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CFL Preview - Edmonton (1-3) at Montreal (1-3)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 25, 7:30 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: A transition period with a new head coach was expected, but never could the Montreal Alouettes have seen this coming when they set out to contend in the CFL's Eastern Division in 2013.

Suffering through a three-game slide, the Als attempt to get back on track Thursday night as they host the Edmonton Eskimos at Molson Stadium.

The team kicked off the new campaign with a close call versus Winnipeg on the road, but still new head coach Dan Hawkins was able to squeeze out a 38-33 triumph in his debut. It has been all down hill since.

Montreal followed up the win with setbacks against the same Blue Bombers the following week and then bowed to Calgary in back-to-back decisions, dropping the Alouettes into a three-way tie for second place in the division with Hamilton and the Bombers at 1-3.

Going down to the Stampeders on July 12 by a score of 22-14 was tough enough, but the Als scored 24 unanswered points in the first quarter last Saturday night versus Calgary, only to be outscored 38-3 the rest of the way in an 11- point defeat.

Quarterback Anthony Calvillo started the contest well enough, leading the Als on three touchdown drives through the first 15 minutes, one of those culminating with a 58-yard scoring strike to S.J. Green, but the team could not build on that strong frame. Calvillo completed just 18-of-30 passes for 243 yards and the one TD, although that scoring strike did extend his run of consecutive games with at least one passing touchdown to 21 straight games, matching his own personal best.

Even though Calvillo is having his issues in the early going, to discount what he brings to an offense would be foolish at this juncture. With an efficiency rating of just 75.5, Calvillo is near the bottom in that department thus far, his 58.9 percent accuracy rather pedestrian as well. The all-time leading passer in CFL history has as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns, but you have to assume he will break out of this slump at some point.

Green caught seven passes for 121 yards in the loss, both game highs, while Brandon Whitaker and Jerome Messam both registered majors on the ground, but made little impact in the outing from the second quarter on.

Montreal finished up with just 328 yards of offense, while suffering 13 penalties for 120 yards.

Adding insult to injury, Noel Devine could have put the Als back in control of the contest in the second half as he appeared to be on his way to a kick return for a touchdown, but he began to run out of steam inside the red zone, allowing Fred Bennett to track him down and punch the ball out of his hands. The ball ended up in the end zone where it was recovered by Calgary's Alvin Bowen.

While the Als were allowing Calgary to set a new CFL record for a comeback following a first-quarter deficit, Edmonton was hitting a wall against British Columbia on the road in a 31-21 setback.

The loss was also the third in four attempts for Edmonton this year and at 1-3, leaves the Eskimos in the Western Division basement. The lone win on the season came in week two against Hamilton (30-20).

Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly completed 12-of-20 passes, for 152 yards, but he was picked off once and suffered a pair of sacks before heading to the bench in favor of Jonathan Crompton last time out. The rookie backup hit on four of his five attempts down the stretch for 76 yards and a score to Fred Stamps.

Stamps turned three receptions into 62 yards, second only to Nate Coehoorn, who had a game-high six catches for 103 yards.

Edmonton scrambled to post 11 points in the fourth quarter of the meeting, but that was only after the Lions posted a couple of touchdowns in the third quarter, while holding the visitors scoreless for the frame.

A lack of production at the quarterback position for the Esks has the squad bringing up the rear in team passing at the moment, sporting an efficiency rating of only 72.1. Edmonton is last in the CFL in passing yards with just 805 and has completed only 57.3 percent of its passes.

Montreal, which is due for a bye in Week 6, will take on the Eskimos on the road the first week of October in order to complete the season series. Last year the Alouettes won both meetings with Edmonton, the first by a 38-25 score on the road, but then by just two points, 27-25, in their own building late in the season. With the sweep, the Als ran their win streak in the series to six in a row.

Dating back to 1961 and taking into consideration only regular season meetings, Edmonton owns a 37-27-2 advantage in the all-time series with the Als.

The Alouettes showed last week that they could generate points almost at will, the problem is they took their foot off the pedal at the end of the first quarter. As long as Calvillo is behind center Montreal will also have a chance to win this week, as Edmonton lacks the offensive power to match.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 28, Edmonton 23

07/24 10:30:40 ET

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