I wish I knew why the Montreal Alouettes seem to enjoy participating in football games that are a lot closer than they have any right to be.
Like we have seen numerous times before this season, the Alouettes managed to pull a win from out of their behinds. In this case, it was a 27-24 victory versus the Toronto Argonauts in front of 17,003 of their closest friends and family at Percival Molson Stadium. Considering the dip in temperature and the fact that this game had no bearing on the standings for either team, seeing this many people show up to watch the Alouettes defend the nest was quite the pleasant surprise.
By virtue of the loss to Winnipeg last week, the Alouettes were assured of finishing the season in second place and thus hosting the Eastern Semi-Final on November 10th. Toronto had dismissed general manager Jim Popp earlier this month and are already starting to look ahead to the 2020 season. Games like this one would be used to evaluate young players and to try and salvage a bit of pride as well.
As a result, it really didn’t matter who won or lost in this contest. But for many players on both teams, this game was a chance to prove something to their organizations and themselves. I think you’d forgive most fans for choosing to stay home rather than brave the single digit weather for an essentially meaningless game.
To the credit of Alouettes Nation, they showed up to support their team and brought their usual energy and noise level. It became clear that this game mattered to them and as such, the Alouettes players were not about to disappoint their faithful fans on this chilly Friday evening.
Vernon Adams Jr. did what he does best this past Friday; lead his team to victory. He had another solid outing, going 16 of 23 with 249 yards passing and throwing for three touchdowns. Most importantly, he threw zero interceptions. An important confidence booster considering how poorly he played the week previous in the ‘Peg.
Adams is far from perfect but he has proven on numerous occasions that he can bounce back from a bad day at the office. While he is not racking up outstanding numbers, Vernon is quietly putting together a case for the 2019 Most Outstanding Player award. He managed to connect with DeVier Posey, Jeremiah Johnson and Quan Bray for timely touchdowns that put Montreal ahead for good. He also got the ground game going to help one of his teammates make a little history.
The Alouettes haven’t had a running back reach the 100 yard rushing mark since Tyrell Sutton did it back in 2015, the year he led the CFL in rushing. That changed this past Friday as William Stanback managed to reach the 1000 yard mark in only his second CFL season. His 49 yards on 11 carries wasn’t much to write home about, but this has been an incredible season for the New York native. A dual threat in rushing and receiving while also great at blocking for his QB, Stanback has truly made a name for himself this season. He has made other folk who watch this league intensely sit up and take notice.
On paper the Alouettes should have destroyed the Argos, who are in a shambles and will likely be making a major housecleaning of personnel despite only being two years removed from winning a Grey Cup. But Toronto wasn’t just about to roll over and die for these Alouettes, despite losing the last five times they’ve played in this stadium. The Argos wanted some positive momentum of their own and almost managed to play that spoiler role to a T.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson has played some pretty solid football in 2019, mostly in losing efforts. But he still manages to find ways to at least go down fighting. He finished his day going 35 of 45 with 342 yards passing and throwing a pair of touchdowns. He also managed to rumble in for a goal-line touchdown at one point. This has been a season to forget for the Double Blue, but MBT is eager to prove to new Argos general manager Mike “Pinball” Clemons that he deserves to be the team’s starting quarterback.
MBT had help moving the ball thanks to former Alouette S.J. Green, who always seems extra motivated to play against his former team. Green caught one of MBT’s TD passes and racked up 83 receiving yards with 9 catches. Not bad for an “old” guy who was considered expendable by the former management here in Montreal.
But youth was truly served this past Friday as Argos rookie Chandler Worthy made himself known to this league with a terrific performance. He hauled in 93 receiving yards and also caught his first CFL touchdown late in the fourth quarter to get the Argos within 3. He burned the Alouettes secondary all game long with some jaw-dropping catches that got the chains moving.
At Touchdown Atlantic, a young man named Rodney Smith made his presence with the Argos felt league-wide by catching some outstanding passes against the Alouettes. It’s obvious that the legendary S.J. Green is helping these young bucks along. Perhaps that will be his true legacy for his time in Double Blue; paving the way for future superstars like these young men to take over these Argos.
All these men stepped up for Toronto and gave the Alouettes plenty of fits. But it was yet another case of the cardiac kids taking over and helping Montreal secure another win at home, their 300th home victory in team history.
After Bethel-Thompson connected with Worthy for a TD to make it a 3 point game, the Argonauts opted not to go for the onside kick but rather trusting their defense to get a two and out from Montreal. Which they did.
With :25 left and starting at midfield, the Argos tried to move the ball into field goal range. A rare dropped pass by S.J. on second down meant that Toronto had to go for it on third down. They managed to move the chains with a Jimmy Ralph catch that stopped the clock as he was pushed out of bounds.
With :02 left on the clock, Argos kicker (and brief member of the Alouettes practice squad) Tyler Crapigna was sent out to kick a 51 yard field goal to send this “meaningless” game into overtime. This wasn’t the first time Crapigna was tasked to kick an important field goal here at Percival Molson Stadium.
Back in 2017 while playing for the Roughriders, Crapigna could have ruined the Alouettes debut of one Darian Durant by kicking a game-winner with zeros left on the clock. And we all know how that one ended. Could history repeat itself or would Tyler get the chance to make up for that fateful game in 2017?
Crapigna lined up for the 51 yarder, kicked the ball into the air and it was…….. short. Alouettes defender Greg Reid caught the ball outside of the end zone and ran around just enough to ensure that the clock would read :00 when he would finally be stopped. Along with an earlier blocked field goal attempt to end the first half of this game, safe to say we won’t be seeing clips of this game on Tyler’s highlight reel any time soon.
This game was way too close for comfort, but a win’s a win. And with the win, the Alouettes will be assured of finishing this season without a losing record. A feat that hasn’t happened since 2014 when the Alouettes finished the season at 9-9 and qualified for the Grey Cup playoffs.
Montreal’s next two games will be similar in that they will play Eastern opponents and the only thing that will be on the line is pride. They’ll host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this coming Saturday then head to Ottawa to close the regular season versus the RedBlacks. Wins against both these squads would be nice but they won’t affect much in the standings.
The best thing to do is play these games and get out of both as healthy as possible. Alouettes head coach Khari Jones has stated that he plans on giving veterans the chance to recuperate by not having them dress for these final games. This will also give the Alouettes a chance to play some of their practice roster guys, giving them some valuable reps and seeing just how much depth this team truly has.
This is a long season and this team needs its superstars rested and healthy for November 10th and hopefully beyond. This is a grind and championship teams are the ones who are still working their plan long after their playoff ticket is punched. Like many of you, I am excited to see just what this Montreal Alouettes team is truly made of.
That’s all for now. Be sure to tune into the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast for a deeper dive into this past Friday’s game and so much more. Both Tim Capper and myself bring you in-depth analysis as well as invite several members of the Alouettes to join in for you to get to know better.
You can find the latest podcast episode by clicking here or by searching the keywords Alouettes Flightdeck on your favourite platforms like Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher or Spotify.
It’s hard to believe that this regular season is almost over. But when Alouettes Nation is still excited and showing up at home, it’s clear this team will be giving it everything they got, even if these games are “meaningless”. I’ll let you say that word to these guys and see how far it gets you.
But it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.