Having put one streak to bed the week previous, the Montreal Alouettes are on a mission to end another impressive winning streak this evening.
Since the doors to Tim Hortons Field opened nearly a year ago, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have yet to taste defeat while playing in that revamped stadium. They currently sit at 10-0 when they take the field in front of their loud, boisterous fans clad in yellow and black. And in case you can actually tune out those fans, there’s a new and noisy addition to the park that’ll be sure to let you that the Tiger-Cats notched points; a old-timey steam whistle that blasts out a hearty toot every time that Hamilton scores.
But the Birds of Prey do have one mental edge that surely will weigh on the Ti-Cats coaching staff and players as they take the field; the Alouettes have already beaten Hamilton earlier this season, having bested the Tabbies in a tight battle where defense was the order of the day.
That Montreal defense will have to bring everything in order to do the impossible. Helping tremendously will be the return of John Bowman, who was mysteriously scratched from the lineup for the past two games. His leadership will be absolutely crucial as youngsters like Jesse Joseph and Corvey Irwin will also occupy the defensive line and they will have to bring the house against Hamilton QB Zach Collaros and his O-Line.
There’s no Andy Fantuz or Bakari Grant to worry about, but Luke Tasker has been absolutely dynamic for the Tabbies since coming off the 6 game injury list. He, Giovanni Aprile and Terrence Toliver will definitely make Montreal’s secondary earn their keep tomorrow. He’s been in tough when it comes to penalties, but if Alouettes cornerback Mitchell White can turn it on and stay tight to these Hamilton receivers with his aggressive style, it’ll help keep the scoring to a minimum.
As impressive as Montreal’s defense has been all season, Hamilton’s has truly put the rest of the league on notice. It was really evident when they pasted the Eskimos last week at Commonwealth Stadium. The Hamilton defense has forced numerous turnovers and scored points all season long. Montreal won’t be able to just run the ball all night long versus Hamilton like they did versus BC last week. The Tiger-Cats have one of the best run defenses in the league and guys like Ted Laurent and Justin Hickman will only have to contend with Brandon Rutley running against them, as Tyrell Sutton is banged up and will not dress for this game.
Rakeem Cato has faced a lot of tests this season and the youngster has seen this team before, but not in this environment. With new QB Coach Anthony Calvillo working extensively with him, Cato will hopefully make better decisions than he has in weeks previous. This Hamilton defense has surely seen what Rakeem has done when he is pressured and they will easily take advantage. The Alouettes have been lucky running successful fly sweeps in recent weeks, but that is simply not going to cut it tonight.
It flies in the face of what Cato and OC Turk Schonert have been doing so far, but the Alouettes are simply going to have to beat this Hamilton D one play at a time. They’ll have to employ a lot of quick, concise passes to move the chains and the occasional handoff just to keep the defense guessing. For the second time this week, Montreal practiced with crowd noise piped in and seemed to respond well to it. But a sellout crowd will easily trump a couple of loudspeakers when it comes to volume, so everyone will have to pace themselves and keep penalties to a bare minimum.
During last year’s Eastern Final at Tim Hortons Field, this Alouettes team was schooled many times over on special teams. It was interesting to hear that Special Teams Coach Kavis Reed has apparently been losing sleep when it comes to planning for Hamilton’s special teams. During the last time these two played in Montreal, I thought he wisely countered the always dangerous Brandon Banks by having Alouettes kicker Boris Bede actually kick the ball AWAY from the diminutive speedster.
Depending on the way the wind is blowing in the Hammer, I can see that strategy working again. But if you think that Hamilton’s special teamers aren’t expecting that plan, you’re dreaming in Technicolor. As much as I believe in the work that this Montreal team has put in at practice this week, they really will have a tough road to hoe later this evening.
One person who isn’t worried is the new old head coach of this team, Jim Popp. He is certainly not cocky, but he did assemble this team and he is banking on the psychological edge that Montreal has in that they did hand Hamilton its worst defeat this season. It’s kind of scary that it was a 4 point deficit, but the end result does read that Montreal leads this season series 1 game to zero.
And the thing about streaks, as the BC Lions can attest to, is that they eventually will come to an end. Montreal lost twice in this barn last year, but this is a new season and if Hamilton takes this Alouettes team too lightly, they just may lose their mystique and suffer that elusive first loss at the “Coffee Grounds”. (© Blue Bomber Talk)
There was a much more relaxed tone at practice this week, perhaps now the dust has settled with all of the changes that have come about in recent weeks. At least fans of this team hope so, as there’s still a lot of uncertainty with this team’s ability to properly utilize all of their weapons. Not to mention that this is Jim Popp’s FOURTH time in coaching this team.
But as I mentioned last week and even he reminded everyone, this team does at least make the playoffs when Popp is at the helm. And this team has a ton of talent and is better than their record indicates. Last week’s win was a tremendous boost of confidence and now with all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans hopefully in the past, this team can focus on climbing out of the Eastern division’s basement and be the contender they were meant to be.
The CFL will also be looking for your help on social media as they let the fans dictate how their coverage of tomorrow’s game will unfold. This is a chance to have your voice heard! As always, follow along on Twitter for game-time thoughts and much more.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!