The East Division semifinal provided head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and his Toronto Argonauts staff with a valuable teaching tool.
A dominant Hamilton defence anchored the club's 23-12 home win over Montreal on Sunday. The Ticats recorded six sacks and five turnovers (resulting in two field goals and a TD) while the Alouettes were penalized 12 times for 115 yards in the contest.
Coaches routinely preach to players the importance of limiting penalties and turnovers in games. Argos coaches and players saw that first-hand Sunday when they gathered to watch the Hamilton-Montreal contest.
"We always preach that here," Dinwiddie said. "It was great for our guys to see.
"They (Ticats) weren't rolling right away and then you get that turnover and all of a sudden here comes Hamilton. They were off and running after that."
Hamilton had the ball for just nine minutes 59 seconds in the opening half yet held a commanding 20-3 halftime lead thanks to its stellar defence. Jeremiah Masoli's 20-yard TD strike to Brandon Banks put the Ticats ahead 7-3 in the second quarter following Julian Howsare's 45-yard return of a fumble forced by defensive lineman Dylan Wynn.
Following a Montreal two-and-out, Don Jackson's six-yard TD run put Hamilton ahead 14-3. Kicker Michael Domagala made it 20-3 with field goals of 38 and 37 yards, that were set up by Wynn's fumble recovery and Stavros Katsantonis's interception, respectively.
Montreal opened the game with a 13-play, 95-yard march that resulted in a field goal. The Alouettes had the ball for more than 11 minutes in the first, yet only led 3-0.
Hamilton's front four was especially disruptive. Ends Howsare and Ja'Gared Davis and tackles Wynn and Canadian Ted Laurent combined for 11 tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
"They can get pressure with three, they can get pressure with four," Dinwiddie said. "It seemed like they were playing more zone on second down and rushing five so they were getting the one-on-one matchups with the offensive line and were just winning those battles.
"We've got to be alert to that and make sure we're putting our offensive line in the best spot."
A fact not lost upon veteran Argos offensive lineman Philip Blake.
"They try to get all of us in one-on-one matchups," said Blake, a 36-year-old Toronto native. "We've got to match their intensity and beat the guy who is in front of us.
"Dominate up front, stay physical, attack them and keep them on their heels so they can't read and react. You can say (it's) their game but we set the tone as an offensive line so they've got to match us."
Defensive back Tunde Adeleke had a game-high 10 tackles for the Ticats while linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox registered eight tackles and a sack. And Hamilton's defence also includes linebacker Simoni Lawrence, the East Division's nominee for the CFL's top defensive player award.
Toronto (9-5) finished atop the East Division, thanks in large part to winning the season series with second-place Hamilton (8-6) three games to one. The Argos clinched first place with a 33-12 home win over the Ticats on Nov. 12.
Toronto held the ball for over 33 minutes in that contest but also avoided making huge mistakes. The Ticats managed just one sack and an interception while Toronto recorded two sacks and two interceptions.
And Toronto was penalized just twice for 20 yards while Hamilton was flagged six times for 85 yards.
However, if there's a concern, it's Toronto's penchant for turnovers. The Argos had 37 during the regular season, tying them with Ottawa for most in the CFL.
During the regular season, Hamilton was third in both turnovers forced (33) and points scored off turnovers (86).
" (Hamilton's defence) had a few (new) wrinkles but nothing that was too surprising," Dinwiddie said. "They kind of have their identity of who they are and they'll change it up just a hair.
"But they're pretty true to who they are so we should be able to anticipate most of the things we're going to see."
Hamilton is also attempting to become the first team since the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders to win a Grey Cup title on home soil. The winner of Sunday's game will face the West Division champion Dec. 12 at Tim Hortons Field.
"They want to have a nice little story," Blake said. "We're going to try and ruin it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press