of a three game winning streak in 2019.
Last season and even in previous seasons before it, the old Montreal Alouettes would have found a new and baffling way to hand this game over to their opponents, wrapped up with a shiny bow on top. There would have been slumped shoulders and forced smiles pushing out the hopeful words, “We’ll get better” and other similar soundbytes.
That was then. This is now.
Whether it’s the leadership of head coach Khari Jones and his coaching staff or the emergence of Vernon Adams as a true CFL quarterback, something magical is taking place here in Montreal. When even the usual negative Nancy types are losing themselves in the euphoria of this team winning, you know that this isn’t just good luck. It’s something you can’t explain, but it’s becoming VERY real.
There are still some very tough tests ahead for this Alouettes team. They head out to Regina this coming week to play the same Roughriders team that benefited from a weather delay earlier this year. There’s still the home and home series versus the league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Let’s not forget that the annual trip out to BC Place is forthcoming and we all know how that game usually plays out for the Alouettes.
Oh, and a very angry Calgary Stampeders crew will be paying a visit in October with a chip on their shoulder and revenge on their mind. All of this as well as crucial divisional games where the other Eastern teams are not about to simply roll over and die for these Birds of Prey.
But this team has become something special now. You could say that it has been since day one of training camp. The toxic nature of this team was slowly cut out and thrown away, piece by piece. Nobody wanted to believe it at first, but people are now coming back on board. There’s excitement in the air at Percival Molson Stadium and beyond. This team may not actually make it to Calgary in late November to play in the Grey Cup, but they will certainly not go down without a fight.
These men have a belief and they are going to see this through to the bitter end. And we get to enjoy every second of it during every single game day. As football fans, we can’t ask for anything more than that.
Enjoy this sixth win, Alouettes Nation. It’s on to the next one. Thanks for reading.
GO ALS GO!!!