It was impossible, improbable, amazingly entertaining ridiculousness.
At 11:09 mark of the third quarter of Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Eskimos, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats trailed 31-6 and looked, for all the world, like a team undone.
And they won 37-31.
It was a remarkable turn of events, especially after a first half that saw the vaunted Ticats defence get eviscerated by Mike Reilly and Edmonton receiving corps. They marched up and down the field with impunity as Hamilton struggled to generate pressure, cover receivers and, most notably, tackle anybody.
But after allowing another Edmonton touchdown on the first drive of the second half – and if there was ever a time to fold the tent, that was it – the Ticats defence shut the door and the offence went to work. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli set a CFL record with 23 consecutive completions and threw three touchdown passes as the Ticats stormed back.
His final numbers: 391 yards on 31 of 38 passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Ticats offensive line, with Mathieu Girard making his first career start at centre for the injured Mike Filer, did not surrender a sack.
Receiver Luke Tasker had 11 catches for 146 yards while Andy Fantuz had two touchdown catches and Chad Owens chipped in with a spectacular, gif-worthy catch on a two-point conversion.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 24, 2016
Even the defence redeemed themselves after that shaky first half, bottling up the Eskimos and forcing a turnover in the last minute to seal the deal.
It was the largest comeback in Ticats team history and tied for sixth in league history.
The loss was also a record-breaker for the Eskimos, who surrendering the biggest lead in franchise history. Quarterback Mike Reilly, who took some hard hits in the second half as the Ticat defence ratcheted up the pressure, chewed out his offensive line in full view of the TSN cameras.
“They started getting some pressure on us but we just didn’t play football,” Reilly said. “We played football for about 35 minutes today. The big talk was how everybody was concerned about how we were starting. I said wasn’t concerned about that because it’s 60 minutes of football.”
Because this is the CFL, there was yet another officiating controversy, this one involving the league’s new eye-in-the-sky. With the Ticats trailing by in the second quarter, Reilly hit Derel Walker with a touchdown pass but a flag on the field indicated the play was coming back on an offside call.
The eye-in-the-sky reviewed the play and instructed the on-field officials to pick up the flag, allowing the play to stand. Screenshots of TSN replays quickly made the rounds on Twitter as Ticats fans expressed their displeasure.
With the win, the Ticats improve to 3-2 heading into the bye week and won’t play again until an Aug. 3 game in Winnipeg.
Notes: Hamilton defensive back Johnny Sears was taken to hospital after a particularly nasty collision in the third quarter.