Just once, I’d really like the Montreal Alouettes to just flat-out curb stomp an opponent versus playing a game that is the textbook definition of a nail-biter.
But that’s clearly not their style in 2019. Not even versus an opponent that’s had a very miserable season and probably just wanted to go home and prepare for 2020.
The Alouettes closed out the season at TD Place with a 42-32 victory over the Ottawa RedBlacks. With the win, the Alouettes finish the regular season with a 10-8 mark, their first winning season since 2012 where they went 11-7 and hosted the Eastern Final at Olympic Stadium.
This year, the Alouettes will host a playoff game but it will be at the familiar home of Percival Molson Stadium and it will be the Eastern Semi-Final versus the crossover Edmonton Eskimos. The RedBlacks finish their dismal campaign at 3-15, a far cry from the team that represented the Eastern division in 3 of the last 4 Grey Cup games.
Simply put, this was a win that Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr. wanted in the worst way. He stated that he wanted to play in this game to not only get that tenth victory but also surpass 4000 passing yards for the season. Well, he managed to get that tenth win but came up just a bit short in the passing yards department.
Adams went 13 of 16 with 126 passing yards and notched a pair of touchdown passes to Eugene Lewis and Jake Wieneke. But common sense took over and after Adams put the Alouettes up 17-6, he conceded the game to backup QB Matthew Shiltz to avoid injury in a game that had only pride and stats padding on the line.
Shiltz turned in a solid performance in relief, going 9 for 12 with 101 passing yards and helping rookie receiver Dante Absher notch his first CFL touchdown. Absher bided his time on the Alouettes’ practice roster in 2019, waiting for the chance to play. But he made the most of his opportunity in the nation’s capital this past Friday, hauling in 81 yards and getting that first tuddy.
The running game was put to great use this past Friday as William Stanback added to his 1000+ yard season with 45 yards on 7 carries. But his understudy Jarveon Williams was the one who shone brightly on the ground, going 69 yards on 13 carries including a 35 yard scamper into the end zone for his first CFL rushing touchdown.
Boris Bede kept his consecutive field goal streak going with a 37 yard kick as well as notching FOUR singles to add points to the board. Montreal’s offense was humming nicely as they did all that they could do to escape Ottawa injury-free.
But the RedBlacks weren’t going to roll over and die, especially not in front of their loyal fanbase, who braved the chilly November night air to cheer their guys for one last time this season.
Ottawa kept this game competitive as both Dominique Davis and Jonathon Jennings wanted to prove that they were still capable QBs. Davis went 16 of 18 with 155 passing yards and zero picks. While Jennings managed to score all three of the RedBlacks’ touchdowns diving in from the goal line. Whenever Montreal scored in the second half, Ottawa managed to counter to chip away at the lead, forcing Montreal to earn this win.
After Jennings plunged in for the score with 1:51 left on the clock and a successful two-point convert by running back John Crockett, Ottawa was down by three and ready to make an improbable comeback. The Alouettes took over with Antonio Pipkin in at QB to close things out, but once again the beleaguered young quarterback suffered another crucial gaffe during a game.
On 2nd and 10, Pipkin fumbled the snap but quickly recovered the ball for a 5 yard loss, taking the Alouettes out of field goal range. Instead of trying to run down the clock or put some distance between themselves and Ottawa, Montreal now had to punt to the RedBlacks and hope to at least prevent them from tying the game with a field goal.
There was a long field in front of them, but Ottawa’s third string QB Will Ardnt was up to the task. He took the snap, aimed and fired a pass towards receiver Jerminic Smith. Unfortunately for Smith, the football sailed through his hands and into the arms of Alouettes cornerback Najee Murray, who then joined Dante Absher and Jarveon Williams in the first CFL touchdown club with a 15 yard waltz into the end zone.
Murray’s pick six was the first defensive touchdown for the Alouettes in 2019! Had he not scored that, the Alouettes would have gone without scoring a defensive touchdown all season for the first time since 1970. But Najee was not going to be denied last Friday night and once again, the “Cardiac Kids” made for an exciting finish to a football game.
It was fitting that Vernon Adams came back in as the Alouettes lined up in victory formation to take the final kneel-down to end this game. Adams ended this 2019 regular season the way he finished 10 games for the Alouettes this season: as a winner.
Now the Alouettes prepare for an Edmonton Eskimos team that beat them in the first game of the regular season in Alberta, but then lost in La Belle Province. The Eskimos have suffered their fair number of losses in tightly contested matches this season and history doesn’t favour Western teams that cross over to play the Montreal Alouettes.
The Alouettes have never lost a playoff game to a crossover team and even beat the Eskimos the last time they met in a playoff game, besting them in the 2008 Eastern Final. Montreal also has a 26-9 home playoff record and will be playing in front of a very raucous home crowd, who will tilt the odds further in the Alouettes’ favour. Already 16000 tickets have been sold and by the time the game starts, don’t be surprised to see this game completely sold out.
This will not be an easy game to for Edmonton to play, but this is far from a guaranteed win for Montreal. Simply put, the Alouettes will have to come out swinging and set the tone early. Something they haven’t done to any great degree this season but will have to in order to go play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats a week later at Tim Hortons Field.
We’ll take a deeper look at this game later this week on The ALSternative as well as on the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast. Both Tim Capper and myself will break down this win versus Ottawa as well as preview a playoff game for the first time in Flightdeck history! You can find the latest and previous episodes by clicking here or by searching Alouettes FlightDeck on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher or Spotify.
That’s all for now. Enjoy this winning season, Alouettes Nation. But the work is far from over for these Birds of Prey. Rather, it’s only beginning. Everything resets and both the Alouettes and Eskimos are now 0-0 in search of their first big win.
If you don’t have your playoff tickets yet, I’d get on that if I were you. Because this game will be a memory for the ages. I expect it to be extremely loud and this city is ready for a winner.
And if you STILL need convincing, perhaps a word from Alouettes head coach Khari Jones will do:
Folks, it’s real. The Montreal Alouettes are officially a playoff team and ready to keep fighting for a berth in the Grey Cup. From 3-15 a mere two years ago to back in contention for Earl Grey’s mug, this has been a story for the ages. And it’s not over yet.
But it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.