Alouettes keep home playoff game hopes afloat with win over Blue Bombers

Last week, the Montreal Alouettes announced the pre-sale of tickets for a game that may or may not be played at Percival Molson Stadium in 2021.

While the team will certainly play in at least one post-season match, there’s still the matter of determining where said match would be taking place. It certainly speaks to the level of confidence that the team’s administration has in expecting the stars to align for such an event to happen. Yes tickets are certainly refundable, but why not count your chickens after they hatch? 

While definitely a bold move to make, thankfully the on-field team did their part to ensure that a home playoff game can still happen. With a 28-14 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this past Saturday, the Alouettes’ dream to host the Eastern Semi-Final is certainly attainable. But there is still a lot that needs to happen first.

With the Hamilton Tiger-Cats holding the tiebreaker due to point differential, the Alouettes need to finish the regular season with a better overall record than the Tabbies. They can do that with a win this Friday over the Ottawa RedBlacks while the Ticats need to lose to the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Saturday. Having secured themselves a home playoff date in the West, it seems unlikely that the Riders will bring all their starters to the Hammer as this final regular season game changes nothing in their playoff seeding.

Can the Alouettes fulfill this seemingly tall task in order to host that playoff game? We won’t know until this Saturday, but this really has been quite the year in the Canadian Football League. I suppose anything really truly is possible.

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This past Saturday’s effort against the Bombers’ taxi squad certainly showed that the Alouettes can put together a win when needed. But if this home and home series truly is a preview of this year’s Grey Cup game, then I am not 100% certain of the capabilities of QB1 in bringing home that championship for Montreal.

Trevor Harris got his first win in red/blue, going 18 of 25 and throwing for 144 yards with a trio of touchdowns. But again, I still don’t see what everyone else seems to see in this guy. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but was once again holding on to the ball far too long and getting sacked as a result. The three tuddys Harris tossed seemed more the result of the recipients versus his actual ability. Eugene Lewis caught the first two and had to work hard to make them count, practically twisting his lanky frame into a pretzel to make those catches. The third touchdown was caught by Reggie White Jr., who had the presence of mind to tap his toes just in bounds for it to count. These two fellas deserve all the praise for getting the job done, but they certainly had to work for it.

One pass that Harris completed to Lewis was an absolute beauty, but more because Geno himself decided to pad HIS quarterback stats with it! We haven’t seen a gadget play at Percival Molson Stadium in a while, but Lewis kept his 100% QB rating intact by taking Harris’ pass and heaving it 35 yards to Quan Bray to help set up Reggie White’s TD catch. Incredibly, with that one play Lewis racked up more passing yards than Bombers QB Sean McGuire, who at that point was sitting at 31 yards passing through three plus quarters of play!

Montreal’s ground game was a bit more subtle with league rushing leader William Stanback padding his stats some more, adding 65 yards to his tally. He then gave way to Jeshrun Antwi, who got some valuable reps carrying the rock. But perhaps more importantly when it came to extending drives for Montreal was Shea Patterson, the forgotten QB serving as backup while Matthew Shiltz and Vernon Adams remain on the sidelines. Patterson had several 3rd down plunges to keep the chains moving for the Alouettes. This game was his first real taste of CFL action and while it was brief, it surely was a motivating factor for him to know that his game play is helping the team find success.

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Montreal’s defense really stepped up and made plays happen, even if the majority of Winnipeg’s starters were left at home. They made Sean McGuire’s day a long and miserable one, as they forced several turnovers and limited the Bombers to a pair of touchdowns. Najee Murray, Chris Ackie, Ahmad Thomas and Greg Reid each picked off McGuire, stopping any momentum dead in its tracks. Not even an Adarius Pickett fumble to start this game could stop the Alouettes’ defense for very long.

This was the sort of game that Montreal is expected to win. This defense has proven to bend but rarely break. There are some major playmakers who have done what was asked of them and then some. I can think of maybe two or three games where I think this defense was the reason why the Alouettes lost. Aside from that, the work that has been done by defensive coordinator Barron Miles and his crew has been exemplary. The old adage of “defense wins championships” could very well hold true if this 2021 version of the Montreal Alouettes have anything to say about it.

Which is a great thing, because we are now two and a half games into the Trevor Harris era and I am still not convinced that he is the answer. My original belief of him being a backup quarterback being paid starter’s money has not wavered. And yet, head coach Khari Jones was effusive in praise for Harris’ outing this past Saturday. Which leaves me to wonder what exactly am I missing here? 

Since 2018 (when he led the Ottawa RedBlacks to the Grey Cup), his production has slowly dovetailed. In 2021, he’s played one really good game and barely showed up for the rest. While it’s easy to say that he was a product of his environment whilst in Edmonton, this notion that you can drop him into this Alouettes offense without missing a beat is completely unfounded. I swear, I’m not trying to hate on the guy but when it comes to quarterbacks commanding a large payday I tend to expect quite a bit. As should anyone wanting their money’s worth from someone.

When I think of the quarterback clown car that was the Montreal Alouettes from 2013-2019, the one common denominator that came about in regards to the QB du jour was “some spurts of greatness, but ultimately not the answer”. And when some ballyhooed hotshot QB was expected to be the saviour of this franchise, the massive weight of that title ended up crushing them like a bug. I just look at Trevor Harris’ body of work in 2021 and can’t help but think that he’ll be the next one who will have that albatross around their neck.

The Montreal Alouettes may actually get to the Grey Cup final in Hamilton on December 12th. But I remain firm in my belief that if they do, it will not be because of Trevor Harris but rather in spite of. Yes, he did a fine job this past Saturday. But a fine job isn’t going to cut it against the real Winnipeg Blue Bombers team. Or any of the other teams that Montreal will have to face if they want an eighth Grey Cup banner to fly on the mountain.

I promise this isn’t meant to be a hatchet job on Trevor Harris and I’m trying really hard to see what all the other so-called CFL experts see in him. But to quote the late Sean Connery in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, “I’m still waiting to be impressed“.

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That’s all for now. The Montreal Alouettes will finish their regular season this Friday versus the Ottawa RedBlacks, who will want to try and salvage something from their dismal 2021 season. With any luck, this will not be the last CFL football game played at Percival Molson Stadium this year. But a lot of pieces will need to fall into place for that home playoff game to happen. The first piece comes this Friday with a win that would at the very least ensure the Alouettes’ second straight winning season.  The road to the Grey Cup runs through Toronto; let’s see if it can’t start in La Belle Province.

Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself break down this latest home victory plus preview the last regular season game versus Ottawa. You can find the podcast here, on Youtube and on your favourite podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Make no mistake; winning feels great, Alouettes Nation. But already, it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!