It’s still somewhat premature to classify the Alouettes a team of destiny. They’ve yet to reach the Grey Cup, let alone win it. But considering they started 1-7 and are now 9-8, riding a six-game winning streak, all things remain possible for a team that was on life support what now seems like a lifetime ago. “I’m as proud of this team as any team I’ve played for, but we haven’t accomplished anything,? said veteran offensive-tackle Josh Bourke, who has played his entire eight-year career with Montreal, winning two championships.
“We have a chance to win the Grey Cup. Why can’t we do it? We’re playing as good as any team in this league,? Bourke added.
“We’re right in it. The last chapter hasn’t been written yet, but we’re going to do our damnedest to keep this thing rolling.?
The last chapter remains to be revealed, but at least the Als know it will include a playoff appearance, for the 19th consecutive season, following Sunday’s comeback 17-14 victory against the Toronto Argonauts at Molson Stadium — Montreal scoring 10 unanswered points, with the wind, in the fourth quarter.
The Als remain first in the East Division at 9-8 — the first time this season they’ve been over .500 — heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Hamilton. Montreal can finish first and get an opening-round playoff bye with a win, or, should they lose by seven points or less, having defeated the Tiger-Cats 38-31 in early September.
Otherwise, the Als will place second and host the division semifinal, against the fourth-place team in the West Division — British Columbia or Saskatchewan — Nov. 16.
Toronto’s hopes evaporated
Two weeks ago, when the Als defeated Toronto at the Rogers Centre, they held the Argos to four field goals, Ricky Ray completing 25 passes, but generating only 202 yards. This time, the visitors produced a touchdown and Ray completed 26 passes, but was held to 209 yards.
And with the Argos desperately attempting to orchestrate some kind of score late in the game, Ray was driven to the turf by rush-end John Bowman, one of three quarterback sacks for Montreal. Ray left the game with a concussion and, with it, Toronto’s hopes evaporated.
The Argos (7-10) must beat Ottawa at home on Friday — and hope the Als defeat the Ticats — or they’ll be eliminated from post-season play.
“There are a lot of defining plays, crushing hits over the middle that forced them to be a little timid on that last drive, when (Steve) Slaton and (Mike) Bradwell dropped open balls,? said Bowman, the team leader in sacks, with 12. “It got (Ray) out of the game. It was as clean a hit as I’ve ever had.?
The Als’ defence remains the backbone of this team, as it has since the club was transformed into legitimate contenders. And on this day, everything was accomplished without boundary cornerback Geoff Tisdale. The team leader in interceptions missed the second half with a concussion, but the defence continued plugging along.
As a defence, we know in the fourth quarter we don’t give up points.? — Alouettes’ Jerald Brown
Toronto was held to a field goal over the final 30 minutes, 18 first downs and 257 yards’ net offence. Although the Argos controlled the ball nearly 31 minutes and turned it over just once, the visitors found a way to lose. Or the Als found a way to win.
“As a defence, we know in the fourth quarter we don’t give up points,? said Jerald Brown, who replaced Tisdale on the corner. “In the second half, we don’t give up points. We feel we shouldn’t have given up (even) one touchdown. It’s accountability. That’s the perfect word. We’re all accountable.
“At the end of the day, we look at the scoreboard. It’s been working for us and that’s how we’re going to keep playing,? he added.
“It makes perfect sense to us. To everyone else out there, it doesn’t. That’s fine. We don’t need anyone on our bandwagon.?
The Als’ offence scored their perfunctory two touchdowns — and yet, on this day, it was enough. Again. Montreal arguably deserved a better fate, with 413 yards of offence and 21 first downs. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton struggled with his accuracy, completing 13 of 26 for 251 yards. For most of the game, the only receiver he utilized was Duron Carter, who had one-on-one coverage.
“You know what I’m going to say … we won the game,? Crompton said. “Nobody’s ever perfect. You strive for excellence, but you’ll never reach it. Think about it — if we put those plays together, we’re pretty dangerous.
“We never get down. We make plays when we have to make them, and good things happen.?
Carter established single-game career highs, with 11 receptions for 181 yards. He scored the winning touchdown on a 23-yard play nearly six minutes into the fourth quarter. But he also fumbled and dropped a halfback-option from receiver S.J. Green — when he was open and probably would have scored.
“I just relaxed. The wind took it a bit. I just felt terrible. I misjudged it completely,? said Carter, who now has 71 catches for 987 yards in 14 games.
Carter, to his credit, atoned — as he normally does when he wavers. “I talk so much and am so confident. When I mess up, I just know I have to make plays. I know they’re depending on me. I’ve got so much pressure on myself and know I’ve got to make a play,? he said. “Credit to Crompton for trusting me and keeping me in the game.?
The Als’ dressing room was boisterous, as it should have been. The music was blaring, players smiling, yelling and cavorting. They worked hard. They earned this moment.
“We’re just winners now, all of a sudden,? Carter said. “You couldn’t even tell me that we started 1-7. I feel undefeated.?
Lately, the Als are.
Herb raised the issue of the botched calls/plays, albeit softly, but it was the headline writer that was TOTALLY of base:
"Alouettes coach Higgins vindicated on gambles"
How on earth was he vindicated? Because the defense got a stop? Lunacy. We GAVE 3 points to Toronto for no particular reason. I mean, if you're trailing by a bunch and time is wasting, maybe. But we were down by four effing points. Punt the ball away and live to fight another day. Your D has been fierce and has given no reason to think they can't force a punt from Toronto, yet you try some idiotic trick play that by the WAY your players couldn't even remotely disguise effectively, because the Argos sniffed it out right at the line of scrimmage (another failing of the ST coach).