“What’s that? (stammers) PLAYOFFS?! Don’t talk to me about….playoffs?! You kidding me? Playoffs?!?” — Jim Mora Sr.
Yes Alouettes Nation, DO talk to me about playoffs!!!
For the first time in five long years, the Montreal Alouettes will be participating in the Grey Cup playoffs. With a thrilling 21-17 victory over the Calgary Stampeders, the Alouettes assured themselves of a home playoff game in November. And if you thought the 18,454 raucous fans at Percival Molson Stadium were loud this past Saturday, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Nothing ever comes easy for this Alouettes team. Or rather, they don’t make it come easy. Once again, the Alouettes started off slow and needed to battle back to take a slight lead. The defense had to come up big to survive this heavyweight bout and they did so in a massive way.
After allowing 17 points in the first half, this Bob Slowik-led defense slammed the door shut on Bo Levi Mitchell and the high-powered Calgary offense. Despite multiple opportunities to do so, Calgary failed to score a single point in the second half of this football game.
Instead, this Montreal defense forced Calgary to turn the ball over FIVE times in this game. Many a great drive from the Stampeders was snuffed out due to the Alouettes forcing fumbles and picking off Mitchell, who finished his day going 31 of 43 and throwing for 464 yards with a touchdown pass. Despite these monster numbers, Bo Levi tasted defeat in this unlucky barn yet again.
Returning from his one game suspension, Vernon Adams Jr. didn’t exactly light up the Stampeders like he did in Calgary this summer. But he still managed to go 18 for 29 with 206 yards passing and a rushing touchdown. Most importantly, he didn’t cause any turnovers. Despite moving the ball well to his receivers and getting his running backs going, this offense really didn’t generate much action after their first offensive series.
The Alouettes’ scoring came mostly on special teams, as Boris Bede notched a pair of field goals and rookie returner Mario Alford made an immediate impact as he took a Rob Maver punt all the way back for an 85 yard touchdown run. Alford was just added to the starting lineup as Chris Matthews was placed on the one-game injured list. Safe to say, Mario made his name known right away to this Alouettes coaching staff with that beauty of a return.
Alford was also involved in a crucial play late in the game as he returned another punt 12 yards and was pushed out of bounds. On his way out, Calgary’s Charlie Power managed to grab himself a bit of Alford’s collar, which drew an immediate flag for a horse collar tackle to move Montreal further down field. This gave Bede the opportunity to kick a 25 yard field goal to put Montreal up by four and force Calgary to score a game-winning touchdown.
With 2:14 left on the game clock and starting on their own 24 yard line, Bo Levi and his charges tried to make the comeback and win their second straight game in Montreal. But once again, there was something magical in the air for the Birds of Prey at the stadium on the mountain.
This 2019 season has been something incredible for these Montreal Alouettes, especially here at home. There’s been some highs and lows the likes of which has rarely been seen. Just two weeks ago, the Alouettes made their greatest comeback ever to beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the delight of a very loud fanbase. But this past Saturday, something happened that hasn’t ever happened at this stadium before that completely turned the tide and helped Montreal come through like never before.
During a booth review of a Bo Levi Mitchell pass to Eric Rogers that was knocked away by Jarnor Jones, the crowd cranked up the noise level with non-stop cheering and screaming, assisted by little cowbells that were handed out to fans as they entered the stadium. Then PA announcer Eric Gaudette told everyone to turn on their cell phone lights while they were making all this noise.
The result? Have a look:
It sounds crazy when you think about it, but this level of crowd participation absolutely made for an experience like no other. The Alouettes’ players will sometimes turn their locker room into what they call “Club 514” and hold impromptu dance parties to get themselves hyped up. This past Saturday night, the Alouettes brought Club 514 to the stadium and invited everyone to join the party. And as the kids say, it was LIT.
Yes, Percival Molson Stadium is the smallest CFL stadium. But as I have said several times before; if you give these Montreal fans something to cheer about, this suddenly becomes a very dangerous place for the opposing team to play a football game. The review went Calgary’s way as Montreal was charged for defensive pass intereference. With a fresh set of downs and the feeling of being in the Thunderdome, Mitchell went back to work.
First and ten: Incomplete pass to John Huff. Crowd gets even louder
Second and ten: Completed four yard pass to Richard Sindani. Crowd finds yet another level of loud.
Third down and six: Mitchell takes aim at Colton Hunchak. But Alouettes defender Bo Lokombo sticks out his big meaty paw and smacks the football like it owes him money. Turnover on downs and the residents of Percival Molson Stadium shatters eardrums with a roar like no other.
The Alouettes took over and then went two and out, giving the football back to the Stampeders with :15 left on the clock and deep in their own end. Mitchell completes a pass to Hergy Mayala, but he is swallowed up by Henoc Muamba as the clocks reach zero. Ball game over.
In one fell swoop, the Alouettes have successfully defended the nest, swept the season series with the Calgary Stampeders and punched their ticket into the Grey Cup playoffs. All in all, a pretty good day at the office for these cardiac kids. Your can question the methods of this team but you can’t argue with the results.
Talking with the players after the game, every single one of them was in awe of the light show that took place. Many of these players have played in front of crowds of 80,000+ and even that apparently didn’t hold a candle to this organic undertaking of crowd support. Henoc Muamba even went so far to say that he had to snap himself out of his wide-eyed stare into the crowd to get ready for the next play!
Once again, the Montreal Alouettes delivered an exciting finish to a football game. And no matter what happens at the end of the regular season, there WILL be a football game played in this enchanted barn in November. Heaven help whomever the opposing team may be because if you thought Saturday’s game was a moment in time, I promise you that there is plenty more where that came from.
The Alouettes have struck a chord with this city. The goal of their new identity was to reconnect with the city of Montreal and they have done so with some masterful, entertaining football. Montrealers have always supported a winning team and they are on board with this crew. There are currently 5000 seats that are tarped off because the Alouettes just couldn’t generate enough interest before in selling those seats.
But when that playoff game in November is announced, I wouldn’t be surprised if those tarps come off and those seats get sold. The mere idea of 25,000 loud, boisterous Montreal fans cheering their Alouettes on to a possible berth in the Grey Cup seemed absolutely laughable when this 2019 season got underway. I promise you that no one is laughing anymore at these Montreal Alouettes.
If you’re a Western CFL team and thought crossing over to the East was a shortcut to the championship game in Calgary, you’re about to learn a very painful lesson. Ask these players, these coaches, these fans and they’ll tell you all the same thing:
You do not want this smoke.
With this win, the Alouettes are now 8-6 and can finish no worse than second in the East. Incredibly, they can still catch Hamilton for first place but a lot will have to work in their favour first. They can gain some more ground with a victory this coming Saturday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers while Hamilton sits idle.
Montreal has one win already against this Bombers team which set them on a three game losing skid. Winnipeg has locked up a playoff spot and will be wanting to set things right by besting this Alouettes team in front of their own fans. The Alouettes cannot rest on these laurels; they need to keep reminding everyone that this is not a lucky team.
As head coach Khari Jones has stated in his infamous post-game speech, “This group is REAL!!”. A victory in Winnipeg will further cement this Alouettes team as a true contender for the Grey Cup. If you can’t make it to the ‘Peg to watch this team, find yourself a TV and don’t you dare miss these Alouettes in action.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget to tune into the latest edition of the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself recap this incredible win and help get you further in a playoff mood. You can download the latest episode here or search for Alouettes Flightdeck on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher or Spotify.
Savour these moments, Alouettes Nation. It’s been a long time coming and this fanbase has had to eat a lot of crap to get to this point. Although Club 514 is closed for the moment, the party is far from over. If you haven’t experienced playoff football in Montreal, you are in for a treat this coming November. Stay ready.
But it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.