Sean Whyte kicked three field goals and the Alouettes offence did just enough to earn a 23-17 win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday.
After starting the season with seven losses in their first eight games, the Alouettes (8-8) have caught fire with five straight wins and just one loss in their past eight.
They currently sit alone in first place in the East Division and a playoff berth that seemed highly unlikely two months ago is creeping ever closer to becoming reality.
The Redblacks (2-14) missed an opportunity to put a bump in Montreal's road to the playoffs, but they did provide an interesting end to a game that appeared as though it might be over early.
An 11-yard touchdown pass from Jonathan Crompton to S.J. Green four minutes into the third quarter and an 11-yard field goal from Whyte at 6:29 gave the Alouettes a 23-7 lead, and apparent control of the game.
A 22-yard field goal from Brett Maher late in the third quarter cut that lead to 23-10, but the Alouettes still maintained a comfortable two-score lead to start the fourth quarter.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter the Redblacks needed just two plays to move the ball 102 yards for a touchdown.
Danny O'Brien, who had been trading snaps with Henry Burris throughout the game, connected on a 44 yard catch-and-run play with Wallace Miles and then found Scott MacDonell for a 58-yard touchdown pass.
"It was great to come back and contribute to the team and have the boys rally around me," MacDonell said.
"But we really wanted that win and we were close. We had our chances and it's unfortunate but we just have to keep climbing, keep working, get rid of the little mistakes and get ready for next week."
Minutes later Brandon London made a diving catch for the Alouettes, but when he got to his feet he was stripped of the ball and it was recovered by Ottawa. The ruling on the field was that he was down by contact.
After a lengthy review that call on the field was confirmed, but Ottawa coach Rick Campbell threw a challenge flag having been told from his staff up in the booth that London was never touched.
That challenge was rejected and Montreal retained possession and proceeded to drive the field while eating up valuable minutes before punting.
"I wanted to make sure they took a good look at it," Campbell said.
"I haven't seen all the angles so I'm not going to criticize it but I'll have to see all the angles to see if there was undisputable evidence. But our guys fight and I'm proud to coach these guys and they keep battling. We need to graduate into closing out games and winning some of these close games."
The Redblacks could do nothing with their final two possessions, though, and the Alouettes ran out the clock for the victory.
Montreal's Crompton finished the game 17 of 29 for 216 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
After an emotional ceremony honouring two Canadian soldiers killed this week — Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent Monday outside of Montreal and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo Wednesday at the War Memorial in Ottawa — both offences seemed inspired to start the game.
The Redblacks took the opening possession 74 yards on eight plays, ending with a five-yard touchdown pass from Burris to Marcus Henry for a 7-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, the Alouettes took their first possession from their own 13-yard line to the Ottawa end zone to tie the game.
During that drive the Alouettes got two big passing plays as Crompton connected with London and Green for strikes of 20 and 32 yards respectively while Tyrel Sutton had a 24-yard run.
The big play for the Alouettes though, came on a challenge from coach Tom Higgins, as an incomplete pass that would have led to third down was overturned on a defensive pass interference call giving the Alouettes a first down.
On the next play Tanner Marsh ran the ball in from the one-yard line for a touchdown.
What followed for the rest of the first half was a complete lack offence from both sides, more so from the Redblacks than the Alouettes.
Ottawa lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions, one each from Burris and O'Brien, who was trying to throw the ball away on his first play of the game after coming in for Burris.
"Turnovers are one of the key ingredients that allow you to win," Higgins said.
Burris went 12 of 21 for 110 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. O'Brien finished the game 3 of 5 for 111 yards with one touchdown and one pick.
The Alouettes did manage to block a punt that gave them field position on the Ottawa side of the field, but were only able to get a 41-yard field goal from Whyte at 11:26 of the second quarter.
Whyte then kicked a kicked 14-yard field goal in the final minute to give the Alouettes a 13-7 lead at the half.
After the game Higgins was very complementary towards the Redblacks organization and what they have accomplished on and off the field.
"I know they're very disappointed (with their record) but this franchise should be very proud of itself with what they've been able to do with the facilities and with the fan support they have," Higgins said.
"I though what they put together in very short notice to honour our two fallen soldiers was beautiful, so hats off to the Ottawa Redblacks. They have a very competitive and entertaining football team and that bodes well for the CFL."
Burris also reflected on the events of the week leading up to the ceremony before the game.
"The guys in the locker room care about the people in this city and to go through that experience. There were a lot of emotions and you could feel the pain in the city and all we wanted to do was help alleviate it."Suggest a correction