Observations reflecting on the East Semi-Finals which Montreal won 27 to 12 on November 4. Includes enhanced defensive stats such as QB hurries, run stops, and passes defended, as well as observations on what players did well on in various areas.
Alouettes East Finals Reading:
CFL Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes (12-7) at Toronto Argonauts (16-2) Preview
Jeshrun Antwi of the Montreal Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Finals
Reflecting on the CFL East Semi-Finals Montreal 27, Hamilton 12: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats
Lions West Finals Reading:
CFL Western Final: BC Lions (13-6) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-4) Preview
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Finals Against Winnipeg
Reflecting on the CFL West Semi-Finals BC 41, Calgary 30: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats:
CFL Eastern Semi-Final Preview: Montreal Alouettes (11-7) vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10)
Reggie Stubblefield of the Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Semi-Finals Against Hamilton
CFL Western Semi-Final: Preview BC Lions (12-6) vs Calgary Stampeders (6-12)
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Semi-Finals Against Calgary
Montreal Alouettes Week 21 Extended Report
Mike Mitchell’s Final Power Rankings
Predicting the Rest of the CFL Season
CFL 2nd Period All-Star Team (Weeks 8-14)
CFL Midseason All-Star Team, Awards
First Period CFL and Divisional All-Stars
@JonathanClink on Twitter
Stream the East Final 11/11/2023, 3 PM EST (12 PM PST) for free outside of Canada here:
The West Final will be at 6:30 PM EST (3:30 PM PST)
Hamilton Tiger-Cats Observations
Bo Levi Mitchell Was Not Given Enough Time
Bo Levi Mitchell had not played a full game since week 8 when he suffered a broken leg. He split Hamilton’s last 3 games with Matthew Shiltz and Taylor Powell playing roughly a half in each of those.
With 6:21 left in the game with Hamilton trailing 12-24, the Ti-Cats put in Bo Levi Mitchell. Montreal has allowed the fewest yards per pass attempt this season and the 2nd fewest total passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed. Montreal’s defense against the pass has likely been their greatest area of strength this season making the situation much more improbable for Hamilton’s offense to make a comeback.
Mitchell’s first play is a checkdown to James Butler for 6 yards. He then scrambles for 5 yards. The next play throws a deep ball broken up by Marc-Antoine Dequoy. The play after that he is sacked by Shawn Lemon. Hamilton punts the ball away with 4:26 remaining.
On the next drive, Hamilton gets the ball back with 1:10 left after a Montreal field goal trailing 12-27. Mitchell throws a pass down the middle and it is batted down by Reggie Stubblefield. The next play is a deep shot intercepted by Marc-Antoine Dequoy wrapping up Hamilton’s night offensively.
If Hamilton was going to put in Bo Levi Mitchell at a point in the game it needed to happen when the game was still in reach.
Tim White Having 0 Catches Was Surprising
White was recorded as being targetted 3 times with 0 receptions. 2 of his passes were broken up with Kabion Ento and Reggie Stubblefield both accounting for one of the breakups. Tim White led the CFL in receiving yards with 1,269 yards and 8 touchdowns. In Hamilton’s playoff game last year he had 8 catches for 142 yards.
Omar Bayless did a good job keeping his feet in bounds on his 22-yard reception. The longest pass for Hamilton was a 30-yard gain to Terry Godwin which was essentially lobbed into the air before Matthew Shiltz took a hit from 2 Alouttes’ defenders.
Hamilton Should Have Ran the Ball More
James Butler had a pretty successful night rushing 13 times for 83 yards (6.3 average). Butler did a great maximizing plays on his touches. Compared to Hamilton’s passing plays which saw the Tiger-Cats average 5.6 yards per pass play, giving the ball to Butler was the safer option. All of Hamilton’s 3 turnovers came on passing plays as well.
In the first quarter, Butler ran the ball 4 times for 26 yards (6.5 average). First quarter runs in order: 9-yards, 5, 3, 9.
In the second quarter, Butler had 2 carries for 3 yards (1.5 average). The first run was for 0 yards and the 2nd was for 3.
The third quarter saw Butler rush 7 times for 54 yards (7.7 average) and 4 first downs. In order he ran for 13 yards (1st down), 4, 8, 2 (1st down), 15 (1st down), and 5 (1st down). Despite having his most successful quarter in the third and the run gain to appear to becoming more effective as the game went on Hamilton did not hand Butler the football in the 4th quarter on any of their 11 offensive plays.
Hamilton’s Defensive Play
Despite Montreal’s running back William Stanback having a healthy 5.3 yards per carry Hamilton’s defense came up with some stops. Of course some of these stops come from other players such as Jamal Davis II taking down Fajardo on a red zone scramble.
Casey Sayles was highly impactful with 3 QB hurries by my count and also had 3 tackles which were all run stops as well as assisted on 2 other run stops.
Jamal Davis II was playing again with a lot of energy facing his old team and had 2 run stops and both being a tackle for a loss and also had a QB hurry.
Ja’Gared Davis and Malik Carney both had a sack, a run stop, and an assisted run stop. Davis also broke up a short pass at the line in the third quarter.
Ted Laurent had 2 run stops and Dylan Wynn had a run stop as well.
Simoni Lawrence had 2 run stops and a QB hurry as well as his 3 tackles. Jameer Thurman had a run stop and broke up a pass in the backfield with a well-timed collision on William Stanback. Chris Edwards had a QB hurry, assisted with 2 run stops, and had a stop against the pass.
Stavros Katsantonis led the group with 6 tackles. Kenneth George Jr. had 4 tackles and a QB hit. Will Sunderland had 2 tackles, a pass stop, and a pass breakup when he forced an incompletion hitting Tyson Philpot with good timing.. Richard Leonard was beaten by Austin Mack on the 30-yard touchdown and later made up for it with an interception in the red zone thanks to some good positioning.
Montreal Alouettes Observations
The Montreal Alouettes Defence Was Excellent
James Butler did a great job maximizing his touches despite Montreal doing a good job closing in on him quickly on his run plays. Montreal had arguably the greatest defensive pass performance on the season so far. The Alouettes had the lowest yards per pass attempt allowed on the season at 7.6. In their win over Hamilton in the East Semi-Finals they allowed only 5.6 yards per pass giving up only 150 yards on 27 passes. There were 0 touchdowns allowed both on the ground and through the air. Additionally, Montreal’s defense generated 3 turnovers with 2 interceptions and created a fumble which they recovered against a pass play.
Montreal’s Punt Coverage Was Great
The Alouettes continued to demonstrate a high level of play on special teams. Tyreik McAllister had 3 punt returns averaging 8.3 yards per return. Montreal’s special teams did a good job closing in on the returner with Tyrice Beverette, Brock Gowanlock, and Jeshrun Antwi all making a special teams tackle that stood out as a very good play.
Cody Fajardo Activated “Big Fajita Mode”
While it may not have been the biggest passing game with eye-popping numbers this was a performance that inspires a lot of hope for the Alouettes for a couple of reasons.
This season Fajardo only had 2 games in which he threw for 2 touchdowns or more. The first one was against Hamilton in week 3 when he threw 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The second time came against Toronto in week 6 when he threw 3 touchdowns against Toronto and 2 interceptions. The 2nd interception came on the final play which was an attempt from Toronto’s 32-yard line to tie the game which ended 27-35.
Fajardo had a down year in Saskatchewan last year in what was a season filled with injuries. In the win against Hamilton, we saw Fajardo use his legs effectively and pick up 62 yards on the ground in 4 carries. This is the first time we saw Fajardo rush for over 60 yards since he did so in the 2021 West Division Semi-Final when he rushed for 89 yards.
Cody’s ability to gash defenses on the ground and escape pressure is what made him an elite quarterback in the past. People forget that Fajardo was a CFL All-Star in 2019 which was a season that saw him throw for 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions as well as lead the league in passing yards at 4,302 and had 611 yards on the ground.
Fajardo’s abilities have been in large part forgotten over the course of the 2022 season but we may be seeing a resurgence in his ability to play his type of football.
The Alouettes Committed to the Run and Had Strong Pass Protection
Over the course of the season Montreal at times abandoned the run when it was not working. The offense had less continuity when it was not mixing in run plays at times earlier in the season and would have a higher frequency of losing the battle in pass protection.
In Montreal’s East Semi-Final victory, Montreal remained committed to the run despite Stanback having under 4 yards on 4 of his 7 carries in the first half and 0 first downs. Stanback only had 2 runs over 4 yards which were both 5-yard gains in the first half. Hamilton kept him limited to 2.7 yards per carry on the 7 first-half carries.
Despite the low first-half rushing numbers, Montreal remained committed to the run. In the third quarter, Stanback had 3 rushes for 13 yards (4.3 yards per carry). Stanback had his biggest run when Hamilton was expecting a run when he rushed for 38 yards up the left side of the field with 4 minutes left in the game and Montreal leading by 13. On the next play, he rushed for 10 yards.
From that point on Montreal did not attempt another pass. In the 4th quarter, Stanback had 66 yards on 8 carries (8.25 yards per carry).
Prior to the final 4 minutes, Stanback had 12 carries and Fajardo attempted 23 passes. Montreal maintained a healthy ratio of mixing in pass plays and the pass protection had one of its best games of the season. Montreal allowed 2 sacks but allowed a low amount of total pressures on their quarterbacks and only allowed 6 total pressures including the sacks.
Montreal’s Defensive Play
Lwal Uguak has emerged as a very impactful player in Montreal’s starting lineup. The first-round draft pick out of TCU had 4 sacks in the last 5 games of the regular season. In the East Semi-Final Uguak had the most tackles among the defensive line with 7, 3 of which were run stops. He had 2 QB hurries and a QB hit as well as knocked down 2 passes.
Shawn Lemon told TSN’s Matthew Scianitti before the game “Doesn’t matter, I’ll sack both of them.” when asked his thoughts on Hamilton using multiple quarterbacks. Lemon proceeded to sack both Matthew Shiltz and Bo Levi Mitchell. Lemon had 5 tackles, 2 QB hurries, a run stop, and a stop against a short outside pass in the 2nd quarter.
Mustafa Johnson had 3 tackles, a sack, a run stop, and assisted with a run stop. Johnson also batted a pass at the line which was intercepted by Darnell Sankey in the 2nd quarter.
Almondo Sewell had a run stop and Avery Ellis had a QB hurry.
Darnell Sankey had the most tackles for the Alouettes with 8. He also had 2 sacks, an interception, and a run stop. Sankey also broke up a pass when blitzing in the third quarter.
Reggie Stubblefield had 7 tackles, a QB hurry, assisted with a run stop, made 2 stops against the pass, and broke up 2 passes. Stubblefield had a strong 4th quarter. He had a stop against the run then broke up a pass 2 plays later. His 2nd pass breakup came just outside the final minute.
Tyrice Beverette had 5 tackles and assisted with a run stop.
Avery Williams had a forced fumble which Montreal recovered on Hamilton’s opening drive which happened on Montreal’s 38-yard line.
Dionte Ruffin allowed a 30-yard pass to Terry Godwin on what was a very awkward throw and then had a run stop the following play.
Ciante Evans assisted with a stop on a pass play.
Marc-Antoine Dequoy broke up a pass in the 4th quarter and went up for an interception on a deep throw which was Hamilton’s final offensive play of the game.
Kabion Ento had an excellent pass breakup diving at the football in the first quarter.
Wesley Sutton had a QB hurry and broke up a pass in the 2nd quarter.
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