November 17, 2012 Game Notes: Division Finals Edition Staff

TORONTO – Four teams, two games, one goal.

Punching their tickets to the 100th Grey Cup.

On Sunday, the Montreal Alouettes, Toronto Argonauts, BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders will take to the field in hopes of extending their season by one more week.

The action gets underway at 1pm ET at Olympic Stadium where Anthony Calvillo and the Als will welcome the red-hot Ricky Ray and the Argonauts for the Eastern Final.

Just over three hours later, the defending champs in BC will play host to the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Final.

Equipped with the most up-to-date storylines, roster moves, stats, milestones and trends, enjoy this week’s Game Notes.

Montreal Alouettes vs. Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium, 1pm ET

Eastern Final
Playoff Centre
EF Playoff Centre

The 2012 Eastern Final matchup is set as the Montreal Alouettes host the Toronto Argonauts. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game.

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On Montreal’s Side:

– Division Finals Record:  Montreal will be playing in their ninth Eastern Final in the last 11 years missing out only in 2011 and 2007. They are 7-1 in those games since 2002 and since 1996 are 8-5 in 13 Finals appearances. They made a habit out of playing Toronto at this stage as this year will make the Argos their Finals opponent in 7 of the last 9 games.

– Home playoff games:  This week’s game will stretch their streak to five consecutive years with a home playoff game. That matches their club record set twice before (2002-06, 1996-2000). They have now had a home playoff game 15 times in their 17-year streak of making the playoffs.

– Early Leads: Getting ahead early in the game has usually meant Montreal went on to win in recent years. Since 2009, Montreal has a record of 35-6 when leading after the first quarter.

– Division Final Scoring: The Alouettes have been held under 30 points in Division Final games just once in nine appearances since 2000. They have averaged 36 points per game to their opponents 21.8, going 8-1 in the process. In regular season games since 2006, the Alouettes are 54-6 when they hit the 30-point mark.

– AC Starts in Division Finals/Playoffs: Anthony Calvillo has started nine times in the Division Final and has led his club to an 8-1 mark in those games. Overall in the playoffs he has made 13 starts with a 9-4 record, 9-3 with Montreal.

– Jamel Richardson & S.J. Green: Richardson has a four-year playoff run where he has averaged five catches and 101 yards with six TDs for Montreal. He has seven career playoff receiving TDs plus another on a fumble recovery. Green had a breakout playoff game last year with a team-leading eight catches for 142 yards and a TD.

– Tailbacks: The Als have started three different players at the feature running back spot due to injuries to Brandon Whitaker and Victor Anderson. Chris Jennings was solid over the final four games averaging 73 rushing yards per game and 114 from scrimmage.

– Chip Cox in the playoffs: The seven-year starter in Montreal is usually their tackles leader in playoff games. Over the last three years he has had 24 tackles to lead the club plus one sack.

– From 2-3 up to 11-7 and 1st place: The Alouettes matched their slowest five-game start since returning to the CFL in 1996 at 2-3 but rebounded to win nine of their last 13 games and wrap up first place for the 10th time.

– Receiving injuries: Last season the trio of Jamel Richardson, S.J. Green and Brian Bratton started 17 of 18 games together and had 53 of a possible 54 starts. In 2012, the trio started exactly SIX games together. Richardson and Green started in the same game only 11 times in 18 weeks. Adding in Brandon London, the foursome made just four starts together as a group.

– Sean Whyte: The Als kicker went 33-of-41 this season but two of those attempts were deliberate onside kicks away from the posts for field position or recovery attempts. His true percentage was 85 per cent and he went 28-of-29 inside 40 yards (97 per cent).

On Toronto’s Side:

– Into the playoffs: The Argos have returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence and now have recorded two berths in the last three seasons. Over that time they have a 24-30 record (.444) compared to a 7-29 record over 2008-09 (.194).

– On the road: Despite having to travel to Montreal for the Eastern Final, the Argos have a good road record since 2010 to build on. They are the only CFL club over the last three seasons to have a road record equal or better than their home mark being 12-15 both at and away from Rogers Centre. Their last road playoff win at Montreal came in the 2004 Eastern Final (26-18).

– Head-to-head since 2006: The Argos have a 3-13 record against Montreal in regular season play since 2006 but had a big win earlier this year. They won 23-20 in Montreal on July 27.

– 3 wins in a row: Toronto’s current three-game winning streak covering the final two regular season games and the Eastern Semi-Final is their longest since a three-game run from July 9 to 23, 2010 (56 games ago). The last Toronto win streak of longer than three games came at the end of 2007.

– Turnover Turnaround: Last season, Toronto was tied for seventh in the CFL with a -17 T/O Ratio and had 51 offensive turnovers. This year they ranked #1 at +10 and had only 29 T/Os on offence (22 less) – an overall improvement of +27. In the Eastern Semi-Final they were again on the plus side with a 3-1 edge in takeaways.
– Getting to 20 points / close ones: Reaching at least 20 points has been critical for Toronto as they are 0-6 this year when they score under 20 and are 9-3 with at least 20 points for. One of the keys to the Argo resurgence has been winning close games. Over the most recent three-year span Toronto is 13-3 in games decided by four points or less, the best in the CFL over that time.

– 31 point second quarter: The 31 points put up by Toronto last week in the second quarter set an all-time CFL record, eclipsing Calgary’s 29 points during the 1979 season. They scored their 31 points in a span of 13:00 turning a seven-point deficit into a 31-7 half-time lead. Two of the scores were keyed by big returns, a 59-yard punt return TD by Chad Owens and 53-yard interception by Marcus Ball.  
– 30+ yard completions allowed: Last week, the Eskimos completed four passes for 30+ yards continuing a recent Toronto defensive trend. Toronto has allowed 13 passes of 30+ yards in the last four games compared to just 10 in the previous 10 games.

– Three-game QB Rating: Ricky Ray has put together his hottest streak of the year since returning from injury. Over his last three starts he has gone 63-of-93 for 927 yards, one interception and 10 TDs for a 135.0 rating.
–  Ricky Ray II: In the 13 games that Ray started and finished, the Argos averaged 310 yards passing and a net offence of 392 yards per game. In the other 5 games, they averaged 221 passing and 295 net yards – well over 30% more production.

– Chad Owens: His 59-yard punt return TD last week in the second quarter was his first special teams score in a span of 23 games since Oct 10, 2011 vs. Montreal. As a receiver he has had either feast or famine over the last seven games with two 100-yard games combined with five games all under 40 yards catching the ball. He caught just three passes last week for 14 yards.

BC Lions vs. Calgary Stampeders
BC Place Stadium, 4:30 pm ET

Western Final Playoff Centre

The 2012 Western Final matchup is set as the BC Lions host the Calgary Stampeders. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game.

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On BC’s Side:

Into the playoffs: BC will be in the playoffs in 2012 for the 35th time in itss 59-year club history. The Lions will be looking to do what no CFL club has ever done – win the Grey Cup in back-to-back years with different head coaches. The Lions have never won the Grey Cup two years in a row.

– At home for the Final: The Lions have an overall record of 14-1 since returning downtown to B.C. Place last October (12-1 reg. season, 2-0 post-season). This week’s home game will be the club’s 21st berth in a Division Final and eighth in the last nine years. BC is 7-5 in the previous 12 home field attempts to get the CFL’s title game. The Lions have now gained the host spot in the Western Final twice in a row and in six of the last nine seasons (2004 to 2012).

– Best at 13-5: The Lions head into this game with the league’s best regular season record at 13-5, the 10th time in club history they have accomplished that feat. The Lions are 4-5 in playoff games or series after finishing with the best overall record.

– Second half dominance: The Lions are 47-16 in the second half of seasons since 2006 compared to a 31-31-1 mark in first halves. This year, BC finished at 7-2 over the final nine games and went 15-3 in the second half across 2011-2012.
– BC Defence: The Lions led the league in both offensive (389) and defensive (295) yards categories, the first time in club history they have topped the league in the same season in both areas. They also committed just 23 turnovers in 2012 shattering the previous league record low of 28 set by Ottawa in 1967 and tied by BC in 2006. Their 354 points allowed is a mark bettered by only seven clubs in the 18-game season era (1986 to 2012).

– Canadians #1-2: Though the research has not yet been done into this item across the entire CFL, the Lions had Canadians go 1-2 in receiving (Gore 722, Harris 718) for the first time since 1975 (Jim Young & Ross Clarkson). The two broke Geroy Simon’s nine-year hold on #1. Previous Canadians to lead the way … Sonny Homer, Jim Young, Al Charuk, and Ryan Thelwell.
– From scrimmage: The Lions’ Andrew Harris accomplished what only one Canadian player had ever done before, lead the CFL in combined rushing and receiving yards. Harris joins Terry Evanshen (1967) as the only Canadians to lead the CFL.
– Geroy Simon: Heading into his 16th career playoff game, Simon has caught at least one pass in every one of the first 15. He has four 100-yard games in the playoffs and ranks #11 all-time among playoff receivers with 918 yards on 62 catches.
– Paul McCallum: The Lions’ kicker led the CFL in scoring for the second straight season and carries a remarkable streak of playoff success. He has made all 29 of his FG attempts in the playoffs since 2006. His only post-season miss since 2006 came in last year’s Grey Cup game when he made 4-of-5 attempts. Overall he is 39-of-40 in post-season play over 6 seasons.
– Adam Bighill: The All-Star LB finished up with 104 defensive tackles (#2 ranked), the most by any Lions player since 2001 (Barrin Simpson 115) and the fifth highest total in club history behind Simpson, Alondra Johnson, Jeff Braswell and Willie Pless.
– Travis Lulay: Though his consecutive game TD pass streak came to an end in the final regular season game, Lulay has thrown at least one TD pass in his last three post-season games (2010 & 2011 playoffs, 2011 Grey Cup). The Lions record is five-straight post-season games with a TD pass by Damon Allen. Lulay will be sixth Lions QB to start more than one Division Final game (Joe Kapp 6, Roy Dewalt 4, Damon Allen 2, Casey Printers 2, Dave Dickenson 3).

» Buy Division Finals tickets
Sunday, 1:00 pm ET: Argonauts at Alouettes
Sunday, 4:30 pm ET: Stampeders at Lions

On Calgary’s Side

– In the playoffs: This will be the 89th playoff game in Stampeders playoff history dating back to 1945. They are 42-44-2 since then but 15-12 since 1990. This year marks their 15th appearance in the Division Final in the last 23 years. That is the most of any CFL club since 1990 (Calgary 15, Montreal 14, Edmonton 13, and BC 11).
– Against BC: The Stamps dropped their first two against BC in 2012 but bounced back to win 41-21 on Oct. 26 after grabbing a stunning 34-0 lead. BC had won six of the previous seven meetings on the heels of an eight-game Calgary win streak over the Lions.

– Playoff win: The Stampeders rebounded from playoff losses in the previous three seasons to post a memorable comeback in the final 0:20 to defeat Saskatchewan in last week’s Western Semi-Final. The teams traded touchdowns in just 0:32 late in the game and overall it featured five lead changes. There were eight completions of 30+ yards, eight TDs in total and the fourth recorded defensive two-point convert in league history.

– Second half offence/defence: Last week Calgary rolled up 484 yards of offence however 314 came in the second half alone. Drew Tate threw for 262 yards on 14-of-21 second half passes. Six of those completions were on clutch second down plays. In the game overall, the Stamps moved the ball at least 25 yards downfield seven times. The Stamps’ pass defence limited Darian Durant on second down however: in the 2nd half Durant went 1-for-7 on 2nd down pass attempts with an interception.

– Maurice Price: Has a current three-game streak of 100-yard receiving days. He has 15 receptions for 370 yards, an average of 24.7 yards per catch, and three TDs over those three games. Of the 370 yards, 182 have come after the catch.

– Rene Paredes: The Concordia product now extended his overall FG success run to 20 in a row. He made his final 18 in the regular season, then both attempts last week including a 50-yarder.

– 100-yard rushing mark: When reaching the 100-yard mark in rushing this season (including the playoff win over the Riders), the Stampeders are 10-0. They are 3-6 when held under 100 yards on the ground.  

– Winning tough: Calgary had seven of their games decided by four points or less and went 5-2 in those contests. They also managed to win four times when making more turnovers, certainly against the CFL trend overall.

– Nik Lewis / Calgary receivers: Always under tight coverage, Lewis has six catches for 59 yards in his last two playoff games. He has one career 100-yard game in the playoffs and is up to 36 career catches for 404 yards in nine games. Lewis had plenty of support in 2012 – 17 different players caught at least one pass for Calgary in 2012.

– Punt coverage: Calgary must control the West’s top special teams player in BC’s Tim Brown this week. In 2012, the Stampeders allowed only two punt returns of more than 30 yards. Saskatchewan’s longest punt return last week was just eight yards.

– Spread out scoring: Calgary gets touchdowns from a wide variety of players and ways of scoring. A total of 20 different Stampeders scored TDs in 2012, by far the most in the CFL. It is one player short of Calgary’s all-time best – 21 players in 2010.