What we learned in Hamilton’s 39-12 loss to the Blue Bombers

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.

Looking ahead
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.

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.
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Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (261 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.

32 Comments on What we learned in Hamilton’s 39-12 loss to the Blue Bombers

  1. I’ve been pretty positive through this stretch. Last night, I think I finally gave up on this team only because they appear to show indifference.

    I could care less for Manziel. However, I guess I’m grasping at straws. Just hear (read) me out…

    Ticats work out a deal for Manziel. Many of the other quality NFL cuts decide to follow him to the Hammer knowing full well they will get maximum exposure.

    Like the Buddy Holly song…
    “Crying, Waiting, Hoping…”

  2. Ticat Mike // August 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm //

    Great analysis once again. Having watched parts of the game a second time on TSN, I noticed that Bombers’ QB Nicholls got rid of the ball within 2 seconds — he was comfortable in the pocket and crisply executed well designed routes or running plays. By contrast, Collaros was usually hurried or pressured between 2 and 3 seconds on most plays. By the 3 second mark, the pocket collasped, and he desperately couldnt find anyone — no outlet pass, just a desperate panic throw many times or incompletion. The difference? One offense had well designed plays and running routes with good blocking, open recievers, and great run blocking. The other team looked like it had no clue — passing routes were either poorly desinged or the guys are not executing; blocking inadequate, no run game . This is on the coahing staff. Either the players suck, the system sucks or they both suck. I’m inclined to think its a combination of the above, and the buck begins and ends with Kent Austin.

    • Sea of Dead // August 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm //

      Absolutely agree with you @Ticat Mike and with Josh’s analysis. But I will once again add that putrid line play on BOTH sides of the ball commenced at the start of the 2016 season and absolutely nothing of consequence was done before the 2017 season to fix these problems, so we continue to lose games because we lose the battle in the trenches. In addition, game strategy has NOT changed to compensate for this ongoing weakness which makes ‘winning’ virtually impossible.

      Another good receiver, QB or D-back won’t make this team win. Good, consistent, fundamental play on the OL, DL and at LB combined with effective coaching strategy based on team talent are necessary to have a decent chance of winning on a consistent basis. Something we haven’t had for a couple of seasons now.

  3. Number 1 lesson learned was something has to be done on offense because the line just cannot protect Zach Collaros for more than a second. Choose: more bodies on the line or run plays that take no more than 2 seconds to accomplish. Maybe even both. Rushing the ball is not a cure all either since the line cannot create a running lane.

    Austin also could insert Jeremiah Masoli at QB as he is more mobile. When the inevitable pocket breaks down, Masoli has a better chance an improvising and making something out nothing.

  4. Like you said, it’s same old, same old. If management watching game film frame by frame can’t see the problems, then we are in serious trouble. All games are won in the trenches. Just look at the successful organizations. Schemes? Players? Coaching?

  5. Edmonton is going to need NFL cuts and their undefeated. The Cats need a wave of helicopter reinforcements.It’s the time of the season for a new force with a new look.

  6. Gabriel Nash // August 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm //

    I think if the tigercats still had Tommy Condell as the offensive coordinator and Orlando Steinhauer as defensive coordinator the problems we have now would not be the same. It doesn’t help when you have a new offensive line coach with no cfl experience. Plus the tigercats have let too many good players go to other teams in free agency. Plus Zach hasn’t been the same qb since returning from injury

    • People complained about Condell’s calling of the offense too, if I recall correctly and some clearly weren’t happy all the time with Steinauer’s defense
      all the time last year the tackling in particular. The OL coach is not inexperienced in the CFL as he joined the team last season so has had lots of time to adjust to the league. Players often choose to move on even if the team wants to keep them. Unfortunately due to the salary cap, not all experienced players can be re-signed and the team has to let some of them walk to join other teams. The solutions just aren’t that simple.

  7. Excellent article Josh. Wish that you would have touched on Austin”a comments re Collaros.

  8. Just another notch in a disappointing season! Clearly they will not make the playoffs despite a pitiful east division but the cross over will get them. So, TiCat fans and team you MUST. Get ready for next year. Start cleaning house through effective evaluations starting with Scott Mitchell, Austin, coaching staff and for those who remain and those who are hired evaluate the players. A lost season! Collars 11 straight losses! Change, change , change!the definition of crazy: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results! Well the results have not been different! So disappointed as a season ticket holder and one who drives 1.5hrs to watch this horrendous display!

  9. Offensive play calling is putrid

  10. Dear receivers,

    Please start getting open. I may not have had a lot of time lately to throw to each of you, but it helps if I have options, especially in a hurry. I’ve already written to the offensive coaches about the plays so I’m with you there, but sometimes it’s up to you to find the holes.

    Best regards,
    Your QB

    PS: Almost forgot… on second down, please run your routes past the first down marker. Thanks!

  11. Hamilton fans are the most creative writers on this forum and provide great insights on the team.Thanks to all the fans that take the time and effort to contribute to this site.I am proud of the Ticat fans.

  12. bill dehoog // August 13, 2017 at 3:19 pm //

    Josh
    Agree with most of your comments, but should have mentioned aBOUT QB play
    Zak looks out of place, either change the scheme, or play another QB
    Need to scheme better against the defensive rush
    Redblacks have a poor record, but they lose at the very end
    None of their games have been blowouts
    Loser next week will be out of playoffs pure and simple

  13. Bottom line is collaros needs to see the bench for the time being and Austin needs to go . Major makeover in the off season . Likely won’t happen but this current regime is no good . Remember when Austin took over it was obys built team now under Austin’s fully built team and coaches they are not even close to contending .

  14. Angelo Bruno // August 13, 2017 at 5:09 pm //

    Hey Josh, perhaps you can add your input on the Manziel debate. Many of the 3DownNation readers think bringing him in would be a mistake. I think his signing would make great business’s sense & have the potential to resurrect this moribund franchise in the field. What do you think or do you stay clear of controversial topics ??? Stephen A. Smith you’re not bubs …

  15. dear scott mitchell a shake up has to happen were0-7 do it now what are you waiting for ? start for the coach secend bench Collaros @ start Masoli and we will win third get banks to banks ticats fan know .from what I see this team is going to lucky to win 2 games I am season ticket holder something has to happen fix this team ticat nation is angry

  16. Paul Smith // August 13, 2017 at 7:52 pm //

    Can anyone say “Dyakowski Curse”?

  17. we let to many good players go example justin meedlock peter Dyakowoski @ the lists go on

  18. Talking about letting good players go, never mind Medlock and Dyakowski, how do both Ellingson and Chris Williams get away from you ? If those two are on the field Zak’s life just becomes more bearable. Cats also need one solid Canadian receiver who can flip the ratio so we can add a decent import to the O line. Other team have them go find one. Grab one from a practice roster. Sinopoli wasn’t playing in Calgary look what he’s doing for Ottawa !!

    • Tiger man // August 14, 2017 at 11:23 am //

      Chris Williams did NOT want to come back to Hamilton….Sergio Castillo is getting the job done…

      Please read before you comment…it MAY help you.

  19. Ed Gainey.

    • You mean the guy that tripped over his feet a few years ago in the Eastern Final to allow the Burris to Ellingson miracle TD on 2nd and forever late in the 4th Quarter? That guy?

      One good game and now he is suddenly another cast off that’s faring well right? Guy was below average when he was here, don’t miss him one bit.

      • Never said he’s a messiah.. relax. When someone posts something, it usually takes a little thinking to extract the reason for the post.

        Being hawk-like and over-analyzing everything is pointless.

        I’m not advocating a trade for Gainey, just pointing out his incredible one-game performance…

        Wow

        • Yes, I’m being very hawk like…haha Wow. Guess no one is allowed to elaborate on your OP.

          R-E-L-A-X…haha

          • Didn’t mean “relax” in a rude way and my apologies if it came across as such..

            Just sayin I was pointing out I, nor anyone else, would name Gainey as a player we let go.

            It was ONLY last night’s performance by Gainey which resulted in his name being mentioned.

        • And if Gainey had played like that consistently when he was a Ticat it’s very possible he’d still be here! That EDF game totally made him look at his game and decide to be better – unfortunately for with another team.

  20. Friday nights game against Ottawa will say a lot about the balance of this season for the Cats…
    It will be ether a turning point for the good, or what to expect…for the balance of the year.
    Both Teams are playing bad football, in all phases.
    At 0 and 7…unbelievably the Cats can turn this shit show around as now they have a run against Eastern Teams that all have their troubles.
    BUT…
    It must start Friday night…
    Or this season is over…simple truth.

  21. The only way this thing gets better is not by venting on social media but the fans collectively staying away in droves. Don’t put any money in Bob’s pocket. It’s the only way that Front Office is going to get the message. Rejection is the best motivator. You can beat your head against the wall all you want but if the money’s coming in your loud protests fall of deaf ears. The only way forward imo is for fans to send a message loud and clear to Bob Young that we’re not going to accept this any longer. I can guarantee you this will not change unless we see tumble weed blowing through the stands on Game Day. I feel for good faith season ticket holders who got their pockets picked this year. They didn’t deserve to have a whole Front Office abandon them like they did in a complete show of incompetency. June Jones isn’t going to fix diddly. The team is fast becoming a peculiarity in the CFL. I don’t know. I’m just going to put them down for awhile. I don’t need the pain and suffering. It’s easier not to watch. I’m not paid to care. Where’s Bob? Haven’t heard a word from him since the season started.

    • the team’s spending precious little enough on quality players as it is, fans staying away isn’t the answer. Unless the question is “how do we kill the league?”

      not a fan of how this season is going either but they were already hard pressed when steinhauer left only to have Condell follow suit mere months before training camp. Combine that with the distinct lack of ability to replace the flood of talent that’s been pried away by the bright lights of the NFL other teams dollars. (then add a defensive backfield that’s missing Butler, Daly, Kanneh and Davis…. )

      Hell, fans showing up loudly might be the only thing that gets this team a win this year.

  22. Call Johnny Football. Tell him you will give him a partial season contract that expires the day after the Grey cup final. You will start him immediately if he can learn 15 no huddle shot gun only plays. If he forgets the play he can just run around and make it up as he goes along like he did at Texas A&M but with a wider longer field and very few guys who can match his speed and shifty moves. The center organizes the line and calls the protection and yells blitz if he sees one coming. All JF does is stamp his foot twice and the center snaps it whenever he wants. The left guard watches the downs and reminds Johnny what down it is and how many he has left before a punt. The sideline watches Johnny and when he starts to scramble they yell in unison Scramble drill. Meaning if you are short go long and if long come back to the QB. Chances are JF will buy whatever time he needs to find an open man. In a game in Pittsburg in 2015 the STeelers defenders called him an elite scrambler. Lenny Dawson of the Chiefs said he wears the defense out and makes them vulnerable in the fourth quarter. If not for his immature behavior he would still be in the NFL at least as a backup. He says he is sober and more mature so give him a go on whatever terms will get him off the fence. This team has nothing to lose at this point. An all night Alchohol bender by Manziel in Toronto after the game would be welcome at this point.

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