A year after Johnny Manziel’s forgettable and short stint in the CFL and with Montreal, the Alouettes inadvertently adopted his own mantra after his departure: #ComebackSZN.
With seven comeback wins in 2019, the club was staring down the barrel at number eight, but ultimately, this season had its fate sealed on a bad pass decision which led to a late-game pick and an Edmonton Eskimos date with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final.
Before the game started, Matt Dunigan was telling the panel how he feels head coach Khari Jones changed the atmosphere around the Alouettes. He talked about the players wanting to run through walls for their energetic coach and have fun doing it.
There’s been lots of smiles for the club this year. From crazy comebacks in New Brunswick, Calgary and at home against Winnipeg with the emergence of Vernon Adams Jr. leading the way. Khari Jones has brought the fading football pulse in Montreal back to life, year one under the jumping-around-the-sidelines coach Jones really has been something to watch. He led them to their first playoff game since 2014, the longest absence of playoff football in franchise history.
“With close to 20,000 seats sold, we have decided to start removing some banners and put extra tickets on sale,” said Patrick Boivin President and CEO of the Alouettes. #CFL #LCF #MontreALS via @MTLAlouettes
— CFL News (@CFL_News) November 7, 2019
The Eskimos and Als traded wins in the regular season against each other and it appeared to be reminiscent of Week 2 when the Esks put up over 600 yards of offence on Bob Slowik’s defensive unit. Trevor Harris completed his first 22 pass attempts, showing once more how little the Alouettes have stopped him as a starter. Harris boasted an 11-3 career record against Montreal heading into the Eastern Semi-final.
For Adams, this was his first foray into pressure-packed, sudden death action. Sure, there’s been intense moments, like the handful of comebacks he led through the regular season, but nothing compares to your first playoff game as a starting pivot for a team and city starving for a consistent starter — and winner.
He wasn’t as good as the Als needed him to be (14-of-27, 226 yards, three interceptions) in the loss. An overthrow to an open end-zone target while scrambling and trailing 31-19 late in the third seemed like a play which would have been made in any other of their comebacks this season, but not to be.
Adams also threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage which went straight into Josh Johnson’s hands, his second of three picks in the tilt. Growing pains. For what felt like the first time of the year, he and the offence seemed out of sync.
— CFL (@CFL) November 10, 2019
But it was sure made interesting after John Bowman, who leads the club with most playoff games in a career with nine, picked off one of Harris’ three passes which didn’t hit their intended target, and Adams danced into the end zone soon after.
— CFL (@CFL) November 10, 2019
There are looming off-season questions ahead for the organization. Finding a new owner will be a big part of it, as the league continues to oversee the franchise until a deal is done.
A sold out Percival Molson Memorial Stadium only helps the league’s pitch and the team’s image to potential buyers, so too will the excitement which has built around the team for the first time in a long while.
Regarding the on-field product, keeping Adams around should be priority No. 1. For the first time since Anthony Calvillo’s retirement, the team finally has found a legitimate number one quarterback. Keeping the pending free agent in the mix is a must both for a winning standpoint and a marketing one.
Perhaps the Jones-Adams duo can launch a new era of winning in Montreal, much like the Marc Trestman-Calvillo combo.
But those decisions will be made in the coming days and months. While the search for an owner won’t stop, the players will take a break, go on vacation, and rest their bodies after the natural wear and tear which comes with playing professional football.
Even with this season ending perhaps a bit prematurely with the loss, there are only positives to take from this campaign.
And that, for a franchise which has been through a lot of uncertainty in the last few years, is a win.