MMQB: Un autre match incroyable!

Football fans have been truly spoiled by the last three CFL championship games. The 110th Grey Cup might be the best of the bunch.

2021 saw Winnipeg prevail over Hamilton in an overtime thriller. Last year we witnessed a frenetic fourth quarter that ended with a blocked field goal and a Toronto victory. And then Sunday night it was an Alouettes final drive for the ages that cemented an incredible victory in one of the most entertaining start-to-finish football games you’ll ever see.

Félicitations Montréal, la Coupe Grey est à vous!

110th GREY CUP
» Au Septieme Ciel: Alouettes win the 110th Grey Cup
» Boxscore: 110th Grey Cup by the numbers
» Fajardo named Most Valuable Player of the 110th Grey Cup
» 3 stats that defined the 110th Grey Cup
» Tyson Philpot named Most Valuable Canadian of the 110th Grey Cup


The game of his life

Cody Fajardo was spectacular and was one of the easiest Grey Cup Most Valuable Player selections ever. In the biggest start of his career, Fajardo executed in nearly flawless fashion almost right from the get-go and all his best attributes were on display.

Fajardo finished 21-for-26 with 290 yards passing and three touchdowns, including that game-winning laser strike to Tyson Philpot in the dying seconds. All year, Fajardo’s connection with first year phenom Austin Mack was on display and it was again when it mattered most. Mack reeled in six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in his first Grey Cup appearance.

Let’s also not forget one of Montreal’s X-factors in this matchup: Fajardo’s ability to run the ball. On display in both the East Division Semi-Final and Eastern Final, Fajardo was relatively quiet in the rushing department Sunday until his third-to-last snap of the game.

That’s when he scampered 13 yards and turned a VERY long second down into manageable third down yardage. Fajardo’s last two passes of the season followed: a 31-yard hook-up with Cole Spieker and his 19-yard touchdown strike to Philpot.

Honestly, it was a little hard not to be emotional watching Fajardo celebrate and hearing him interviewed following the win. Think of all this guy has battled through.

Remember the heartbreaking finish to the 2019 Western Final when his last pass clanked off the crossbar despite gutting through two torn oblique muscles? The 2021 Western Final wasn’t much different, with Fajardo and the Roughriders falling just short again.

And we all know how the 2022 ended in Saskatchewan: a painful late losing streak to miss the playoffs, a benching and a hurtful parting of ways that left Fajardo at a career crossroads.

If you talk to anyone who’s played with Fajardo dating back to his time at the University of Nevada, you always hear the word “gamer.” Well, Fajardo was the ultimate gamer in the biggest game of his career. Good on him.

The perfect gameplan

In writing a “keys to Winnipeg success” article this past week, one of the things I highlighted was the battle at the line of scrimmage when the Als had the ball. Montreal’s offensive line had allowed 10 sacks in their first two playoff games and were going against a Bombers defensive unit that racked up nine in its playoff win against BC. The regular season numbers also pointed to a potential area for Winnipeg to exploit.

It turned out to be not much of a factor at all, thanks to great execution from the Alouettes and an outstanding game plan put together by offensive coordinator Anthony Calvillo. In the end, the vaunted Blue Bombers’ pass rush only recorded two sacks.

It was apparent early that Fajardo was focused on getting the ball out of his hands quickly. His reads were fast and crisp, which rarely allowed Winnipeg to harass or disrupt in the backfield. Fajardo’s quick execution mixed with pointed play calling made for a great recipe. Calvillo dialled up short passes and bubble screens at some of the most opportune times.

And lots of credit needs to go to Montreal’s line, too. They allowed Fajardo time in the pocket to hit big gainers on multiple occasions and helped tailback William Stanback run for 68 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

The swingman

Darnell Sankey is a bad man, in the best possible way.

This guy just put together one of the most legendary calendar years of football we’ve ever seen, and that’s no exaggeration. If Netflix is looking for their next sports documentary limited series, I’d be happy to submit “The Sankey Story” for strong consideration.

After leading the CFL in defensive tackles in 2021 and 2022 with Calgary and Saskatchewan, respectively, Sankey tried something new to start this year. That new challenge led Sankey to the Arlington Renegades where he played from February through May and helped his team win its first ever XFL championship.

Granted his release in August, Sankey wanted to keep playing and opted to sign with the Als the following month. He made his Montreal debut in a close 23-20 loss to Toronto in Week 15 and then decided to enter CFL lore.

“I believe we’re going to win every game and we’re going to win the Grey Cup,” Sankey told our Jim Morris a few days after his first game with his new team. “If that’s not your belief, you shouldn’t be on this team.”

Sankey and the Alouettes then went and rattled off eight straight wins culminating in, you guessed it, the Grey Cup.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Sankey has been a beast since his return to Canada. How about eight tackles and a sack in Sunday’s win over Winnipeg? He had six tackles and an interception in the Eastern Final. The week prior it was eight tackles, two sacks and an interception in the Eastern Semi-Final.

Goodness gracious, Mr. Sankey. That’s two championship rings with two teams in two leagues in one calendar year. And the sentence that swung a season.

You can rest now.

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