Have you caught your breath yet?
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats did the seemingly improbable and defeated the Montreal Alouettes in what turned out to be the highest scoring game in CFL playoff history.
The 52-44 overtime win by the Tabbies ended Montreal’s two year run as Grey Cup Champions, and a three year run of making it to the Grey Cup game.
The loss was also the first time the Alouettes had lost in a Semi-Final game since the 2007 season, and the first time they had lost a home playoff game since an East Final loss to Toronto in 2004.
Taking it one step further, it was the first time since 1958 that the Alouettes had lost at home in the Semi-Final round.
The Tiger-Cats jumped on quarterback Anthony Calvillo early and often, sacking him twice on back-to-back drives in the first quarter. Hamilton led the game 10-3 after the first quarter.
The Alouettes rallied back to take a 13-10 lead before Kevin Glenn took the Ticats right back to restore the lead for Hamilton.
Late in the first half, Calvillo was sacked for a loss of 13 yards on one play, and then with pressure in his face, threw an interception to linebacker Jamall Johnson on the very next play.
Johnson returned the pick to the Alouettes four-yard line, where back-up QB Quinton Porter threw a touchdown pass to Dave Stala two plays later.
Hamilton led the game 24-16 at the half. But that was just the beginning.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter, with the Tiger-Cats leading the game 30-23 when Calvillo found Canadian receiver Eric Deslauriers wide open down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown.
The play would mark the first of five touchdowns in the final 12:34 of the game.
After Calvillo threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to S.J. Green with 1:30 on the game clock, but the Ticats quickly rallied back and lined up a 43-yard field goal for kicker Justin Medlock to win the game.
That’s when the Alouettes caught another break on a field goal attempt. Hamilton failed to get the snap off, suffering a time count violation which pushed the ball back 10 yards, forcing Medlock to now kick a 53-yard field goal attempt.
A flashback that had the entire province of Saskatchewan get chills down their spines.
Medlock saw his game-winning attempt slice to the left, and the Alouettes were able to bring the ball out of the endzone forcing overtime.
In the first overtime session, Porter scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge, while Glenn threw a two-point conversion pass to Chris Williams to give the Ti-Cats a 52-44 lead.
On third-and-two at the Hamilton 17, Calvillo threw a pass to Brandon Whitaker in the flats. The Alouettes running back was unable to make the catch, ending the game, and ending Montreal’s reign over the East Division.
In what may have been the final game in the career of Calvillo, the 18-year pro threw for 513 yards – just five yards shy of the all-time playoff record of 518.
Since Calvillo left Hamilton during the 1997 offseason to join the Alouettes, Montreal has lost four-straight games in the playoffs to Hamilton.
Calvillo played back-up to Tracy Ham in the first two losses in 1998 and 1999.
The 96 points scored between the Tiger-Cats and Alouettes broke the previous record of 88 – which came 55 years ago between the same two teams.
Hamilton’s win marks the first time since the 2001 season that they will appear in the East Final. That year, the Ticats also met the Blue Bombers, who were quarterbacked by the man who is now their offensive coordinator, Khari Jones.
Jones, who was once backed up by Glenn, will now have the task of helping Glenn get to his first career Grey Cup.
Glenn led the Blue Bombers to their last Division Final appearance in 2007, but after being injured in the fourth quarter, missed the Grey Cup game the following week.
The excitement that was the East Semi-final did not seem to inspire the efforts of the Calgary Stampeders or the Edmonton Eskimos in the West Semi-Final.
With the Stamps leading the game 8-3, starting quarterback Drew Tate lost the football as he attempted to throw a pass from the 25-yard line. The ball was recovered by Damaso Munoz who rumbled 76 yards back the other way for a touchdown.
From that play on, the Eskimos never looked back.
Edmonton outscored the Stampeders 22-1 in the second quarter to take a 25-9 lead into the half.
Calgary was able to climb back to within 11 points at the end of the third quarter; however, the Eskimos buckled down defensively from that point on, and added a late Calvin McCarty touchdown to put the game out of reach.
The 33-19 win by the Eskimos was their first home playoff win since a 2003 West Final victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Eskimos will move on to face the BC Lions in next week’s West Division Championship game. Edmonton has a record of 5-1 all-time against the Lions in the West Final.
With the Semi-Final wins by the Eskimos and Tiger-Cats, it marks the first time in CFL history that none of the four teams from the previous season’s Division Finals made it back the following year.
In 2010, Saskatchewan met Calgary in the West Final, while Montreal hosted Toronto. The Riders and Argos both missed the playoffs in 2011, and the Stampeders and Alouettes failed to make it through the Semi-Final round.
The loss by the Alouettes also marks the first time since the 2004 season that neither the Alouettes nor the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be one of the two teams playing in the Grey Cup game. At the same time, it is the first time since the 2001 season that neither team will play in the divisional finals.
For more commentary from Tyler Bieber, visit his blog at CFLDaily.ca