After just seven games, I have run out of adjectives to describe Ticats losses. In the past I have used words like embarrassing, demoralizing and heartbreaking, but these words don’t adequately describe the type of loss the Ticats suffered Saturday night at Tim Hortons Field.
Outside a few brief glimpses, the Ticats were awful against the Bombers, as reflected in the 39-12 final score. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Bombers relied very heavily on Justin Medlock, who booted six field goals (on eight attempts) and accounted for 18 of Winnipeg’s 39 points, but that is why you sign the best kicker in the league.
The big take away from this game is that the Ticats were bad in the same areas they have been bad in all season. The offensive line didn’t block, the offence, in general, is too one dimensional and the defence gave up way too many second down conversions. It is the same stuff game after game, and all the changes the team made over the last week didn’t really make much of a difference.
The Ticats are a bad football team. Full stop. You cannot twist this, change it or make it not true; 0-7 is 0-7 and it speaks for itself. Here is what we learned from this latest setback.
Here are the good things
There isn’t much good that can be said about this game, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything.
For starters, Damarr Aultman is a keeper. His third quarter touchdown catch brought a dead crowd back into it. The effort he showed, breaking two tackles and making four Bombers miss, is the type of stuff you want to see from young players trying to make plays. Aultman has now reached the end zone in both his starts this year, and along with Jalen Saunders, has shown flashes of brilliance that could make him a Ticats contributor for many years to come.
Another youngster that keeps making plays is defensive back, Richard Leonard. I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but week after week, Leonard keeps proving that he is by far the team’s best defensive back. He was stellar in coverage all night and registered another two pass knockdowns, which is starting to become his specialty. It would be nice if those knockdowns were interceptions, but with so few defensive backs making plays in this secondary, I’m not going to quibble.
New coordinator, same old problems
Now the bad, and we have to start with the defence because that was where all the big changes came this past week and they look to have fixed precisely nothing.
If you didn’t know the Ticats had a new defensive coordinator, could you tell? The same problems this team has had all year, most disappointingly an inability to get a stop on second down, remained. The Ticats allowed Winnipeg to convert almost 60 per cent of their second downs, which is higher than the already ridiculous 55.1 per cent they allowed going into this game. The Bombers only failed to convert 11 of their 26 second down opportunities, and eight of those became field goal tries. The Ticats defence does get some credit for not allowing touchdowns, but they still gave up over 30 points, so it is a wash.
The one major thing that has been bugging me all season is how far off the defensive backs play the receivers. In situations where I would think — and I am no expert, so I don’t know — press coverage would be wise, like say on a second-and-five, you will see the Ticats secondary seven-to-10 yards off the receiver. There was more than one occasion when Matt Nichols was allowed to play pitch and catch with his receivers and pick up first downs at will. This has been a far too often occurrence this season, and until the Ticats start getting in the opposing receivers’ faces, they will continue you surrender first downs.
Mike Jones had a tough night
For as good as Mike Jones has been this year — and he has been; check the numbers — he had a rough outing against the Bombers. He allowed a two-point convert to get knocked out of his hands after the team’s first touchdown and coughed up the football when the game was still close. The Bombers would score a touchdown on the ensuing drive and put the game out of reach.
To be fair to Jones, the fumble call was borderline — in the stadium, it sure looked like a bang-bang play that is usually called an incomplete pass — but even without that fumble, Jones had easily his worst game of the season. Young players are going to have ups and downs, and Jones’ ups have been way more frequent than his downs this year, but this was not a good performance from him at all.
Transformers of football
This is not a compliment. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season have become the football team equivalent of the Michael Bay Transformers movies (especially the latter two). You might see a couple of cool things, but they are ultimately devoid of any substance and will be a slog to get through. They are nearly three hours of entertainment torture.
Yes, it sucks that they are losing, but losing is something Ticats fans can handle. It is not like we aren’t used to it (#1999), but watching boring football makes it that much worse. The Ticats play a boring brand of football, one that makes watching their games an endurance test. They have had games this year where they have scored 15, 1 and 12 points, and they have yet to crack the 29-point barrier this season. That is awful. Wins and losses matter, but so too does being entertained. Heading down to Tim Hortons Field or watching on TSN is no longer entertaining. Please, Ticats, if you are going to be bad, can you at least be exciting to watch? Like the Redblacks. They’re terrible, too, but at least their games are watchable.
Must win is not a term usually used for CFL games in August, but we very well might be entering must-win territory for the Ticats. They’ve started 0-7, but only one of those losses is to a fellow East Division team, so incredibly this team still has life (not much, but still). But the margin for error is as close to zero as it can be and the Ticats need to get some wins. Next up in their quest to get off the schneid, a date with the 1-6-1 Ottawa Redblacks on Friday at Tim Hortons Field.
While some Redblacks observers might want you to believe that their team isn’t bad, the fact of the matter is that they are. Very much so. Their 1-6-1 record speaks for itself just as much as Hamilton’s 0-7 record does. Maybe they are not as bad as Hamilton, but they are not much better. Which makes this matchup all the more important. The excuse these first seven games has been “The games haven’t been against the East, so it is OK,” but now we hit the part of the schedule where they will see the Argos and Als twice, and the Redblacks three times in their next 11 games, so that excuse no longer flies.
Ottawa needs a win just as badly as the Ticats, so they will come out firing. But if the Ticats can, by some miracle, find a way to get their first win of the season this week, perhaps this disastrous season can be salvaged.