Unlike some of my contemporaries, I will never predict a perfect season for any CFL team. Especially not for the Montreal Alouettes.
But as they strolled into Calgary’s McMahon Stadium last Friday, one couldn’t help but wonder if this Alouettes team was thinking that they could pull off such a feat. With no Bo Levi Mitchell in the lineup for the Stampeders and feeling the highs of an impressive win the week previous in Edmonton, this Alouettes squad probably felt quite unbeatable.
But a novice quarterback named Jake Maier had other ideas.
Having never played a down in the CFL before and given priority over a Canadian born QB, Maier suited up for the Stampeders and was tasked with keeping his squad competitive with this Alouettes team. In what was a wild affair that has become the calling card of the Canadian Football League, Maier more than met expectations. Daresay, he surpassed them.
Maier was instrumental in the Stampeders’ 28-22 victory that required all 60 minutes of game play. The win was Calgary’s first of the season, having dropped their first two matches at home. With the loss, Montreal is now 1-1 on the season as they now prepare to host the Hamilton TIger-Cats for their first game at Percival Molson Stadium since November 2019.
This game had everything; lead changes, dazzling plays and penalties. LOTS of penalties. There was a total of 25 penalties in this game; 16 for Montreal and 9 for Calgary. There was a severe lack of discipline from Montreal as they struggled throughout this game after starting out hot as a pistol.
The Alouettes tested Calgary’s young pivot and rattled him early on, with Alouettes defenders Wesley Sutton and Adarius Pickett both claiming interceptions from Maier’s errant throws. Couple that with Vernon Adams Jr. maintaining that Zen-like precision of his and putting points on the board with a TD pass to Jake Wieneke along with William Stanback rumbling in for a score of his own, this game seemed like a cakewalk for the Birds of Prey.
Then Adams was picked off by Royce Metchie in the second quarter and it pretty much fell apart from there.
At that point, Calgary managed to march the length of the field and score a rushing touchdown thanks to Ka’deem Carey. Montreal’s offense then stalled, with several two and outs while Maier was able to settle in and find the end zone with a touchdown pass to Kamar Jorden and another rushing TD by Carey, who had the Alouettes chasing their own tail throughout the game.
Tempers flared at points throughout the game. One instance was with tackle Tony Washington inadvertently rolling up on the ankle of Calgary’s Jarrell Owens, causing a fracas on the field. Later on, an incredible flea-flicker by Calgary drove them to Montreal’s two yard line and Montreal’s lack of discipline ended up putting points on the board.
Throughout the second half of this game you saw this team start to turn on one another, with plenty of finger-pointing and scowls of frustration. Between that and the inability of Vernon Adams and his receivers to get on the same page, this game got away from the Alouettes at a break-neck speed.
Anything that could go wrong for Montreal, did go wrong.
Down 13 points with 5:44 left in the game, those infamous Cardiac Kids decided to get into the lineup for Montreal.
The Alouettes recovered a botched snap in Calgary territory and Adams then orchestrated a nice touchdown drive, finding Quan Bray in the end zone to cut the Calgary lead to six points. The Alouettes badly needed a two and out from the Stamps and got it. But they had to get downfield fast and time was not on their side.
An unlikely combination of skill, an untimely roughing the passer penalty for Calgary and the sheer will of Montreal’s quarterback did get the Alouettes all the way down to the Stamps’ 14 yard line. With :19 left on the clock and a fresh set of downs, this was the chance for redemption that this embattled squad eagerly sought.
Adams’ first passing attempt was incomplete to Quan Bray. His second attempt was also to the end zone, this time to Eugene Lewis in double coverage that was broken up. With one second left on the clock and staring down the barrel of a massive third down, this was Montreal’s last stand. A field goal wasn’t gonna cut it, it was end zone or bust.
Adams heaved the ball towards Lewis again and he made a spectacular catch against his body with his feet in the end zone…but the ball never crossed the plane of the end zone, thus no touchdown was scored and zeroes hit the clock.
As they say, close but no cigar.
Honestly? I am glad that the Alouettes didn’t pull off this victory. Let me expand on that:
As exciting as it would have been for Montreal to win this game in the face of all the adversity that befell it, I personally don’t want Montreal’s reputation to be that of being lucky versus good. Montreal shot themselves in the foot numerous times throughout this game and had no business still being able to win it.
I believe they are far too talented a group to have to rely on miscues from their opponents at opportune times and these “gutsy” comebacks. Sure it’s great for the league to help pump their narrative of “No Lead Is Safe” and how you cannot miss the last three minutes of any game. But it’s not a recipe for success by any stretch of the imagination for any CFL team and quite frankly, the Alouettes should want better than that for themselves.
After looking so good versus Edmonton and starting strong in this game versus the Stampeders, the Alouettes showed that they have the talent to be one of the elite teams of this league. They now have to figure how not to get into a battle with themselves during the game. One opponent is plenty.
In losing this game, my hope is that they are thusly angry enough with themselves and realize that they cannot always pull off these little stunts to come back and barely win. This Friday they will have the first opportunity to play in front of their hometown fans versus another team who will be desperate for their first win of the 2021 season.
Hamilton surely saw how Montreal imploded and will look to make it happen again. Let’s see how well these Alouettes can learn from their mistakes.
This game against Calgary is now a memory. These Alouettes now get to finally enjoy a crowd that will be behind them in the friendly confines of Percival Molson Stadium. It’s been a long wait for the Alouettes faithful to see their team live and I hoping that every available seat will be filled this coming Friday evening.
Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself break down this loss to Calgary and preview the tilt versus Hamilton. You can find the podcast here and on your favourite podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and even on Youtube! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Already, it’s on to the next one. Thanks for reading, as always.