The Montreal Alouettes' 24-12 win over the Toronto Argonauts Sunday wasn't thanks to consistent dominance. In fact, there were plenty of times during this contest where the Argonauts looked like the superior team, especially when they took a 9-1 lead partway through the second quarter. The Alouettes couldn't consistently get their offence going, and they didn't answer all the questions that dogged them heading into this game, so this isn't proof that they're set to dominate in the playoffs. However, they made several big plays at critical moments, and that gave them a win and a near-lock on first place in the East Division.
Perhaps the most important scoring play of all came from a Montreal defensive player. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Argonauts only trailing by five points and driving for the lead, Alouettes' Canadian middle linebacker Shea Emry brilliantly jumped a route, picking off Jarious Jackson's throw and taking it 46 yards for his first career touchdown. It was a risky play, as it could have turned into a big gain for the Argos if Emry missed, but he timed his drop perfectly, stayed out of Jackson's vision and stepped up just at the right moment. That was the only turnover Jackson committed all day, but it put his team down 24-12, and they never recovered.
That wasn't the only massive play Montreal made Sunday, though. Quarterback Anthony Calvillo's performance overall was subpar by his standards (16 for 31, a 51.6 per cent completion rate, 255 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception), but he made one terrific throw, finding Jamel Richardson for a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Alouettes a 17-12 lead. Running back Chris Jennings wasn't great overall (and only was in the game because Victor Anderson got hurt), but he unleashed one incredible 42-yard run that put Montreal in excellent position. Even the Alouettes' special teams came through, limiting Toronto returners Chad Owens and Matt Black and forcing a crucial turnover that led to a field goal when the Argonauts faked a punt early on.
With the win, the Alouettes are now 9-6 on the season, and they've officially secured at least second place in the East (and thus, a home playoff date). They're also incredible favourites to claim first place and its corresponding first-round bye, which could be crucial; given that they haven't been a dominant team lately, anything could happen in a first-round game even if they're hosting it. The 7-8 Argonauts are theoretically still alive in the first-place race, but they've now lost the season series tiebreaker, so they'd have to win their remaining three games and have the Alouettes lose their last three. Needless to say, that's highly unlikely. Montreal may not have come up with a consistent showing Sunday, but the Alouettes got massive plays at the most important moments, and that may well be enough to give them a vital first-round bye.