CFL East semifinal: Ticats will topple Als | Football | CBC Sports

CFLCFL East semifinal: Ticats will topple Als

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 08:58 AM

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The Montreal Alouettes have done a poor job in protecting quarterback Anthony Calvillo, left, this season. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press) The Montreal Alouettes have done a poor job in protecting quarterback Anthony Calvillo, left, this season. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

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Coming off a brilliant 1-4 post season last year we were seriously considering giving up, until the editor pointed out no picks, no pay cheque.

 

Coming off a brilliant 1-4 post season last year we were seriously considering giving up, until the editor pointed out no picks, no pay cheque.

So in the spirit of getting the keyboard repaired on the son's laptop ($275, plus tax), here we go. Deep breath ...

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10) will defeat the Montreal Alouettes (10-8) at Olympic Stadium on Sunday in the East Division semifinal.

If you played games on paper, this one wouldn't be considered a close call. Montreal finished first in 14 offensive categories to Hamilton's one in 2011.

The Als had the league leaders in touchdowns and receiving (the superb Jamel Richardson with 11 scores, 112 catches and 1,777 yards), yards from scrimmage and rushing (Brandon Whitaker, 2,016 and 1,378), and passing (instant Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo, 5,251 yards).

Hamilton led in none.

Defensively, the teams were a touch closer in numbers, with Montreal leading only four categories overall, but still ahead of Hamilton in most.

Justin Hickman of the Cats tied for the lead in sacks with 13, but John Bowman was right behind with 12 for the Als. And on like that.

The key to this pick, however, is found not in what Montreal can do, but what the Als can't do. Such as, they cannot defend against the pass.

You could take the players currently on the nine-game injury list for Montreal and build one of the best defences in the league out of them. Dwight Anderson, corner. Etienne Boulay, safety. Tad Crawford, safety. Jerald Brown, defensive back. Shea Emry, linebacker. Mark Estelle, corner.

Jim Popp may be one hell of a general manager, but replacing all of this is beyond even him. His defence was second last (in front of awful Toronto) in net passing allowed, average yards given up per game by air, and third from the bottom in completions against.

You can pass on these guys all day.

They also cannot protect Calvillo in the way he's accustomed. The offensive line has been beaten up all year, with players coming in and out of the lineup. Now, Josh Bourke is out for the season, and he's the blind-side tackle.

It seems to be unnerving Calvillo when it shouldn't. AC threw the least interceptions in the CFL again this year, and the team was second best in sacks allowed. But this is a guy who has spent his career in Montreal being nearly untouchable by opposing defences.

He was so annoyed while getting blasted by B.C. in the season finale - he actually yelled, publically, at one of his receivers. Unheard of.

None of the Montreal troubles mean anything unless Hamilton has enough to take advantage of them.

Quarterback Kevin Glenn has been either good or grating this season, unable to put decent games together with any consistency. He's been relieved by Quinton Porter on many occasions, though the backup hasn't been noticeably better.

The offence, even with excellent rookie receiver Chris Williams, scored less than Montreal, and the defence gave up a few more to boot.

So, where do we get the idea the Alouettes can be beaten by the CFL's most maddening club?

Here's why.

1. These teams played four times this year, with the Cats winning the first two and Montreal the next pair. But for a mistaken call by a downfield official, it could have been 3-1 for the Ticats, who showed in all but a 44-13 blowout that they not only could compete with the Grey Cup champions, they could rise above.

Glenn saved two of his best outings, plus one outstanding quarter, for the Alouettes, and the defence seemed to take extra pride in matching themselves against the Grey Cup champs.

2. Avon Cobourne. Cast away by the Als after last season, the running back has made no attempt to hide his disdain for the former employer, though his four games against them haven't been spectacular by any means (207 total yards).

Sat out for the final game of the season to rest, he could be ready to put a serious dent in his old club's pride. And he has the game to do it, having run for 1,420 yards, third best in the league.

3. And here's the big one. There's something wrong with these Alouettes. They barely beat Hamilton in Week 16 and then, with the East Division for the taking (and a huge week off to rest), they lost three in a row.

That was by one to Winnipeg, by five to Calgary and by a massive 42 last week at B.C.

Their body language said tired. Their quotes were strange, professing worry, wondering if it might be too big a row to hoe because of the injuries, and the age.

Not the supremely confident Alouettes we're used to.

There may well be one more big game in the Larks, in front of the fans at Olympic Stadium. Don't be surprised to see it. 

But this is the most beatable Montreal team we've seen in many a year.

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