The good and bad of Hamilton’s mistake-filled loss to the Bombers

In their final home game until August 20, the Ticats sent the crowd home sour after dropping a mistake-filled contes to the previously winless Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 28-24 on Thursday night. Here are some thoughts.

Bad: Be worried

Back at the start of the season, Drew Edwards and myself wrote about the dream scenario and the nightmare alternative. That nightmare if looking more and more real right now. With two games at home and a road contest just up the QEW, the Ticats had a nice chance to start the season 2-1 or 3-0, set the stage for at least a .500 start while they wait for Zach Collaros to be healthy again. Instead, they sit at an all-too-familiar 1-2 after last night’s loss and are staring down the barrel over another horrendous start. In the next five weeks the Ticats go to Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg and BC (with a bye in the middle) and there is a very real chance that by the time they come home, they sit at 1-6. Not the start the team envisioned after they obliterated the Argos on opening night.

Bad: Too! Many! Mistakes!

The biggest reason for the loss last night was too many mistakes. They Ticats turned the ball over six times — seven if you consider the kickoff recovery by Macho Harris as at least turnover-ish — including a game-sealing fumble by Jeremiah Masoli with 14 seconds left as the team was driving for the winning score. It was the theme of the game: get something going and then make a mistake. The sequence that best shows this was probably when Masoli found an open Tiquan Underwood behind coverage for a sure touchdown only to see Underwood drop the ball. Next play: Masoli throws a pick. You are not going to win many games by shooting yourself in the foot with plays like this.

Bad: 2nd and 21

Turnovers weren’t the only place the Ticats were bad last night as time after time they allowed the Bombers to convert 2nd-and-long situations. By the third quarter I had lost count how many times the Ticats allowed the Bombers to pick up big yardage to convert a second down. Midway through the fourth quarter with the score 28-24, the Ticats allowed the Bombers to pick up 40 yards on a 2nd and 21 when Drew Willy found Darvin Adams deep down the left side of the field. Just think about that for a second. While the Bombers would turn the ball over later on in that drive, the Ticats could have really done themselves a favour by getting a stop there. Might not have changed the outcome, but it is just another example of this team not doing what it needed to do to get the win.

Bad: Questionable play calling

There were a number of times in last night’s game where I simply did not understand some of the decisions by the coaching staff. Why after cutting the Winnipeg led to two in the third quarter did the team not attempt a two-point convert? Make the two, and the Ticats are driving for a tying field goal at the end; miss, and the team is in the exact same boat they were in anyway. Why go deep on second and three late in the fourth quarter when the underneath stuff had been there most of the night? Some might blame Masoli for his decision to launch it, but the deep route to Fantuz sure looked like the first option considering how quickly Masoli released the ball. Why opt for a kickoff after three Justin Medlock field goals instead of taking the ball at the 35? Just one of the returns got them to the 35, while the other two got them to the 21 and 25. That is 24 free yards the Ticats lost, and those yards and the few extra seconds on the clock could have made a big difference.

Good: Speedy B, Part 1

But it wasn’t all terrible last night. Brandon Banks got the game started right with an electrifying 120-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown. The sequence that led up to that was so bizarre. The Bombers were attempting a field goal, but they were without their holder, Weston Dressler. Instead of taking a timeout, Bombers coach Mike O’Shea allowed for a time-count violation that pushed the attempt from a 46-yarder to a 51-yarder. The Bombers have Justin Medlock, so 51 yards is not impossible, and with very little wind at Tim Hortons Field, and Medlock’s knowledge of the stadium after having spent the last two years kicking at it, this wasn’t your typical 51-yard attempt. But Medlock missed wide right, Banks faked going to his right, darted left and a couple key blocks later and Speedy B was in the end zone for his first return touchdown of the year. It was an incredible sequence of events and shows why Speedy B is still the best in the business.

Bad: Speedy B, Part 2

While Banks is good, he’s not perfect, and his allowing for a Medlock kickoff to hit the ground and get scooped up by Macho Harris is borderline inexcusable. He is far too experienced to allow something like that to happen. The ball did look like it was hiding out of bounds, and had it done so we would be praising him for a heady play, but it didn’t and Winnipeg ended up scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Just another mental error that cost this team.

Good: Nevis the Menace

Drake Nevis came into the season with a bit of hype, and the team’s belief in him is why Bryan Hall was allowed to leave for Toronto in the offseason. Nevis has quietly put together three solid games, and last night may have been his coming out party. He was a disruptive force all night and got on the stat sheet in a big way with a hellacious sack of Drew Willy. The Bombers QB felt all of Nevis’ 285-lbs frame. Nevis might be the best defensive player you have never heard about.

Good: The Big 3

I’m not talking about LeBron, D-Wade and CB4. The Ticats “Big 3” receivers have been pretty much perfect this season and last night was no different. Luke Tasker finished with eight catches for 91 yards, Andy Fantuz hauled in seven passes for 89 yards and one TD, while Chad Owens caught five passes for 92 yards and a score. Masoli has been relying very heavily on these three in the first three games and the results speak for themselves. Yes, Tasker had a fumble early on, and Fantuz had one a week ago, but these three have been stellar and if it keeps up, the Ticats will turn things around.

Bad: Needing hang time

One thing I noticed last night that was a little troubling was how little hang time Brett Maher was getting on his punts. It didn’t allow his coverage unit to get down field and gave Bombers return man Quincy McDuffie way too much room to work with. The Ticats coverage units are usually top notch, but no unit can get down field quick enough if the punts don’t stay in the air.

Bad: Not knowing what’s a penalty

So we need to talk about the officials, but more specifically we need to talk about replay. Three non-calls were overturned last night, all three were pass interference and all three were questionable at best. The first challenge came against Johnny Sears on a play that looked about as bang-bang as you can get. Next was a flag on Quinton Pointer that was a little more understandable, but still not that egregious. The third was against Chad Owens that was also borderline. Considering what had been ruled PI earlier, then the call on Owens made sense. None of the three really looked that bad, with the one on Sears being particularly bad. Let’s be honest, every play could have a flag thrown if you watch it in slow motion, and while we have seen some very obvious pass interference called missed and then overturned (the prime example being last year’s Grey Cup), if we are going to boil everything down to the microsecond, we might as well just get rid of on-field officials and rule everything after the fact with replay.

But those weren’t the only questionable calls. There was a rescinded flag on a 32-yard catch-and-run by Chad Owens where the refs said an illegal downfield block was allowable because the ball was caught behind the line of scrimmage. Sure looked like Owens was beyond the line when he caught that pass.

Owens was also the beneficiary of another missed call when he was well offside on his touchdown catch in the third quarter. Derek Taylor of TSN tweeted out the following:

Yeah, that’s two Ticats well offside, and probably even worse is that the refs called offside on the Bombers on that play.

Are these not the types of plays that the eye in the sky are supposed to correct? If so, what the heck was going on? And if not, then what is the point of having it?

Final Thoughts

With the way they played, Hamilton had no business being in that game. The Ticats were down just 12 at halftime after being thoroughly dominated by the Bombers. If it was any team but Winnipeg, the game would have been over at the half. Hamilton, despite more mistake than you can count, were in this until the very end.

But this team continues to turn the ball over and make mental errors that cost them games. It has been pretty much the same story since that fateful Saturday last September when the 2015 season went up in flames. If the Ticats can’t figure out a way to steal a couple of these road games, starting next Friday in Montreal, this season could be over before Zach Collaros ever sees the field.

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