Shawn Lemon’s 100th sack highlights Alouettes domination (& seven thoughts on the win over Ottawa) 

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

The Montreal Alouettes have one goal left this regular season: to host this year’s East Semi-Final. It’ll be a done deal with just one more win as the club dominated the Ottawa Redblacks on Monday by a score of 29-3.

Slow start

After 20 minutes of play, it was only 1-0 for the Als as both teams struggled to generate points. However, Montreal seemed to have complete control of the game without being able to finish the drives.

Jose Maltos, who saw the field for the first time in a regular season game, missed a field goal, and Cody Fajardo threw an interception in Ottawa’s red zone.

Jason Maas’ team will need to be more opportunistic come playoff time. As soon as an opponent opens the door, the Als must take advantage by putting points on the board. It could have been 10-0 early on, but instead, the Redblacks still had a chance, which they never seized.

The rest of the half was a defensive battle. Both defensive lines were dominant and kept the quarterbacks from finding their rhythm.

Fajardo finally put together a good drive midway through the second quarter, ending it with a 36-yard pass to Tyson Philpot.

More defensive dominance

It seems like a copy-paste from the recent post-game analysis, but Noel Thorpe’s was too much to handle for the Redblacks’ offence.

Dustin Crum never got comfortable in the pocket as Montreal’s pressure got to him for five sacks. A lot of credit should go to the defensive backs whose strong coverage forced Crum and Nick Arbuckle to hold onto the ball for long periods of time.

The blitz from the secondary was also effective as Tyrice Beverette and Reggie Stubblefield got one sack each and the former scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery. Both have great seasons so far and are at the heart of Noel Thorpe’s recent defensive success.

Beverette told the media after the game that he and Stubblefield communicate and trust each other. He knew the young player was special and could make plays. He added that the defence feels like it’s on the same page right now.

Shawn Lemon joins 100-sack club

It’s finally done: Shawn Lemon registered his 100th sack in the CFL. He avoided a block from Dino Boyd and went around the pocket to bring Crum down. His teammates celebrated with him, and he was emotional after the game.

“I’m just thankful. (I’ve faced) a lot of adversity in my career,” he said. “I remember when I had six sacks, I got cut. I remembered when I had 92 sacks and got cut in B.C.”

It meant even more to him since his parents were in attendance, who drove all the way from Washington to watch him achieve this milestone. The 35-year-old wasn’t fearful the sack was never going to come, knowing it was going to occur on that play.

“I knew when Coach Thorpe called the play. All week, he’s been telling me, ‘This gonna be the play you get the sack on,’ so I knew I had to go extra hard,” he said. “Coach Thorpe has been nothing but amazing. He understands my skill set and he understands how to use me in this defence. I’m super grateful to play for him.”

Lemon is again proving that he still has plenty of juice coming off the edge.

The offence finds its rhythm

It wasn’t a great start offensively, but as the game went on, Cody Fajardo found his rhythm and completed 28-of-32 pass attempts for 272 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

He took what the defence gave him and didn’t force plays. Walter Fletcher and Jeshrun Antwi were effective when given a chance, which helped create a good balance between the run and passing game.

Tyson Philpot is really taking significant steps at the right time, as he was the most productive receiver with 90 yards through the air. When the playoffs start, the Alouettes will have some great receiving weapons with Philpot, Tyler Snead, and Austin Mack. Cole Spieker has also started to heat up after a slow start to the season.

Another great story

Jose Maltos has been in the CFL since 2018 and was patient through practice roster stints in B.C. and Ottawa to finally get his first real opportunity on Monday.

“A lot of people in Mexico knew I had been activated,” said the 32-year-old, clearly feeling emotional postgame. “It means a lot coming from there. I tried to control what I could and do my best.”

Maltos made two of his four field goal attempts and all three of his convert attempts with David Côté out of the lineup due to injury. His two misses came from 48 and 49 yards out.

The CFL’s global program has justifiably been a source of criticism, but it allows for some stories like his to be written. Maltos was living a dream, and it was good to see.

The crowd

It was a rainy day at Percival Molson Stadium but the fans still showed up. In fact, the announced crowd of 20,664 was the largest this season.

It was a loud atmosphere with the airhorns in full force.

The fans got rewarded with a big win and the team is now looking to earn them an extra game by hosting the East Semi-Final. That was the message sent by Marc-Antoine Dequoy and Cody Fajardo, who were grateful for the fans’ support throughout the season.

What’s next?

The Alouettes (9-7) will now face the Edmonton Elks (4-12) on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Commonwealth Stadium. With a win, Montreal will secure a home playoff game.

Pablo is a CFL and Alouettes analyst based in Montreal.