What! A! Game! These two teams traded blows for more than 60 minutes in a contest that will go down as an all-time classic. This game was punch-counter punch from the start.
What impressed me the most was how Hamilton handled adversity. Chris Williams dropped a sure touchdown, a very controversial replay challenge on a Brandon Whitaker fumble (someone care to show me where the "indisputable evidence" was to overturn that call), a horrible pass interference call on the next play led to a Montreal touchdown, they lost an 11-point lead, a brain fart time-count violation that cost the Cats 10 yards and pushed Justin Medlock back to 53 yards on his field goal attempt, and then Medlock missed the ensuing field goal which sent the game to overtime are all of things that could have demoralized the Cats. Instead, they kept fighting and didn't let the unlucky breaks cripple them. It was a great showing of mental strength.
That's not to say that the team didn't have its share of amazing performances. Avon Cobourne ran hard and with a purpose all game, Bakari Grant picked the perfect time to have his breakout game, Jamall Johnson was a monster on Defense, and the Offensive Line allowed zero sacks and paved the way to a 161-yard rushing performance. Everything clicked for the Offense, and the Defense did just enough.
But the coaches deserve some credit too, especially beleaguered Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille. Bellefeuille gets hammered by Tiger-Cat fans, but today he outcoached one of the best coaches in the CFL. The decision to sit Stevie Baggs was met with almost universal disdain, but after the game Jamall Johnson had, the decision proved to be the correct one. His decision to play Quinton Porter over the final four games paid dividends when Kevin Glenn went down with an injury and Porter came in a lead a touchdown drive. Bellefeuille gets a lot of heat when the team loses, so he deserves some credit for a gutsy win by his charges today.
The Tiger-Cats excised a lot of demons by winning this game. They got their first playoff win in the Bob Young era, they won in Montreal for the first time since 2002, they won a playoff game for the first time since 2001, Kevin Glenn silenced his critics by performing well in a big-game setting and Marcel Bellefeuille did the same by winning his first playoff game as a Head Coach.
As great as this win is, the road only gets tougher. The Cats now travel to Winnipeg to take on a rested Blue Bomber team in the East Division Final. Hamilton lost all three games against Winnipeg this season, so the Cats will have to bring their A-game if they hope to advance to their first Grey Cup since 1999.
For the first time in a decade, the Tiger-Cats will be playing during the second week of playoff games. As a fan, that is exciting, but the team has bigger goals. Goals that can only be reached with a win next week in Winnipeg.