Montreal disappoints in clash of the titans

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo (C) gets tackles by DeVone Claybrooks (L) and...

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo (C) gets tackles by DeVone Claybrooks (L) and Charleston Hughes during the first half of their CFL football game in Calgary, Alberta, October 1, 2010. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

MATT FLOWERS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

TORONTO -- It was not a good week for the East division, with all four teams losing to their western opponents. The Montreal Alouettes put on a dismal display against Calgary last week in what many fans were hoping would be a tightly-contested match between the league's best two teams. Hamilton picked it up in that department at least, but a loss to the league's worst team has to sting for a squad running out of wiggle room for a playoff spot. The Argos and Blue Bombers struggled offensively in their losses, failing to score even 17 points apiece.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

The defense struggled mightily last week against Calgary, allowing quarterback Henry Burris to throw four touchdown passes and 412 passing yards in a 46-21 loss.

Perhaps the worst moment of the game came when Ken-Yon Rambo received a short toss and carried it 100 yards for the major, with little pressure from a slow- looking Als' defense.

Bouncing back from such a defeat begins with improving the pass coverage - two different opposing receivers should never have over 140 yards receiving - but as always, the success with the Als depends largely on the play of its best player, QB Anthony Calvillo.

Completing just 17-of-33 passes is far below his league-leading 67 percent on the season (for those with over 300 attempts), and though tossing three touchdowns hides the net yardage a little bit, it's clear just how important a good Calvillo is to Montreal's fortunes.

Offensive key to the next game (Calgary Stampeders): Start with hitting some passes - at the very least you can get the team in field goal range. The Als didn't even attempt a field goal last week.

Defensive key to the next game: Don't give Burris so much space out there, not only behind the line of scrimmage, but in the backfield as well. With space and time, Burris is among the best in the business.

Look ahead: Nothing but eastern opponents after Calgary - a game against Winnipeg and Hamilton each, and a home-and-home with the second-place Toronto Argonauts.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

For the second straight week, Hamilton gives away a two-touchdown lead to allow their opponent back into it.

Hamilton was up 21-7 early into the second quarter, but surrendered the momentum to a hungrier Edmonton side.

The shootout provided the most entertainment of the week, but it's a style of play that does not cater as well to the Ti-Cats as it does to a team like Saskatchewan. The defensive line, one of the best in the CFL, takes pride in its ability to pressure the quarterback, but QB Ricky Ray had plenty of space to work his magic, especially in the team's second-quarter comeback.

Apart from Marquay MacDaniel, no receiver caught for over 60 yards for Hamilton, including Canadian Dave Stala (eight yards on one catch) and ultra- talented Arland Bruce (58 yards on four catches).

The Ti-Cats need to include these two players in the offense more if they're to overcome whatever defensive woes may arise.

Offensive key to the next game (Edmonton Eskimos): Spread the ball around more, don't go too often to the same guy. Edmonton remains the CFL's worst defensive team, so Hamilton should have no problem putting up points again, especially at home.

Defensive key to the next game: When Ricky Ray finds a rhythm, he's a tough customer to defend. The smaller amount of points allowed in the first half the better for the Ti-Cats. The key will be to keep the lead if they get it, no more slacking off and allowing opponents a fighting chance.

Look ahead: Tough schedule for the Ti-Cats with meetings against both Montreal and Calgary.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

Dalton Bell failed to create the spark in his CFL starting debut at quarterback, so the result is 16 points in a loss to Saskatchewan.

A paltry sum, especially when considering running back Cory Boyd's 145 yards rushing on 20 carries was put to waste.

Bell was called upon to fill the shoes of Cleo Lemon, who had started every game this season before a concussion sidelined him last week.

Although there has yet to be word on Lemon's status for this week, it's more than possible he will be good to go for Saturday.

Whether he can avoid another four interception-type game remains to be seen, but what limited experience he has is something the team sorely needs.

Offensive key to the next game (Saskatchewan Roughriders): Defer to Boyd, but he can't do it alone. Accurate passes are on the menu, but whether or not the Double Blue orders up a healthier dose of completions depends largely on how well Bell responds in his second game, or how Lemon will do post-injury.

Defensive key to the next game: The defense didn't do too badly against the Riders last week, holding the team to just 27 points. Taking RB Wes Cates out of the game helped immensely and should be the focus again this week.

Look ahead: Like Montreal, it's nothing but East opponents for Toronto for the rest of the regular season.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

With the amount of heartache the Bombers have experienced in recent weeks, don't be surprised if they ask for a transplant to generate some life into a team that just isn't clutch enough when it needs to be.

Perhaps a new look at pivot is the answer.

Winnipeg will turn the ball over to Alex Brink, who hasn't started a game since 2007 when he was attending Washington State University.

He will be called upon to take over from backup Steve Jyles, who threw for just 258 yards last week.

The Bombers have dug themselves a hole virtually too deep to climb out of, as their "good enough for last place" 3-10 record is just too far back from both Hamilton and Toronto (6-7).

Offensive key to the next game (BC Lions): Brink's performance obviously has a lot to do with how well the Bombers play this week, but the ball has to go to Fred Reid more than anyone else. The running back will be critical to the team's chances of moving the ball downfield.

Defensive key to the next game: Winnipeg held BC scoreless in the first half last week, though it was more the Lions shooting themselves in the foot than it was stellar defensive play. Regardless, the Bombers showed an intensity that lacked at times in the final two quarters. The focus defensively should be on consistency more than anything else.

Look ahead: Every game is a must-win for the Bombers if they wish to hold onto the slim hope of making the playoffs, but only two of the next five games are against eastern opponents.


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