What we learned from Hamilton’s nail-biting loss to the Edmonton Eskimos

So close, yet so far away. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, coming off a 59-point loss to the Calgary Stampeders one week ago, went into Edmonton and very nearly knocked off the undefeated Eskimos.

In a game the Esks dominated — they won the time of possession battle by 13 minutes and picked up 32 first downs to Hamilton’s 17 — the Ticats still had a chance with no time left to win the ball game, but Zach Collaros’ pass to Mike Jones fell incomplete. And with that, the Ticats remain winless, sitting at 0-6.

But unlike last week, there are some positives to take from this game — plenty of negatives, too, don’t get me wrong — so here is what we learned.

There is lots of fight left in these Cats

After getting thumped 60-1 a week ago, many left the Ticats for dead, but they showed that they still have plenty of fight left in them. After turning the ball over on a crucial third-down gamble, it would have been easy for the Tabbies to fold their tent. But they didn’t. They fought back, forced a much-needed turnover, got the game to within one score and then drove the field with 42 seconds left to give themselves a chance to win on the game’s final play. The win didn’t come, but when playing on the road against one of the best teams in the league, it is hard to ask for much more than a chance to win with one play left.

Near misses hurt

By my count, the Ticats came close to notching three interceptions against Mike Reilly. Justin Rogers made a play on pass and came oh-so-close to picking it off (side note: has any one player had as many near interceptions as Justin Rogers has had this year?), but he didn’t.

Later, a Mike Reilly pass floated in the air and was converged on by two Ticats, I believe it was Dominique Ellis and Richard Leonard, but neither could snag it.

Finally, Leonard again had a chance at an interception, but was falling to the ground and failed to bring it in. Good teams need to be lucky sometimes, but teams fighting to get their first win one-third of the way through the season really need those bounces to break their way

But the missed picks weren’t the only near misses that didn’t go Hamilton’s way. John Chick forced a Mike Reilly fumble and while the result of the play was Edmonton in a ridiculous third-and-42 (a down and distance I don’t think I have ever seen before), a recovered fumble that would have been deep in Edmonton territory, would have been a lot better. Instead, the Eskimos punted and the Ticats did enough to get a field goal out of it, but it was once again another possible game-changing play that did not go in the Ticats’ favour.

Zach Collaros actually looked like Zach Collaros

For the first time since last Labour Day, Zach Collaros actually looked like Zach Collaros. He finished the game with 282 yards on 24-of-35 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. That one interception was a crippling one, as it came on a third-and-three from Edmonton’s three-yard line, but this was easily the best game Collaros has played in 2017. This is the type of game he can build off (even if he doesn’t feel that way), and perhaps we saw the turning point for him this season. If Collaros ever gets even 85 per cent of the way back to who he was in 2015, the Ticats will start winning some football games.

Too much soft coverage

As was pointed out by Glen Suitor (as well some astute people on Twitter), the Ticats played a lot of soft coverage and it allowed the Eskimos to pick up big yardage, especially on second down.

Allowing opposing offenses to pick up second-and-long has been a problem for the Ticats all season, and it was once again a problem against the Eskimos. Edmonton converted six second downs with seven yards to go or more, which is too many for any team to give up. If you want a key reason why the Ticats are still winless, this is as good a place to start as any.

Youngsters continue to impress

The Ticats have been rotating players in the lineup a lot, and while that is causing problems, it is also unearthing some gems. We have seen Jalen Saunders emerge as a viable threat for the team in the receiving corps, but this week we saw another newcomer make a name for himself, Damarr Aultman. The former Maine Black Bear had quite the debut, leading the team in receiving with 74 yards and catching his first CFL touchdown in his first CFL game on his second CFL catch.

Brian Tyms also had himself a pretty decent day. A lot was expected of him this season, and while he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, perhaps his six-catch, 67-yard performance against the Eskimos is just what he needed to break out of his early season funk.

The offensive line needs to be better

I will preface this by saying that Edmonton’s front four is darn good, but Hamilton’s offensive line needs to get a lot better in a hurry. Four sacks were surrendered, and Zach Collaros spent the entire game either running for his life or showing tremendous guts by staying in a collapsing pocket. The offensive line simply is not giving the franchise quarterback enough time to make the plays he needs and wants to make. This has got to change, and change fast.

Looking ahead

The toughest part of Hamilton’s schedule is now over. It would be a lot better, obviously, if the team had a win or two, but despite the 0-6 start, this team still has a chance to climb the standings. Three of their next four games are against East Division opponents. With the Redblacks at 1-5-1 and seemingly finding new ways to lose on a weekly basis, the Als a bit of a Jeckyl and Hyde outfit right now, and the Argos possibly without Ricky Ray for the next four-to-six weeks (or maybe not), the Ticats are, incredibly, still very much in this race.

The East Division is once again a massive dumpster fire and that works to the Ticats’ advantage. Two games out of second place is not exactly the equivalent of climbing the Niagara escarpment barefoot while carrying cinderblocks on your back. The Ticats are absolutely not out of this, despite what some people may think or say.

Next week, the 4-2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers make their lone trip to Tim Hortons Field in 2017. The Bombers are a tough team to gauge, as they haven’t looked all that impressive, but like the Eskimos, they keep finding ways to win (especially in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion). But the Ticats are at home, and even at 0-6, this is a game they can, and maybe have to, win.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
Josh Smith
Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (353 Articles)
Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

41 Comments on What we learned from Hamilton’s nail-biting loss to the Edmonton Eskimos

  1. eogweotr // August 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm //

    Remember when Casey Creehan was the Ti-Cat’s Defensive Coordinator? One of the worst defenses in recent CFL memory gave up 32 points a game. Under Jeff Reinebold, Hamilton is allowing an average of 39. Yesterday, I just watched the plays by the Ti-Cat offense and was amazed at how much I fast-forwarded as the defense never got off the field.

    On the offense side, the whole line was pretty bad with Quinterrius Eatmon the player most likely lineman being replaced by the the next game. He was constantly getting beat. While I am not going to complain about play call, I was surprised that Austin did not just utilize an extra player often enough to protect Zach Collaros. Take out a receiver if need be. I would say Collaros was probably hurried or disrupted 95% of the time.

  2. Yup..collaros did show signs of his old self which could be good going into this stretch of home games against east opponents. So the db’s are playing way to much room between defenders is this the by product of Reinbolds defence if so maybe he needs some coaching help because the defence needs to make plays for this team to win games and that is not happening . Ticats are very much still in it from a standings point of view but these next few games against the east are gonna go along way in determining this season

  3. mr62cats // August 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm //

    Reasonable assessment Josh. But we came close at the end mainly because of Edmonton’s errors. I agree The Esks dominated the game. Our O-line problems are worrisome. Where has the scouting been for replacements? We knew there was a problem with the O-line at the end of last season.
    The biggest upside to this game was that we did not quit. Aultman shows a ton of promise if the offence is geared to use him properly. Saunders is turning out to be a clutch receiver. Sergio did well again. However, this team should have gelled a lot more by now. Instead we seem to be playing ad hoc football with no apparent strengths we can fall back on.We are nowhere near being competitive enough yet. I shudder when I see folks hoping the Ricky Ray injury will give us a better chance of climbing out of the cellar. If that’s what we are depending on for improvement we are in worse shape than I thought. And Fajardo could very well throw our already weak D into turmoil.

    • I’d rather the TC’s play against the starters as they make 2nd and 3rd string back ups look like HOF’s. Quite extraordinary actually.

      • Ticats fans chill // August 7, 2017 at 4:05 am //

        What do u expect man, there defenses is just full off a bunch of black guys that could not tackle to save there bucket of fried chicken, not to mention the only white guy that can tackle is the name of the fried chickens kid. ( chick)

  4. Rick cowan // August 6, 2017 at 6:41 pm //

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the cats and the Rider’s make a trade

    • Purrfect // August 6, 2017 at 7:20 pm //

      Agreed, but not until the Ti-Cats are out of contention. Collaros for a first rounder and a receiver (?)

  5. It to was closer due Eskimos Injuries.. Duh ??

  6. Josh, TC’s allowing opponent offences to pick up second-and-long an/or second down conversion at a critical point of a contest has not just been confined to this season…it’s been like that for the last 3 years. Players on the defence, not just DB’s, dropping a sure interception isn’t a new revelation either (Gascon-Nadon still owes me a television set). I attribute that to a player’s skill set, not luck. Bad luck is what losing players/teams use to justify their own inadequacies. And this 2017 TC team has plenty. Next week against “O’Shea Sucks” will be no picnic either. Matter of fact I expect the opportunistic Bomber D to give the TC O their stiffest challenge yet.

  7. Masoli to the Riders for Carter and a O-linemen

    • Maybe we could get Dyakowski back? Hopefully not.

    • Ticats fans chill // August 7, 2017 at 4:07 am //

      We could only imagine

      • Hey man, what are you doing up so late? Not still sipping milk are you? Or looking for gurney perhaps? 🙂 Me? I’m just performing last rights on the 2017 TC season. Just took the stitches out of my Banks jersey as well. Need a new name and number. Having a little tonic too. Got to stay hydrated and wet out here so your ass doesn’t catch on fire you know…

        • Cfl know it all // August 7, 2017 at 4:28 am //

          Hey you should get someone on the team that is good on ur jersey…oh wait… There is no one

          ( I forgot we are doomed )
          The water boy have a number?
          Philski u live in Alberta?
          I live in Winnipeg, here I try not to let my ass fall off, if u know what I’m saying haha

          • Think maybe I’ll put a big fat “0” on it…possibly to reflect the number of wins this season. Nope, I’m out in the Lower Mainland BC. Near Wally World. Continuously cursing Wally himself and old man Lulay. Actually added Williams to my list as well. Bloody smoke out here makes this place look like one of Rod Serling’s story tales.

  8. Where was Will Hill….I missed his sure tackling from the linebacker position. Our defence is just too porus!

  9. Well Reinbolt got turfed, easy to blame him, but who promoted him? He did a good job on special teams, that was his forte, why mess with it? Most people knew he wasn’t up to the task. But Austin muddles on, as a losing coach, with more losing to come.

  10. Paul Garner // August 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm //

    TiCats will never win with the present defence. Former Saskatchewan Defensive Back and now TSN commentator mentioned several times during the Eskimo game.
    – The Cats defence is playing too far off the receiver and conceding 10 yard out passes without any challenge.
    – The defence is playing like they don’t want to make a mistake instead of flying around and being aggressive and worry free.
    – The Defence is not aggressive enough or in other words no blitzing and very predictable.

    I thought the Casey Creehan defence was our worst in years but this one is right up there with his – which I didn’t think was ever possible. Under Orlando we had timely blitzing, with everyone taking part – safetys, DBs linebackers. It was the element of surprise that kept the offensive opposition off balance. This team will NEVER win with this defence.

  11. Labour Day is guaranteed win day over Toronto. That’s Hamilton’s Grey Cup. If nothing else, at least you’ll have that satisfaction, Ticat fans. Win the season series against the Argos and Hamilton could finish first. The truth is the East is garbage. The cup will go to the west this year. I’ve been a staunch CFL supporter for 50 years, but this season the officiating is horrible and every game is a flag fest. The east teams all have discipline issues which adds to the problem.

    • Ticats fans chill // August 7, 2017 at 4:12 am //

      Um, not exactly, if our D can’t stop a 3rd string running back score a td and a 3rd string QB get more passing yards in the ten minutes he played, then COLLAROS and MASOLI did in the whole game ( Calgary game) Tor has a ball hawking defense that could pick COLLAROS easily and a man named sj green that will still dominate if Mr. Girly man was passing to him

  12. Eskimos had 12 starters out of their lineup and still beat the Ticats…. pretty hard to see anything positive in that…

    Maas used six and sometimes seven players on the OL… giving up a receiver to give Reilly more time to find his open receivers… too bad Austin is either too stubborn or too stupid to do the same for Collaros… this is not a new concept… a few seasons back Buono did the same to stop Steinaur’s blitz happy pressure defence…

    Feeling sorry for Ticat’s players… they are being out coached every game… Austin and his flunked don’t give them a chance to win…

    • Agree with you, Mr. Snake. AlbeitI I did see one positive however, in that the TC’s don’t have to worry about playing Reilly et al again this year, unless of course one thinks they could meet in a PO crossover (you would have to be delusional), or GC (you would have to be delusional beyond help). Austin is not only being out coached each game but out classed as well.

    • Sea of Dead // August 7, 2017 at 8:08 am //

      Absolutely right, Snake. I believe that Gable only had 3 carries for 28 yds and two were at the start of the game. If Austin is only using him as a blocking decoy then why have him in the line-up at all? Replace him with a mobile 300 pounder who can actually block … Oh wait, we don’t even have one of those in our STARTING rotation never mind as a SUB.

      No one has noted it lately, but the pass-happy Cats need to mix in the run. Austin apparently does not learn from his ongoing mistakes. The Esks DL pinned their ears back and charged our QB all night. I believe a draw play or two late in that game could have gained a lot of yardage and possibly put the Cats in a much better position to win the game … but we’ll likely never experience that as long as Austin is calling the plays.

      • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // August 7, 2017 at 2:40 pm //

        I say this every week: The Cats lack of success is directly proportional to one thing, lack of balance on offence. If they run the ball they eat up clock, if they eat up clock the defence doesn’t get exposed. Ticats D does NOT look terrible, just tired. This is supposed to be Football 101 yet Mr. Austin apparently disagrees. The results show that he needs to adjust his thinking.

    • Ticat Mike // August 7, 2017 at 2:27 pm //

      Snake — agree completely with your points especially your last line. Collaros is running for his life. Put some extra blocking in there. Been saying this for weeks.
      Even when they appear to be able to run the ball, they stop doing it. Empty backfields with only 5 linemen blocking. So easy for defenses to pin ears back and charge. Our defense is just not good enough . Come out Austin — remove a few hats — hire a pro as DC and OC. And what the hell is Tillman doing? Find us some talent a la Mike McCarthy or O’Billovich.

  13. Damn auto-correct… flunkies not flunked

  14. That’s right snake….and there d sucks

    • Don’t think any TC D that I have seen following this team sucks as bad as this one. And we are including the dark days of the ’90’s as well.

  15. Ticats fans chill // August 7, 2017 at 4:18 am //

    Man I’ve been having some late nights recently, I guess it is cause tomorrow I don’t have to work, I work late everyday, I get home at about 12 am,( security guard) I have a drink, watch Tsn and then go on the blog and be a proud member of the philski brigade,anyway time for me to hit the hay and have a glass of milk, and again, dream of being a esk fan

    • LOL! Well I dream it’s 1972…or 1986…or 1999…and the TC QB is Ealey, or Kerrigan, or McManus. But then I wake up in a cold sweat…and realize it’s 2017…and that the team smells worse than an aging block of Muenster.

  16. jgjagcat // August 7, 2017 at 8:50 am //

    What’s the best way to slow down a steady bull rush by the D line? Screens and draw plays to CJ, then watch him run for miles!

  17. john young // August 7, 2017 at 8:55 am //

    the only drawing austin knows is using etch a sketch and what about the 1967 cats..

  18. Terrence Whittaker // August 7, 2017 at 12:40 pm //

    Time to put Collaros on the six game Dl or trade him and being in Johnny Football.

    • mr62cats // August 7, 2017 at 1:17 pm //

      Terrence: Have you even checked out Johnny Football’s history? If so you would not have posted this.
      A brief summation: great college career. Passed over by 21 teams on NFL draft day.Lost almost every game he started after Cleveland signed him. Most of his team members questioned his committment and work ethic and called his first season a joke. End up a third string QB for partying and lying about it. Elbow problems. Concussion problems. Cut last year. Been in all kinds of off-field trouble since. Having him around would turn things into a circus. So please…NO MORE talk of Johnny Football. Once this team gets back to designing a decent offence and improving the O line, Collaros will start scoring more points. I’ll leave the state of the defence to another post.

  19. Corey Orion
    Corey Orion I said it before will say it agin when you don’t run or in Austin case refuses you become predictable and stale put aside the Calgary loss you have given up 1550 plus yrds in the first 3 games Orlando knew how and where to utilized his players he would not have not had vets in secondary for young players . O line needs improvements , Offense keeps hanging the D out to dry with playing all game and giving opposing D great field advantage Collaros has not been the same since his injury . Just look at his stats 85% in 2015 to 69% in 2017 passing completion also up is his int to TD ratio this should been concerning . Masoli should be starter he is mobile QB making it harder for the D to contain just look at Montreal , BC , Edmonton all have mobile QB ‘s . But if there is light at the end of tunnel should go after and trade for Andrew Buckley upgrade the O line and give him the protection he needs and watch him play his magic also to there is talent in the young blood secondary but you need players with invaluable leadership and championship pedigree like Ryan Philips .

    • Phil lolley is very good cerebal football just look at his tenor he is Secondary DB coach that plays aggressive 4-3 attacking style with a mix of Tampa 2 my kind of Defense in your face hard hitting punishing D that sends the Hammer with blunt force trauma .

  20. justforkicks // August 8, 2017 at 10:29 am //

    Wow!! I made a mild comparison between the Cats and Riders situation, no expletives or insults and the moderator reviewed and deleted my comments.
    I made another comment about him allowing racist comments and not mine and he deleted it as well! I guess this one is toast too.

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