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The Montreal Alouettes haven’t been to the Grey Cup in 13 years and now all that stands in their way of hoisting the coveted trophy is taking down the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It won’t be easy, beating Winnipeg, a team on the verge of dynasty status and who is in the big show for the fourth-straight year. Montreal defeated a juggernaut last week, sinking the Argos ship in the Eastern Final, so can they take down another this week for their eighth, and most important, win in a row?
With the 110th Grey Cup just around the corner, here are three keys to success for the Montreal Alouettes.
The Montreal Alouettes will need to get ahead of the Bombers early in this one, as Winnipeg has shown just how easily they can pull away from teams early in games once they get a lead.
The fast start could be on offence with Cody Fajardo airing it out to his receivers getting into the end zone or using their tailback William Stanback to push himself in for six. They could also use their defence to score, as they did last week with a pick-six on Toronto’s opening drive. No matter how they do it, they need to get points on the board to make sure they aren’t playing from behind early.
It’s interesting to note that in their two meetings this season, Montreal didn’t score an offensive point against Winnipeg, with their scores coming from their defence on two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
They’ll need to break that trend, or score on defence or special teams, to make an early statement, just like they did in the Eastern Final.
Stop the run
It’s no secret that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence runs through the legs of Brady Oliveira. The Winnipeg-born tailback, who was awarded the Most Outstanding Canadian award at Thursday night’s CFL Awards, had a sensational season, racking up over 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
He can burst with speed through gaps with the help of his offensive line but what really makes him dangerous is his strength running down hill. Watch any highlight of the 26-year-old and more often than not he’s carrying defenders on his back to get extra yardage.
Oliveria ran for 120 and 119 yards in the two games against Winnipeg this year and the tailback went for 109 and a touchdown last week in the Western Final. It’ll be up to the front of Montreal’s defence, including middle linebacker Darnell Sankey, who hasn’t played the Bombers yet this season since joining the team, to slow him down on Sunday.
To stop Zach Collaros and the Bombers offence, the Als defence has to what they’ve done best so far this year: force turnovers.
Montreal forced nine total turnovers against Toronto last week, including a pick-six from Marc-Antoine Dequoy on the Argos’ opening drive of the game. While that pick-six seemed to frazzle the QB in double blue, throwing three more picks including one more for a score, that won’t be the case for the experienced Collaros.
Collaros doesn’t ever worry after any mishaps, just ask his head coach who told reporters on Friday that his team never has to worry about the star quarterback after a play that doesn’t go his way. He just moves on without batting an eye.
We saw this back in Week 12, when the Als forced three turnovers in the first half of their meeting against Winnipeg, including two pick-sixes, one from linebacker Tyrell Richards and one from Dequoy, who had a second pick in that first half as well. Collaros was unfazed by that first half and led his team to a 47-17 win, outscoring the Als 27-0 in the second half. Talk about a cool and calm Collaros.
It won’t be as easy as it seemed last week, but continuing to turn the ball over and put it back in Fajardo’s hands will be one of the ways Montreal needs to try to slow down Winnipeg (with the key words being slow down, since that offence is so powerful it won’t be stopped completely).