The last thing standing between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the 2011 Grey Cup game is a Hamilton Tiger-Cats team the Bombers have owned like no other in the CFL this season.
The Ticats advanced to this coming Sunday’s CFL East Division final against the Bombers at Canad Inns Stadium with a wild 52-44 overtime win over the Montreal Alouettes this afternoon at Olympic Stadium.
The Ticats victory ended the reign of the two-time defending Grey Cup champions and capped a wild offensive shootout that saw Hamilton just keep coming in the face of an Alouettes team that seemed to have an answer for every Hamilton score until the last one.
The game was the highest scoring CFL playoff game in history, and the offensive numbers were other-worldly. Indeed, the only thing more amazing than the passing numbers for Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo -- 30-42, for 513 yards and three TDs -- was that they came in a losing effort. Hamilton starting QB Kevin Glenn was a much more modest 23-32 for 275 yards and one TD.
"I’ve never seen two teams try so hard to go to Winnipeg in my life," Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown quipped after the game. "Very impressive performances by Hamilton and Montreal.
"We are going to have to raise our play to the same degree that Hamilton did facing off with the Alouettes if we want to be successful at home next week."
But the heavy lifting has also only just begun for Hamilton, who will now have to figure out a way to do something they haven’t been able to do all season -- beat Winnipeg.
The two teams met three times in the regular season and Winnipeg won all three times: 24-16 in Hamilton in Week 1; 30-27 in Winnipeg in Week 9; and 33-17 in Hamilton in Week 15.
Bombers centre Obby Khan, who is expected to be back in the starting lineup next weekend, said the season record between the two teams is interesting but not particularly helpful to Winnipeg's cause in a one-game, win-or-go-home East final.
"I don't think it plays a big role against them. Yeah, 3-0 gives us a bit of confidence, but that all means nothing," Khan said Sunday afternoon.
"It tells us we know we can beat them because we have beaten them. But it's a whole new game in the playoffs."