November 23, 2023

Cauz: Als’ defence clamps down with second half heroics

Has everyone come down from what we saw on Sunday night yet?

Let me offer sincere apologies to Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans, but the 110th Grey Cup was as good as it gets with the Montreal Alouettes’ 28-24 victory.

The best part about this game is that most fans did not see this result coming. Winnipeg was the clear favourite and at the half, the main conversation was about the Alouettes and their inability to punch it in the end zone after they failed to gain a yard on third-and-goal.

With Winnipeg up 17-7, it felt like Montreal had let the game slip away with two first half turnovers and leaving at least three points on the board. I won’t lie, in my mind we were 30 minutes away from Coach Mike O’Shea and company entering the hallowed halls of dynasty with a capital “D.”

110th GREY CUP
» Landry: Ento’s takeaways key for Als in 110th Grey Cup
» O’Leary: Lifted by legendary QBs, Fajardo breaks through
» Fajardo named Most Valuable Player of the 110th Grey Cup
» Costabile: Four memorable moments from the 110th Grey Cup
» Tyson Philpost named Most Valuable Canadian of the 110th Grey Cup


Much of the attention and credit is going to Cody Fajardo, and it should! The Grey Cup MVP was brilliant with three touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards against an elite Winnipeg defence. However, I would like to focus on the Alouettes defence and the job they did in the second half. I was going to put together a list of my Top-5 favourite post-game swearing moments but thought better of it.

Winnipeg’s first offensive series of the second half looked like most of the first half; methodical. It was a ruthless, seven-play drive that ate up 56 yards led by Zach Collaros and had Winnipeg first and goal, about to rip back any momentum created by Montreal after their opening touchdown drive had cut the lead to a field goal.

Then rookie Kabion Ento did his best Superman impersonation flying high in the air to snatch an under-thrown pass intended for Kenny Lawler. The end zone turnover was both a bad decision by Collaros but also an incredible feat of athleticism by Ento, who needed every inch of air to come down with the interception. Crisis averted and game on.

The next time Winnipeg got the ball it was another Alouette rookie capturing the attention of a nation. It is rare to see Brady Oliveira go down right after contact. There’s a reason 2023’s Most Outstanding Canadian led the league in rushing, it takes a herculean effort to bring this bulldozer in cleats down. That is exactly what happened on a first and 15 run by 2023 first-round pick, defensive lineman Lwal Uguak.

How many rookies do you know that can take on a Stanley Bryant block, get away from the future Hall-Of-Famer only to go head-to-head with Oliveira and flatten him with a perfectly lowered shoulder tackle? In a game filled with eye popping big plays, this is the one that may get forgotten.

On second down it was Avery Williams’ turn with a big hit on a short screen reception by Nic Demski forcing another Winnipeg punt. This was the moment of the game where the physicality edge tilted towards Montreal, a development many of us did not see coming considering it was the bully Bombers they were facing.


In the fourth quarter, Montreal took their first lead of the Grey Cup on a 13-yard touchdown to Austin Mack. That drive doesn’t happen without the help of a defence that not only forced a two-and-out but also erased any damage created by an Evan Holm’s interception moments earlier. Instead of Winnipeg capitalizing on a Montreal mistake, it was a Reggie Stubblefield sack that gave Fajardo a shot at redemption, which is easier to do when your offence only needs 28 yards to reach the end zone. Stubblefield’s hard inside move on second down beat Jermarcus Hardrick and suddenly Jamieson Sheahan and the punting unit is back on the field.

The final big play was a team effort. The game winning touchdown drive doesn’t happen without a Darnell Sankey sack denying the Winnipeg offence from running out the clock. Zach had time to scan the field but the coverage behind the first-year Alouette linebacker did their job allowing one of the team’s key in-season defensive additions (Shawn Lemon was out there was a free agent in July!) to do his. Zach was taken down for the fourth time, setting up Fajardo and Tyson Philpot for glory. The Bombers were a couple first downs away from having their organization written into the history books, but Montreal’s defence had a different story to tell.

History denied was really the main theme of the 2023 playoffs and much of it thanks to the work done on all levels of the Alouettes defence. They denied both Toronto and Winnipeg a chance for historic greatness while allowing just one touchdown pass compared to seven interceptions.

The Montreal Alouettes are more than deserving champions. They are more than just a feel-good story wrapped in redemption. This is a team where all three units supported each other in their three-game run to glory highlighted by a defence that held the highest scoring team to a single touchdown in the second half.

Once again, the Grey Cup does not disappoint.

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