Gotta hand it to 'em

The Montreal Alouettes' defence changed tactics at halftime and did a superb job of confusing...

The Montreal Alouettes' defence changed tactics at halftime and did a superb job of confusing Toronto Argonauts quarterback Damon Allen en route to a 33-17 victory Sunday. (Greg Henkenhaf/Toronto Sun)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

In the end, the road to the Grey Cup didn't go through Toronto for the Argos.

It ended here.

All the hopes and dreams of the Argos winning a second consecutive title came to a heartbreaking finale yesterday in a 33-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes at the Rogers Centre.

The Als took the emotion out of the gathering of 44,211 -- the largest crowd for a home playoff game since Nov. 17, 1991 -- by taking advantage of Argos turnovers. The Argos committed six of them: Two interceptions and a fumble by quarterback Damon Allen, two fumbles by return specialist Bashir Levingston and a fumble by receiver Tony Miles.

"You can't win against a good football team turning over the football that many times," Argos head coach Pinball Clemons said.

"It really is the unthinkable. You have one or two (turnovers) it's part of the flow of the game. You don't think, in this sort of game, that you'd ever have that many turnovers."

Veteran linebacker Mike O'Shea said the Argos let down a lot of people with their disappointing performance.

"Not only ourselves, but the fans that have supported us very well all year and the ownership group who has really done an amazing job turning this team around from the brink of disaster," he said. "We let them all down and, most importantly, we've let each other down."

The Argos took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and seemed headed to an easy victory, but that's when they started to turn the ball over, beginning with the fumble by Levingston midway in the second. Allen served up his first interception -- on a missed read by his intended receiver -- inside the final two minutes of the quarter with the Argos on the Als 24-yard line.

With the Als leading 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Allen was picked off for the second time in the game, and Montreal added three points on its ensuing series with a field goal.

On the Argos' next series, Allen was charged with a fumble on an attempted pass and the Als scored three more points.

After Levingston fumbled the kickoff, the Als used the turnover to score a TD and put the game out of reach.

"We had chances to win the ball game," Allen said. "We did let them back in the game, but you've also got to give them credit. They continued to play hard and took advantage of turnovers. And whether they were putting three points on (the board with a field goal) or punching one in (for a touchdown), we contributed to them getting back in the ball game.

"We gave them the game and they earned what they came out to do."

Argos safety Orlondo Steinauer said his team simply didn't play a complete game from start to finish.

"In the biggest game of the year we didn't come together collectively," he said. "We did great for two quarters ... The score shows 33 points, but I think we played well enough on defence to win, with the exception of the last two possessions.

"In games like these, the least amount of turnovers is usually going to win. That's just the way it happens. They made more plays and the least amount of mistakes and won the game."

The Als will play the Edmonton Eskimos this Sunday in the Grey Cup in Vancouver. The Eskimos beat the B.C. Lions 28-23 yesterday in the West Division final.


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