Heading into Saturday's Saskatchewan-Montreal clash, much of the focus was on how the Alouettes' spectacular aerial attack would fare against the Riders' formidable pass defence. That proved to be much of the story. Anthony Calvillo put up solid numbers for Montreal, completing 16 of 28 passes (57.1 per cent) for 262 yards and a touchdown without an interception while also running three times for 36 yards and two touchdowns (the first time in his 19-year career he'd scored two rushing touchdowns), and his showing was crucial to their victory. However, without a critical sack from defensive end John Bowman on the final play of the game, the Alouettes might well have lost.
Saskatchewan was less than impressive early on in this one, but they cranked it up in the fourth quarter when they had the fiercely-blowing wind at their backs. Montreal got an early final-quarter touchdown on a 22-yard Calvillo run, giving them a seemingly-unassailable 34-14 lead, but the Riders refused to quit. Darian Durant moved the ball effectively through the air and with his legs, and quickly found Weston Dressler for a touchdown. The Saskatchewan defence then stepped up and forced a Montreal punt, and Durant led another drive that finished with a Kory Sheets touchdown, putting the Riders within six points. The Alouettes couldn't get anything going offensively and had to punt. Saskatchewan almost got it together on the next drive, but what looked like a phenomenal Scott McHenry catch along the sideline was ruled incomplete, leading to a punt; Montreal mistakes meant they got the ball back with 1:17 left, though, and they just about came away with the win.
John Bowman came up with the crucial play in Montreal's win Saturday.On that last drive, almost everything went right for the Riders until the final play. Starting on the Saskatchewan 49, Durant threw an incomplete pass, but then hit McHenry, Chris Getzlaf and Greg Carr in succession. He converted a crucial third-and-10 with a pass to Taj Smith in tight coverage, and that put the Riders at the Montreal 21 with 14 seconds left. Durant's next pass to the end zone fell incomplete, but with six seconds on the clock, he still had one more shot. That's when Bowman stepped up.
Really, this play shouldn't have happened. The Alouettes dropped nine of their 12 defenders to cover the pass, opting only to send a three-man rush. Given that there were at least five Saskatchewan blockers standing in there, Durant should have had plenty of time. Bowman made an incredible move to quickly get to Durant and bring him down before he could get a throw off, though, and that sealed the victory for Montreal.
Saskatchewan fans shouldn't be too pleased with the performance here. Yes, the Riders kept it close and had an excellent chance to win, but their stats on the day were quite underwhelming. Durant completed 24 of 40 passes (60 per cent) for 219 yards and a touchdown, while Sheets ran just 10 times for just 45 yards. There were whole quarters, particularly in the first and third when they were facing the wind, where the Riders barely moved the ball at all. Similarly, though, the Alouettes should be concerned, as they almost allowed an incredible late comeback. In the end, they only came out with the win thanks to a remarkable final defensive play, which isn't something you should have to say about a team that leads by 20 points in the fourth quarter. Still, Montreal earned the win, and they largely have Bowman's superhuman effort to thank for that.