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In big games, the big time players step up.
The Montreal Alouettes defence had plenty of them in the Eastern Semi-Final and will need them again going into Toronto for Saturday’s Eastern Final.
Going back to Montreal’s 27-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Alouettes defensive playmakers were all over the field.
When you think of plays that disrupt the opposition you’re looking for sacks, knockdowns, pressure, and ultimately turnovers.
The pressure was relentless, they knocked down eight passes, the sacks totalled five, they forced a crucial fumble on Hamilton’s productive opening drive and took the ball away with two interceptions.
And everyone was involved; everyone!
It was a full 60-minute effort with all players on defence committed to staying aggressive and forcing Hamilton into second and long while eating them raw in passing situations.
The defence of the Alouettes has been their strength all season and it was no different on Saturday.
All season, we’ve seen the Alouettes defence be among the top in the league in points and yards allowed.
Consider Lemon and Sankey both had two sacks against the Tiger-Cats and the latter added an interception off a tipped ball created by Mustafa Johnson at the line.
General manager Danny Maciocia gets the credit for seeing the team wasn’t sustaining consistent pressure during the early part of the season and adding Lemon, who made an instant impact. Then when Sankey expressed interest in returning to the CFL, Maciocia still had enough cap space to make it work to add a playmaker and allow Noel Thorpe to mix in a dangerous 3-4 defensive alignment to have Tyrice Beverette, Sankey and Avery Williams on the field at the same time.
This is why the Alouettes are dangerous in the Eastern Final.
Look at the Alouettes win streak in the final third of the season where they created 20 turnovers and in turn the offence coughed up the ball just four times.
When you look at three games against Toronto this season, where Montreal did lose all three, the results are indicative of the turnover ratio.
In game one Montreal was minus two. When they were blown out in game three they were minus five. While in the final game against Toronto when Montreal had the lead in the fourth quarter, the two sides were even in turnovers.
That means that when the Alouettes take the field at BMO Field on Saturday, it’ll be their defence leading the charge and when you can rattle an offence early and throw the first punch, it can leave a lasting impression.
That’s why I think that first turnover against Hamilton was so important. It killed a scoring drive and set a tone early.
Montreal will have to come out against Toronto and make them play from behind. Once Montreal gets a team on the ropes and force them to get away from the ground game, their refreshed defensive line with Lemon and their 3-4 looks will allow their athletic linebackers to wreak havoc.
If Toronto gets out to a lead and allow AJ Ouellette to start rolling, it’ll be a long day at BMO.
Like seven weeks ago, I believe the Argonauts will face a stiff test to put their 16-2 season on the line. The Alouettes could have won that game if it weren’t for an ill-timed turnover by Cody Fajardo and two missed field goals from David Cote.
Defence wins championships can sound cliche but in the case of the Alouettes, it’ll be their defence that will have to lead them to one in 2023.