Seth Williams and the Alouettes couldn't stop Isaac Anderson and the Bombers Monday.The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had plenty to give thanks for Monday, as five Montreal turnovers played critical roles in their 27-22 victory over the Alouettes. This was an impressive effort from the Bombers, to be sure, as few figured that 3-10 Winnipeg had a chance against 8-5 Montreal on the road, especially after first-choice quarterback Buck Pierce was ruled out thanks to a concussion. Still, without a litany of mistakes from the Alouettes, this likely would have ended very differently. It was a happy Thanksgiving for Winnipeg, but it's one that's going to leave significant lingering questions in Montreal and fuel the Eastern battle for playoff positioning.
Of course, the Bombers did plenty on their own to earn this victory. Quarterback Joey Elliott filled in brilliantly for Pierce, completing 17 of 25 pass attempts (68 per cent) for 335 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, while Chris Matthews had six catches for 143 yards and a touchdown and Terrence Edwards added two crucial receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Chad Simpson chipped in on the ground with 62 yards on 13 carries (4.8 yards per carry), while the defence came up with plenty of their own game-changing moments. Still, the Alouettes deserve substantial blame here for their failures.
This was an uncharacteristically sloppy effort from Montreal, and that's worrisome in the drive towards the playoffs. These Alouettes didn't look like a division-leading team, and following this loss, they may be only tied for the lead out East depending on the results in the back half of Monday's doubleheader. Some will pin the blame here on quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who threw two interceptions (including a late one that sealed Montreal's doom), but that's not a particularly fair approach. On the day, Calvillo wasn't too bad; he completed 21 of 39 passes (53.8 per cent) for 336 yards and a touchdown. It was the poor overall execution that was the real problem, as the Alouettes also fumbled three times at crucial moments, left Winnipeg receivers too open on several long throws, and were unable to come up with any big defensive plays of their own. They didn't look like a team to be feared, and that should inspire the rest of the East Division heading towards the playoffs.
Where's that East playoff picture at now? Well, it just got a lot more interesting. Thanks to Winnipeg winning this week, all four Eastern teams remain in playoff contention with four games to go. It's not clear if there will be two or three playoff berths available for them, though, as Edmonton's victory over Hamilton Friday means there's a substantial possibility of a crossover. The seeds are also very much in flux: with four games remaining, only four games separate 8-6 Montreal and 4-10 Winnipeg. The Bombers can't grab first even if they win out and the Alouettes lose their remaining games, as Montreal holds the season-series tiebreaker, but any of the other three teams could claim the division, and even the Alouettes could even conceivably miss the playoffs (if they go 0-4 down the stretch, Hamilton wins its remaining four games, and Toronto and Edmonton both finish ahead of them). A Montreal victory would have given the Als a solid chance of claiming first, but this loss means there will be plenty of interesting jockeying for position down the stretch. That's something most CFL fans can probably be thankful for.
Correction: this post initially had the Alouettes with four turnovers. They had five: two interceptions and three fumbles.