CFL: Stampeders 17, Alouettes 21
MONTREAL — It was only fitting for John Bowman to say a few words.
Shortly after the Alouettes clinched a playoff spot – the franchise's first since 2014 – Bowman gathered players in the locker room and made a speech.
The longest-tenured Als player praised his teammates for again defying expectations following a 21-17 victory over the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday in which Montreal's defence came up big in the second half.
"We relied on each other and we didn't listen to the naysayers who said we were going to be 0-18," said a spirited Bowman, who has been with Montreal since 2006. "We came out here and defended our turf.
"We proved we can rise to the occasion. They were slinging the ball around all first half. We went back into our playbook and we forced a lot of turnovers. We stayed together and we didn't doubt."
Down four points late in the fourth, Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell attempted to orchestrate a game-winning drive that ended when Alouettes linebacker Boseko Lokombo batted a pass on third down with 49 seconds to play, sending the 18,454 fans at Percival Molson Stadium into a frenzy.
Montreal (8-6) is guaranteed to finish no lower than second place in the East Division.
"I'm really proud of the guys for believing," said coach Khari Jones. "There were a whole lot of reasons not to believe at the beginning of the season. Nobody worried about any of those. We just went out and have been playing solid football."
Mitchell completed 31-of-44 passes for 464 yards, a touchdown and an interception as the Stampeders (9-5) saw their winning streak snapped at four games.
The Stamps QB had little to show for his 464 passing yards as five Calgary drives were cut short due to turnovers — three fumbles, an interception and a turnover on downs. Montreal only managed to score three points off turnovers.
"We were playing really well, outside of taking care of the football," said Mitchell, who had 313 passing yards at halftime. "As the leader of this offence, I expect more and that starts with me. But at the same time, we're turning the ball over on easy things and we just can't do it.
"It's okay because these guys have been balling for us all year. The receivers are going to watch the film and understand they have to be better when it comes to that."
Vernon Adams Jr. returned from a one-game suspension and went 18 for 29 passing for 206 yards and a rushing touchdown.
The Alouettes took a 7-0 lead on their opening drive. Calgary penalties for accidental pass interference and offside kept the drive alive before Adams punched the ball in from the one — his 12th rushing TD of the season.
Calgary answered right back with an 81-yard drive. Mitchell found Eric Rogers for three big pass plays to move down the field before running back Don Jackson scored on a five-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 12:41 of the first quarter.
The defending Grey Cup champions took a 10-7 lead on a 12-yard field goal from Rene Paredes, who missed a 40-yard kick a few minutes later.
Mitchell made quick work of Montreal's defence late in the second quarter. The Calgary QB found Hergy Mayala for 27 yards before spotting Josh Huff in the end zone 28 yards from scrimmage for the 10-point lead.
A Boris Bede field goal made it 17-10 at halftime following Ryan Brown's interception.
Montreal's defence kept Calgary off the board in the second half.
After a Stampeders two-and-out to start the third quarter, Mario Alford returned the punt 85 yards for the score to tie the game at 17-17.
"Punt returners, you just have to hit it and go," said Alford, who was making his Alouettes debut. "You see a hole, no stutter step. I made one man miss and I was out from there. I think I did a pretty good job"
Bede scored a single late in the third quarter as the home team took an 18-17 lead into the fourth. The Als kicker added a 25-yard field goal with 2:14 left in the game.
Notes: The Stampeders dropped to 1-5 at Percival Molson Stadium since 2013. … The Alouettes lost two players to injury in the first half: linebacker Tevin Floyd (lower body) and left tackle Tony Washington (right leg).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2019.