The beginning of the end ó or the start of a post-season run that will end all talk of a football dynasty in disrepair?
As much as the Ticats will have a say in Sundayís Eastern semifinal here at Olympic Stadium, the ball really is in Montrealís court.
No matter whatís being said, the Ticats simply arenít good enough offensively to mount any sustained level of play thatís championship worthy.
In stretches, there have been moments of high-level performance, big-play capability and offensive ingenuity that allows playmakers to be in position to make plays when the ball gets in their hands.
But on this stage and in this arena, experience and playoff pedigree supercede potential and any past flashes of brilliance.
It is why the Ticats have to be near flawless to escape a city they have yet to summon a win since 2002, a streak of 15 games that is certain to be increased by one.
While much has been made of Montrealís season-ending drubbing in B.C., a beating so pronounced that it forced players on offence to call a meeting when the Als regrouped earlier this week, experienced teams such as these Als have an ability to move forward and embrace the presence.
If anything less than Montrealís best is not put forward on Sunday, then it speaks to in-house issues that are only addressed by making wholesale moves that must dramatically reshape the franchise.
Thereís nothing wrong with quarterback Anthony Calvillo when heís given time to survey the field, make his reads and deliver the ball on time.
What happened in B.C. last week was an example of a Lions team playing at a level no team in three-down football is capable of reaching when every single facet of football is executed to perfection.
Whether a team loses 43-1 or 43-42, itís still a loss, a setback that is best served by forgetting about it and moving forward.
Naturally, the Als are going to say how embarrassing it was, how disappointing their effort was, but what else can they say when their play and actions spoke volumes.
These Als arenít as good as some previous teams, but theyíll still be good enough to beat Hamilton and advance to Winnipeg next week with a berth in the Grey Cup at stake.
The way the whole frenetic ending to the CFL season unfolded, the strength lies in the West where any of B.C., Edmonton or Calgary would beat any of Hamilton, Montreal or Winnipeg.
The way B.C. played last week, no team in the CFL can tame these Lions, not even when Montreal was at its best in winning the past two Grey Cups.
For now, Montreal will beat Hamilton. For Hamilton to win, it must be at its best with no margin for error, which is to say playing error-free football, especially on offence.
Much like the Argos needed everything to go well in last yearís semifinal played in Hamilton, everything has to go well for the Ticats.
Keeping Montrealís offence off the field, playing on a shortened field when plays on special teams are being made, controlling the clock and not turning the ball over, these are the ways and the only ways Hamilton must execute to produce a playoff win that hasnít been witnessed by the franchise since 2001.
Given the one-game nature of playoff football, anything is possible ó flash back to last yearís events at Ivor Wynne Stadium as the ultimate example.
But so much will depend on how Montreal plays.
And all things being equal, if Montreal plays its best, the Ticats canít match it.
Simply put, thereís too much inexperience and inconsistency on offence.
The Als know former teammate Avon Cobourne must set the tempo for Hamilton to have any hope of an upset.
Expect the Als to take Cobourne out of the game and then it becomes a series of hits and misses.
Ticats QB Kevin Glenn hasnít thrown for a touchdown in more than a month ó his leash so short that he could conceivably get the hook by the time Sundayís first quarter expires.
Ticats receiver Chris Williams has never played on this stage, while Hamilton wideout Marcus Thigpen had stage fright in last yearís semi-final when he fumbled two punts that proved too costly.
It doesnít look for the Ticats, but all they need to do is remind themselves of last year. On any given Sunday, or so we are led to believe.