MONTREAL - It was a painful Sunday for Eric Tillman, as the new Edmonton Eskimos general manager watched his team take it on the chin from the defending Grey Cup champions.

Tillman, hired this week to replace the fired Danny Maciocia, spent one quarter of his first game on the sidelines and watched the rest from the pressbox as the Montreal Alouettes took a big lead early in cruising to a 31-14 victory over Edmonton.

It was a third straight defeat for Edmonton (2-9), while Montreal (8-3) won a second game in a row.

''It's kind of like waking up from an 18-month coma only to find out you're going to have a triple root canal,'' said Tillman. ''It's a tough day at the office.

''You score seven points in (the first) 59 minutes and doing that, you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than a football game.''

The Eskimos got a touchdown in the final minute of the first half from running back Calvin McCarty and another with 36 seconds left in the game from backup quarterback Jason Maas. Otherwise, they were shut down by a Montreal defence that had a second straight dominant game after their 27-6 win last week in Hamilton.

Linebacker Diamond Ferri returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, Avon Cobourne ran one in and Damon Duval kicked four field goals and a punt single for Montreal, which also got four points on safeties.

Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo, back after missing two games with a bruised sternum, completed 24-of-42 passes for 327 yards, but was picked off once, was wild on a handful of throws and wasn't happy with his performance.

The Alouettes scored only five second-half points, two of them on a safety and another on a field goal after Jerald Brown's second interception of the game.

''The offensive line did a great job, I really didn't get hit at all, which was awesome,'' said Calvillo. ''We did some good things in the first half but that second half was just not up to our standard whatsoever.

''Offensively we have to improve. It was lack of execution. My standard of play was average at best. But we won, that's the good part.''

Eskimos QB Ricky Ray started and played most of the game, picking up 242 yards on 14 completions.

If the Eskimos were out to impress their new boss — the man who will decide whether they stay or go at some point between now and next season — they didn't show it.

''We showed some competitive fire in the second half, but you don't play the game to compete, you play to win and we obviously have a long ways to go,'' said Tillman. ''It's not about impressing me, it's about winning.

''This team belongs to the fans of Edmonton. We will all come and go, but the initials on the helmet don't change. We have a responsibility to our fan base to play at a high level. Obviously, we didn't do that.''

He was impressed with Kelly Bates, who was plugged in at left tackle when starter Jeremy Parquet had to fly home Sunday to attend to a personal matter.

''Kelly had zero reps at left tackle and competed very favourably,'' Tillman said.

The big changes are likely to come on offence. Tillman said the team had 14 Americans dressed on defence and only five on offence. Scoring only seven points when it counted may have reflected that imbalance.

The Eskimos had star receiver Fred Stamps back and he caught four passes for 79 yards but the big receiver of the day was Jason Barnes with four for 120 yards, including a 70-yard catch.

McCarty had less success as the starting running back replacing Arkee Whitlock, gaining only 20 yards on nine carries. Pascal Fils picked up 21 on two late carries, but the Eskimos were held to 54 yards rushing as a team after gaining only a total of 45 on the ground in back-to-back losses to Calgary.

Montreal's Ben Cahoon had four catches to pass former Ottawa Rough Riders great Tony Gabriel for second place all-time with at least reception in 138 straight games. Donald Narcisse holds the record with 216 games.

A full house of 25,012 at Percival Molson Stadium endured a game in which there was little scoring once Montreal took a 19-0 lead in the first quarter.

Calvillo marched the Alouettes down field on the first possession for a 19-yard Duval field goal.

Edmonton then conceded a safety and on the ensuing kickoff, Ferri burst up the middle for his first career TD. The Als linebacker, who had a sack and an interception on consecutive plays in the second quarter, was a part-time running back in university who has occasionally returned kicks in the CFL.

''It was a sideline return, I cut behind the wedge and there was one guy I had to make miss,'' said Ferri. ''He actually hit me but I bounced off and it was open field. I was very excited.''

The Alouettes needed three tries from the one before Cobourne scored late in the opening quarter.

The Alouettes were held to a single and two field goals in the second quarter and Edmonton finally got on the board in the final minute of the half when three Montreal penalties helped the Eskimos to first-and-goal from the one.

Two runs were stopped and a video challenge was needed to confirm McCarty broke the plane of the goal-line on the third attempt to make it 26-7 at the half.

Two more Montreal penalties, including a roughing the passer call on Ramon Guzman that left Ray shaken up, gave Edmonton the ball on the Montreal 10, but on the next play, a Maas pass was picked off by Brown. Ray returned for the next series.

Brown picked off a Ray pass late in the fourth quarter to set up a 38-yard Duval boot.

Maas went in again for Edmonton's final drive and marched his team to the Montreal six-yard line, where he scrambled in the pocket and slipped up the middle to score.

Duval had a strong game punting and the coverage team held Edmonton to 120 return yards in total, compared to 227 for the Alouettes.

Tillman noted that field position was almost always in Montreal's favour.

''I'm sure there's close to a 30-yard disparity in the average starting position,'' he said. ''When there's that much disparity, it's almost impossible to win.''