Montreal closes out regular season against Hamilton

Nov 5, 2014 - 4:27 PM Hamilton, ON ( - With a spot in the Grey Cup Playoffs now secured, the Montreal Alouettes take aim at the best overall record in the East Division as they close out the regular season with a trip to Tim Hortons Field to combat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday afternoon.

Into the postseason for the 19th consecutive year, the Als have surprised more than a few people with that accomplishment given that they began the 2014 campaign with just a single win through eight games. During Week 19 action, Montreal slipped by Toronto at home by a final of 17-14, marking the club's sixth win in a row and the eighth in nine tries overall.

Trailing by seven points heading into the fourth quarter, Montreal held the Argonauts scoreless in the last period and used a 45-yard field goal by Sean Whyte, as well as a 23-yard TD pass between Jonathan Crompton and Duron Carter to come away with the win.

Crompton hit on just 13 of his 26 passes for 251 yards, while Carter recorded 11 catches for 181 yards, on his way to being named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week. Also having a strong game for the hosts was running back Tyrell Sutton who carried the ball 23 times for 135 yards and a major in order to ensure that the season would reach beyond this weekend for the Alouettes.

As for the Tiger-Cats, currently sitting in second place in the East Division, two points behind Montreal and two ahead of Toronto, they almost played themselves out of contention last week when they allowed Ottawa to take an 8-0 lead in the first quarter. Hamilton more than fought back however, scoring double digits in each of the final three periods in order to capture a 34-25 victory.

Zach Collaros completed a total of just 14 passes for the visitors, but they went for 225 yards and a score, while the signal caller was taken down for four sacks. Defense and special teams was key to the Hamilton win, as Brandon Stewart and Delvin Breaux both returned interceptions for touchdowns, and Brandon Banks streaked 103 yards for a kickoff return for a major in the second quarter.

Hamilton ended up with only 332 yards of total offense in the meeting, compared to 443 yards for the RedBlacks, but the hosts hurt themselves with both turnovers and 10 penalties for a loss of 93 yards. The yardage total for the Ticats was pretty much right on target with what the team has been producing throughout the season as they average 331.3 ypg.

Somewhat surprising is the fact that Hamilton ranks second in the CFL in passing with 4,647 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt. The team has 19 aerial scores, but also 15 INTs, which is why its efficiency rating is 88.4.

Over on the other side, Montreal has clearly had issues trying to figure out where to go after losing Anthony Calvillo to retirement, and yet the squad is on the cusp of an impressive second-half run. However, one has to wonder how far the Als can get in the playoffs given a league-worst 73.5 efficiency rating. Montreal is one of two teams (the other being Saskatchewan) that is completing passes at less than 60 percent, as the Als come in at a league-low 54.1 percent.

Crompton has certainly given Montreal's offense life the last few months, but what might be more important for the Als and their success is being second in the league in turnovers at plus-8. Hamilton is also on the positive side of that stat, tied with Edmonton at plus-4.

The scenarios for playoff positioning in the East Division can be a bit confusing, but the CFL has pretty much spelled it out for the teams that are still contending. Montreal will claim the division title with a win or even a loss by seven points or less, while Hamilton needs a win or a tie in order to move on. If the 'Cats are able to win by eight points, they would be the division champs based on what has already taken place in the previous 19 weeks of action.

Speaking of the previous games on the schedule, Montreal won the only prior meeting between these two squads back on Sept. 7 by a score of 38-31 at home. In that contest, the Als went from posting a mere seven points in the first half to 31 after the break, thanks in part to backup quarterback Tanner Marsh who scored a pair of TDs on the ground while Crompton was hitting 18-of-27 passes for 206 yards and a score.

Collaros connected on 30-of-43 attempts for 338 yards and two TDs, but was picked off once and sacked five times as Montreal moved to 90-81-7 in the all- time series, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts dating back to 1950.

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