Four reasons why the Montreal Alouettes lost the East Semi-Final

Hopes were high that the start of the CFL playoffs would bring with them some increased entertainment value, but the East Semi-Final offered another lopsided contest as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats controlled the Montreal Alouettes for a 23-12 victory.

Here are four reasons why the Alouettes will be headed home empty handed.

Mondo was right

When Trevor Harris was acquired late in the season by Montreal, it was viewed with considerable amusement that he would be joining the same team as defensive tackle Almondo Sewell, with whom he had publicly feuded earlier in the year. Sewell and Harris  patched things up, but it seems that the big man’s assertion that if you hit Harris once, he folds came back to bite Montreal on Sunday.

Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence admitted in a media conference Saturday that the Ticats were looking to follow Sewell’s advice and they executed that game plan to perfection. Harris got not a moment of respite all game long as the Hamilton front seven got home for six sacks and stripped him four times in the process.

While Harris posted respectable final numbers — going 28-of-44 for 364 yards, a touchdown and a pick — it was Ja’Gared Davis, Dylan Wynn, Julian Howsare and Ted Laurent, with an assist from Jovan Santos-Knox, who really stole the show. The bulk of Hamilton’s points came as a direct result of those turnovers and the Alouettes never recovered after Howsare’s long fumble recovery flipped momentum to the home team.

Stanback stood up

Harris got a surprising amount of the headlines coming into the week considering that Montreal featured a Most Outstanding Player finalist in running back William Stanback. That appeared to be fortuitous because not only was the star back held in check for a third straight time by the Ticats, he was a complete non-factor.

After being the only CFL player to rush for more than a thousand yards this season, Stanback mustered just 29 yards on 12 carries in the East Semi-Final. His middling average of just 2.4 yards per carry was a testament to just how frequently he was met in the backfield, with Ja’Gared Davis and Ted Laurent both making some highlight real stops.

Down big with the run game ineffective, Montreal was forced to go aerial, which only put a spotlight on their protection issues. The passing game has never been Stanback’s forte either and though he did have two catches for 23 yards, the Alouettes couldn’t lean on their best player in the most important moments of the season.

A foot too far

Despite it all, a very middling offensive performance from Hamilton and a decent outing from the Alouettes defensively kept Montreal in this contest a lot longer than they should have been. Down just 10 with time ticking down in the fourth quarter, it seemed they might just be able to flick a switch.

After the team was forced to punt from deep in their own end, Marc-Antoine Dequoy — Canadian rookie and Danny Maciocia’s pride and joy — came flying down to flip the field. Dequoy, who already had a sack on the afternoon, punched the ball out of returner Papi White’s hands and Regis Cibasu recovered.

It looked like a game-changing play. That was until Orlondo Steinauer through the challenge flag and it was revealed that defensive back Adarius Pickett had ventured into the five-yard halo by a mere step, wiping out the turnover.

Given how Montreal moved the ball on ensuing drives in the final minutes, the added time and field position that Dequoy’s play could have been enough to pull off the comeback. Instead, the successful challenge gave Hamilton another field goal and made their lead almost insurmountable.

Put your money where your mouth is

When they write the history of this season, Patrick Levels unabashed guarantee that Montreal would win this football game will go down as one of its most wildly entertaining moments. The CFL desperately needs more personalities like that, but on this occasion, Levels came out on the wrong side.

The play of Levels or indeed the rest of his defensive teammates were far from the reason for Montreal’s loss, but there can be little doubt that the comments this week provided Hamilton with a little motivation. That was made clear on the opening touchdown, when Brandon Banks had the obvious pleasure of beating Levels and then had some thoughts to share afterwards about what he thought of the guarantee.

Levels played with fire when he made his comments, that’s what made it fun. This time he got burned.

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