(Toronto) Defense, what else? The Toronto Argonauts were, by far, the best team in the Canadian Football League before meeting Noel Thorpe’s unit. With a 38-17 win, the Montreal Alouettes will advance to the Gray Cup for the first time in 13 years.

All week, the Alouettes players were reminded that they were inferior to those of the Argonauts. That they arrived with the label of being left behind. That their chances of winning were slim against a team with a record of 16 wins and 2 losses in the regular season.

In enemy territory, many did not pay much for the skin or plumage of Alouettes. Logic dictated that they would be defeated at the end of this Eastern final.

And Marc-Antoine Dequoy was fed up. On Friday, he told the media that he had had enough of preconceptions. So, the defensive back responded in the most beautiful way.

In the fifth play of the game, Dequoy intercepted a pass from Chad Kelly. Hair in the wind, facing the breeze from Lake Ontario, the Quebecer brought the ball back 101 yards to score his team’s first touchdown. His third of the season, what’s more.

“It was man-to-man coverage. It was zero coverage. I’m my man, my man is crossing, I don’t understand why he threw it! I was directly there. He didn’t throw it forward, he threw it into my chest. It suprised me. I haven’t often run long in a straight line like that,” Dequoy explained breathlessly on the field after the match.

And this blow was the beginning of a match during which the Alouettes’ defense was breathtaking and beyond reproach. The Argos, the second most productive team in Canadian football during the regular season, scored only two touchdowns in the most important game since the start of the season.

Reggie Stubblefield, with 11 tackles and an interception. Darnell Sankey, with an interception and a fumble recovery. Lwal Uguak with two passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. And as many players as revealing statistics could be added to this list.

“When you play with guys who are there for each other, who work hard and who never complain, it’s impossible to ask for better. We have a great team with great players,” Stubblefield responded, slapping his pecs like Matthew McConaughey between each response.

All year long, this brigade was imperial, propelling the Alouettes into the playoffs and saving an often anemic attack. There was no way it was going to change at a Gray Cup game.

“You could hear everyone saying, ‘Toronto this, Toronto that,’ but we knew we were a better team,” Sankey said as his black makeup ran down his face. I said that we weren’t going to lose another match and I don’t think that was such a far-fetched statement. Everyone should think like this. I’m a competitor and no one should play to lose. I think we can win every game and I think we will win the Gray Cup. »

To put all the chances on their side, the Alouettes had to work hard. Completely disconcerted, and visibly helpless, Kelly was unable to establish anything. The Toronto quarterback’s lack of experience in the playoffs will undoubtedly have been a factor, because he broke in the second quarter. The pressure from the Alouettes players was constant, effective and lethal.

This was ultimately the only way to win against such a devastating attack. You had to be perfect. And the defensive unit was.

On the other hand, history also repeated itself for the attack led by Cody Fajardo.

Even if the Alouettes are celebrating while waiting for their flight back to Montreal before heading back to Hamilton, one fact remains: if it weren’t for the performance of the defense, this game would have been much closer. The attack was not extraordinary, far from it. Usually, a team that generates 244 yards of offense in the division final does not reach the Gray Cup final.

The truth is that the unit led by Anthony Calvillo is doing pretty well under the circumstances. She entered enemy territory for the first time in the game with 7:51 left in the second quarter.

“They were combative and executed their game plan well,” said head coach Jason Maas. We should still focus on it to be better. We’ve been talking about it since the start of the year, it takes a lot of communication, especially on the offensive line. […] But we made enough plays to score when we needed to score. »

Tyler Snead was adept at avoiding a tackle a yard short of the end zone before entering it midway through the third quarter. But this sequence is Fajardo’s only real moment of celebration in this match.

The Alouettes offensive line, however, did not do its quarterback any favors. Fajardo suffered seven sacks during the game. This was to be expected, because habits always come back at a gallop. And this gap marked the Sparrows’ season.

“I have often been hit in my career, probably because I am a mobile quarterback,” Fajardo responded at a press briefing on this subject. After all, their defense was statistically the best in the league. So we knew they were going to come out strong. »

The Argonauts players will undoubtedly take a huge step back, because there will be nothing joyful in reviewing and analyzing this meeting during which nothing worked. The Argos have hit their iceberg. And the shipwreck was long and painful.

Kelly threw 4 interceptions in the first three quarters. He caused 12 in 18 regular season games.

In the grip of panic, he played too often in a desperate manner to hope to win. Like his interception against Sankey in his own territory, where, while running to the left, he attempted an overhand pass in the middle instead of taking the sack. And the result was not to his advantage.

And twice the quarterback was unable to convert third downs and short. A game to forget for the highest earner in the CFL.

Even A.J. Ouellette, the most dangerous running back in the CFL, has been invisible.

Unlike the Alouettes, the Toronto attack was ineffective. And above all incapable of finishing the work started by a proactive defense. This is where the match was played. And that’s why the Argonauts won’t be in Hamilton despite a historic season.

On the pitch, after the final whistle, there was ecstasy on the Montreal bench. Noel Thorpe also received the first shower of Gatorade. The men in red had not only caused an upset, but also given the city of Montreal a chance to fight for a championship for the first time in over a decade.

On the pitch, physiotherapists were on the verge of tears, equipment managers hugged each other, well-known faces congratulated lesser-known ones. This victory is not only that of the players and coaches, it is that of the entire team. And that of Quebec, in a way.

“I’m very calm,” said Dequoy, ironically. It’s been 13 years. Thirteen years ! The last time this happened, I was in my living room watching the Alouettes. We’re not going there to lose her. »