The Montreal Alouettes had a chance to finish in top spot in the CFL’s East Division on Saturday, but a tough effort in Hamilton relegated them to the second spot and a date with the B.C. Lions on Sunday.
It was a game that reminded me a lot of the East Semi-Final last year in Guelph. The windy conditions created all sorts of problems for the offence and they just couldn’t get anything going.
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It also reminded me of the first half of the season – the helplessness of the offence and the poor defence needing to stay on the field for almost three full quarters.
In reality, though, I don’t think that the Alouettes played that badly. There were two big plays – the swing pass dropped by Chris Rainey that led to a Hamilton touchdown, and the second onside punt in the third quarter.
Those seven points on the Rainey drop loomed large for most of the game and gave Hamilton all sorts of momentum going forward.
The second punt really took the wind out of the Alouettes sails. You could say that it was a bad bounce off former Alouette Ed Gainey that was recovered by Hamilton, but it was more than that.
It took away a possession the Alouettes could have had with the wind in their favour and gave Hamilton the ball in scoring range. It was a tough break and created an even deeper hole.
There was no reason they should have been caught off guard on that play. You could clearly see on TV what Hamilton was trying to do, and the players weren’t ready for it. That’s on head coach – and special teams coach – Tom Higgins.
The Alouettes now have to face the BC Lions and it is a matchup that should really make home field advantage important. The Alouettes and Lions usually is a horrible match up for the road team and that can be shown by the two games the teams played this season.
Montreal beat BC 24-9 in the home game and lost 41-5 in Vancouver. The three-hour travel is hard for the road team and BC might only get into town Friday or Saturday. The Alouettes will need a better performance from their offence to allow their defence to stay fresh.
They cannot rely on the defence to win the game if they cannot score. Jonathan Crompton will want to come back strong and it will be interesting to see if BC can adjust to the new-look Montreal offence. They have only faced Troy Smith this season.
Same thing goes for Montreal. BC is a different team than they were earlier in the season. Both teams have had strong games and bad games, but Montreal has had the better second half of the season. We will see if they can book a return trip to Hamilton next week.