Landry: Philpot, Als’ offence step up to win 110th Grey Cup
Tyson Philpot knew one thing for sure.
“I knew if that ball was thrown to me there was no way I was droppin’ that thing,” said the hero of the moment, after his 19-yard touchdown reception had given the Montreal Alouettes a heart-stopping, come-from-behind, 28-24 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 110th Grey Cup.
With just eleven seconds seconds to go, and the Montreal Alouettes trailing by three, the 23-year-old receiver beat one of the best defensive backs in the CFL, Winnipeg’s Demerio Houston, and speared a pass from quarterback Cody Fajardo in the end zone. The catch gave the Alouettes their first CFL championship since 2010 and Philpot the play of a lifetime. Up to now, at least.
“I knew I was gonna have to make a big play if the ball came my way,” said Philpot, still pretty keyed up in the moments after the Alouettes had salted away the victory.
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The University of Calgary grad, who was Montreal’s first round pick (ninth overall) in the 2022 CFL draft, described the route and the catch in detail, the memory still fresh, as he was leaving the stage after the Grey Cup presentation.
“We knew he was gonna have the inside shade,” said Philpot of Houston, a CFL All-Star in 2023. “We knew that all week,” he added, alluding to the film work and strategy sessions that were precursors to the Grey Cup game. “I knew I was gonna have to shave a little bit just to win on the leverage.”
Houston had given Philpot a bit of a cushion as the ball was snapped, aware that an underneath pattern wasn’t likely to get the Alouettes to the end zone. At this point, the Bombers were willing to concede a field goal and let the game go into overtime. The Als had one shot, really, at winning the game right then and there with a major.
“Once I’d seen the safety roll over I knew it was gonna be a one-on-one ball,” Philpot explained. “I knew I had to win. And seven (Fajardo) just trusted in me.”
As Philpot closed in on Houston, the young receiver made sharp steps to get the leverage he was looking for as he headed to the end zone and his date with football destiny.
“I just pressed on his toes, gave him a little rocker step at the top and cut cross-face,” said Philpot. Seven gave me a great ball.”
“And look at where we are now,” he said, gleefully.
Philpot would not have had a chance to make his dramatic touchdown grab if not for teammate Cole Spieker – Philpot’s roommate, incidentally – had not made his own breathless grab on the previous play, when the Als faced third-and-five from the Winnipeg 50-yard line. Fajardo lofted a deep ball down the sideline to Spieker – who had a touchdown reception earlier in the game – for a 31-yard gain to the Winnipeg 19-yard line.
“He’s been makin’ big plays all year,” said Philpot of Spieker. “When his name gets called he makes that play. I love him for life. He’s my dawg. Great effin’ play.”
The Montreal offence came into the Grey Cup game under a little pressure, with many observers thinking that if the Alouettes were to win, they’d have to do it through defence, mostly, the way they’d beaten the Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern Final the week before. The Montreal defence showed up and played a terrific game, yes. But the offence scored four touchdowns in earning the victory and escaping the defence’s shadow. On this night, at least.
“We talked about this before the game,” said Philpot of his teammates on the Alouette offence. “Everyone was talkin’ about the defence and the special teams. No one wanted to talk about our offence. And we knew what we were capable of as a group and we knew, on the biggest stage, we were gonna show up. So, we didn’t need anyone to believe in us but ourselves.”
“And we’re champs now.”
Philpot finished the game with six catches for 63 yards on his way to being named the games Most Valuable Canadian, rolling up 40 yards-after-the-catch. All tolled, the Montreal passing game tallied up 290 yards and three touchdowns, with its engineer – Fajardo – being named the game’s most valuable player.
In the end, Fajardo delivered two beauties to Spieker and then to Philpot, and the young receivers came through with flying colours.
Philpot, was still trying to process it all in the moments after the confetti had floated to the ground.
“It’s so surreal,” he said. “I couldn’t have dreamed about it any better.”
“We’re through the roof,” he said of he and his mates, after capping an incredible year of growth in Montreal.
“And let’s do it again next year,” he said, grinning.