Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Montreal Alouettes are headed to the Grey Cup playoffs for the first time since 2014.

It’s a remarkable feat considering the Als fired former head coach Mike Sherman days before the regular season kicked off, general manager Kavis Reed was punted early in the schedule and Vernon Adams Jr. was the backup quarterback to Antonio Pipkin.

Montreal weathered the storm early and their defence shut out the Stampeders in the second half, as their offence did just enough to get the 21-17 win.

There is no loved lost between the 2019 Stamps and Alouettes.

For the most part, the shoving and jawing was kept to a minimum throughout a beautiful afternoon for football and an electrified crowd. When the clubs met in Week 10, the fight started before the first whistle – literally. The teams got into it during warm-ups prior to Montreal’s thrilling 40-34 OT win.

This time around, most of the blows were on the scoreboard.

Bo Levi Mitchell put on his best performance in his fifth game back from injury as he had 313 passing yards at half. The long ball was a common theme in the opening 30 minutes. He only had a 25 percent completion rate on pass attempts longer than 15 yards entering Week 17.

But it worked at Molson Stadium. The Stampeders scored 17 unanswered points and there were more than a handful of highlights to get there. Namely a 68-yard grab to end the first by rookie and Montreal native Hergy Mayala, his first of two big plays in the game.

Adams Jr. wasted no one getting back into the swing of things. After serving his one-game suspension, he marched an opening touchdown drive for a quick strike. The quarterbacks combined for a perfect 14-for-14 start. Adams Jr. went 18-of-29 for 206 passing yards and a rushing touchdown.

The Als offence was quieted down for a few drives after that however save for a 41-yard Eugene Lewis snag which led to three points.

Montreal was dealing with some key injuries throughout this one.

John Bowman left in the first with his knee bugging him but came back, while Tony Washington was carted off in the second with an ankle injury. There was also a scary moment in the third, when Brandon Smith made incidental helmet-to-helmet contact with Quon Bray, who left for the locker room. William Stanback also was banged up following a fourth quarter hit but he stayed in the game.

The fireworks continued in the third but this time it was special teams and defence taking centre stage. Rob Maver’s first punt of the game was returned 85 yards by Mario Alford, squaring things up at 17.

The momentum was fully on the home team side after that, especially as their defence forced four turnovers on five of Calgary’s drives following their last score. The fifth drive ended in the aforementioned punt return touchdown.

The defence forced five turnovers when it was all said and done and had two sacks.

Add an Als put single and that was all the scoring the quarter offered as both sides buckled up for the fourth.

A big defensive third and one stop with over five minutes to play gave Mitchell and the offence a chance to take the lead and possibly the game. But a Bowman second down sack gave the ball back to Montreal who put three points on the board and made Mitchell have to throw a touchdown to get the win.

A defensive pass interference penalty by Jaronor Jones put Calgary on the Als 43, but it was the same Jones who swallowed up a completion to force a third down. A batted down pass on that third down sealed the win and a playoff game at home. It was Bo Lokombo with the knockdown, he had a game-high nine tackles and a forced fumble as well.

Mitchell finished with 443 passing yards on 30-of-42 completions, one touchdown and one interception. Josh Huff was his favourite target as he enjoyed a breakout game, grabbing a touchdown on nine receptions with 149 yards.

Calgary is at home against Saskatchewan (9-4) next week while Montreal is in Winnipeg (9-5).

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Grant Deme
Grant Deme is a reporter and anchor in southwestern Ontario and a lifelong follower of the CFL.