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Andrew Bucholtz

Defence wins the Alouettes' second-straight championship

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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The old saying of "offence wins games, defence wins championships" rarely, if ever, applies to the CFL. The Toronto Argonauts had the league's best defence by points allowed this season, and got waxed 48-17 by Montreal in the East Final for their troubles. Those same Montreal Alouettes were known all year for putting up points under Anthony Calvillo (whose post-game revelation that he's going to have surgery to remove half his thyroid and investigate a throat lesion is the real story of the night) and Avon Cobourne, and their defence had notable issues coming in, so few would expect them to be the club that would prove that rule. However, it turned out to be the Alouettes' defence that led to their 21-18 victory in the 98th Grey Cup Sunday night and gave their fans in attendance (pictured, right) something to cheer about.

The defence was solid if not spectacular in the first half, holding the Saskatchewan Roughriders to 10 first downs, 36 rushing yards and 143 passing yards in the first half. Quarterback Darian Durant was only able to complete 11 of his 19 first-half passes, and although Montreal gave up some big plays, they also forced five punts and went into the half tied at 11.

It was the second half that really stood out, though. The Alouettes' defence held Durant to just 72 passing yards and seven completions on 12 attempts after the halftime break. They limited the run game and came up with a crucial sack, their first and only one of the game, and they forced five more punts. Meanwhile, their offence sputtered, but managed to add 10 more points against Saskatchewan's seven, even if it wasn't able to ice the game. A late-game drive stalled, Damon Duval missed a field goal and Saskatchewan took over deep in their own end, needing only three points to tie and a touchdown to win outright. Montreal's Jermaine McElveen and Anwar Stewart found a way to break through Saskatchewan's stalwart offensive line, though, and looked sure to pull down Durant. He somehow endured their pressure and attempted to throw the ball out of bounds while falling to avoid the sack, but it was intercepted by the Alouettes' Billy Parker. In the end, it was that much-maligned Montreal secondary that saved the day and made them the first CFL team to repeat as champions since Don Matthews' Argos did it in 1996 and 1997.

"Our defence stepped up tonight," head coach Marc Trestman said afterwards. "They did a great job of containing their explosive receivers."

"We battled a really good Montreal team and it was a close football game," Saskatchewan head coach Ken Miller said afterwards. "We moved the ball in big spurts but we didn't do anything consistently."

Grey Cup MVP Jamel Richardson, who made some spectacular catches for the Alouettes' offence, said afterwards he wasn't at all worried when they couldn't convert at the end and forced the defence to make one more stand.

"The defence, they'd been playing well all game," he said. "We knew we could leave it to the defence and they'd get us the win."

Richardson said this victory is huge for the Alouettes and for him personally.

"Oh man, it means the world to me," he said. "How can you say dynasty?"

Well, much like the way Montreal won this game, it starts with a "D".

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