A Calgary Stampeders win that came down to the final seconds over the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes has set up a wild final week of CFL play in both the East and West divisions.
Drew Tate passed for 330 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Johnny Forzani in a 32-27 victory over the Alouettes on Sunday afternoon. The win made Tate 2-0 since he replaced 2010 CFL Outstanding Player Henry Burris as the starting quarterback.
The result left five of the eight teams with identical 10-7 records going into the last weekend of regular season play, with Calgary in a tie with B.C. and Edmonton in the West and Montreal deadlocked with Winnipeg in the East.
"It was a huge win because we're still in the chase," said Tate. "You play five months and it all comes down to this one last game, but this is the position we want to be in.
"We're in a one-week season now. We're focused on who we have to play now."
The Stampeders, who close the season Saturday at home against Winnipeg, must win and have both the Lions and Eskimos lose their games to claim first place and the bye into the West final because they have lost the season series to both rivals.
Montreal needs to win in B.C. on Saturday night and have the Blue Bombers lose to get top spot in the East for a fourth straight year.
Edmonton ends the season at home Friday night against 5-12 Saskatchewan.
"Worried? No," said Montreal coach Marc Trestman, whose team dominated the East in his first three years as coach. "Five teams in the league are 10-7 right now and we're all in a fight.
"This is as exciting as it gets. I don't want to give it more than that because our guys fought hard today. They need to just let it go and then we've got to go back to work and get back in the fight."
Jon Cornish, who ran 15 times for 71 yards, had a pair of TDs for Calgary, which had the edge in play for much of the afternoon and may have won more handily if they hadn't turned the ball over twice on fumbles and twice on interceptions.
Tate was impressive both passing and running the ball twice for 28 yards.
"He had a good game," Stampeders coach John Hufnagel said of Tate. "He had a pass or two that got away from him, but he kept his composure and put his team in position to score some points and win the game."
Brandon Whitaker, Adrian McPherson, Marc-Olivier Brouillette and Eric Deslauriers scored TDs for the Alouettes, who kept the game close on turnovers and a clever trick play that saw backup safety Brouillette run 72 yards for a score off a direct snap with the team in punt formation.
Stamps stop Als' late effort
The Stamps led 29-21 late in the fourth quarter when, on third and 10 from the 31, Anthony Calvillo hit Deslauriers with a TD pass with 1:56 left to play.
Calvillo looked to have an open path to the end zone on the two-point convert attempt, but he was tripped up short of the end zone.
Calgary marched back and Rene Parades was good from 41 yard on the only field goal of the game with 57 seconds left.
But Montreal still wasn't done, as a 37-yard toss to Jamel Richardson put them in scoring position again, only to see a bullet pass from Calvillo sail through Richardson's arms at the goal-line. On Montreal's final play, Johnnie Dixon leapt up to tip a ball away from S.J. Green in the end zone.
"Unfortunately, it came down to me catching that ball," a dejected Richardson said. "I've got to catch that with 13 seconds left. I catch bullets."
The last ball he caught gave the league's receiving leader five for 111 yards to set a CFL record of 12 100-yard receiving games in a season.
"I'd have took a victory today over the record," Richardson said. "This group has all the confidence in the world. We're still the defending champs regardless of what happened. We're good. We're the best team in this league, but this loss definitely hurt.
"Now we've got to get out there and get a victory. We're going to win. It's a must-win for us."
It was a near-perfect sunny, cool day at Percival Molson Stadium and the game looked like it would be a shootout when Tate's opening drive went six plays capped by a 32-yard TD toss to a wide open Forzani.
The Alouettes answered right back with a five-play drive and Whitaker's seven yard TD run only to see Calgary march back for Cornish's one-yard scoring plunge
A Joffrey Reynolds fumble was carried to the Calgary two by Greg Laybourn and McPherson scored, but Burke Dales punted a single for a 15-14 Stamps' halftime lead.
Charleston Hughes stripped the ball from Calvillo and Calgary recovered at midfield, only to see Chip Cox pick off a Tate pass at the Montreal 31 to open the third quarter.
Tate then helped himself on another drive with an unexpected quarterback draw to help set up Cornish's second TD from the one.
The Alouette offence looked to be going nowhere, but Brouillette's TD cut the Calgary lead to 22-21.
The Stamps got that back after Montreal turned the ball over on downs again at midfield and Tate hit Forzani for his second of the game early in the fourth.
Calvillo got the yardage he needed to reach 5,000 passing yards for the sixth time in his career and his favourite target Richardson caught five passes to give him 110 for the season, two short of the team record held by Ben Cahoon.
A concern for Montreal was taking nine penalties for 92 yards compared to five for 45 yards for Calgary, which left the Alouettes in weaker field position at key times.
Montreal also turned the ball over on downs three times, including once on the three-yard line, as Trestman elected to go for it rather than kick.
"They were all decisions I felt good about," he said.
Montreal lost receiver Kerry Watkins to an ankle injury and tackle Josh Bourke to a shoulder, although it was not known how serious the injuries were. Calgary saw defensive lineman Brian Bulcke leave with a knee problem.