With a chance to get themselves into first place for the first time since Week 1, the Ticats went to BMO Field and were soundly beaten 33-21 by the Toronto Argonauts.
Bad: A flawed team
As talented as the Ticats are — and make no mistake, this team has a lot of talent — it is clear that they are a fundamentally flawed team. Game after game it is the same issues that keep cropping up and stopping this team from reaching their full potential. The Ticats haven’t put together a full 60-minute game since Week 1, special teams have been a liability, the secondary gets exposed no matter who is back there, they cannot tackle for the life of them, penalties occur at inopportune times and they can’t protect the quarterback. These have been problems since the season began and 12 weeks later, they are still problems. These issues, it seems, are written into the DNA of this team this season, and if they aren’t fixed, it will be another title-less season in Hamilton. With just seven games remaining, and the East Division as a tight as it has ever been, the Ticats need to find some answers fast.
Good: A flawed division
Here is the good part: the East Division is still wide open. The Ticats are under .500 again and yet are still just one point out of first, though Ottawa does have a game in hand. Despite all the problems that this team is dealing with, they are still in the thick of things in a highly volatile East Division. With four division games remaining (three of which are at home) and the easiest schedule over the last eight weeks of any team in the East, Hamilton still has more than a puncher’s chance of taking first place and hosting the East Final.
Bad: Injury bug bites
The Ticats got beat up by the Argos and the line to the medical bay is proof of that. Peter Dyakowski missed most of the game with an injury, C.J. Gable and Terrence Toliver were hobbling at various points, Chad Owens had to leave the game for a short spell after taking a wicked hit, and Zach Collaros’ throwing arm looked to be in pain after a late-game fumble. Toliver, Gable, Collaros and Owens all finished the game, but this was not a game where the body will feel good afterward. They are barely getting by with the talent they have, so they cannot afford too many injuries as they head down the stretch.
Bad: Blue kryptonite
It was bound to happen at some point, but after four pretty good games, Zach Collaros finally came back down to Earth with his most pedestrian game of the season so far. A 56 per cent completion rate, just one touchdown and two interceptions are not what we are used to from No. 4. He did throw for 300 yards, his fifth straight game at or above that mark, but it was the most unimpressive 300-yard passing performance one would ever see. It was clear that Hamilton’s Superman was not on his game yesterday, missing the mark early on a pair of deep passes, one was an overthrow of Luke Tasker that if on target would have seen Tasker walk into the end zone, and things spiralled from there. He was never going to keep up his ridiculous pace, but yesterday in Toronto was one of Collaros’ worst games as a Tiger-Cat.
Bad: Didn’t bring protection
Part of the reason for Collaros’ bad performance was how little he got in the way of protection from his offensive line. Full credit to the Argos for executing on the defensive side of the ball and for taking it to a Hamilton offensive line that did not step up when needed. There was pressure in Collaros’ face nearly all game. His throws were rushed and the Argos hit him a lot even when he did get the ball out. The one sack allowed is misleading — and shows why sacks are not the be all and end all of statistics when it comes to how effective a defensive line is in a given game — because it was a relentless onslaught from the double blue the entire game. The cliche is that games are usually won and lost in the trenches, and this game is Exhibit A in why that cliche exists.
Bad: Special teams disaster
Once a hallmark of Hamilton’s excellence, the special teams units have terrible almost all season. We have seen some shining moments — a few spectacular Brandon Banks returns, Brett Maher usually being great on field goals — but it has been mostly bleak and dark when the team’s third unit is involved. Brett Maher had a punt blocked for the third week in a row. Let me write that again, with emphasis. Brett Maher had a punt blocked for the third week in a row. Unacceptable. Simply and completely unacceptable. Teams should not have a three punts blocked in a single season, let alone in less than a month. The cover units have been poor, and while inexperience has been pointed out as a reason for the Ticats’ difficulties in that department, we are now 11 games in the 2016 season (13 if you count the preseason) and the problems of Week 1 are still problems. We just have to accept that superlative special teams plays are not going to be something we can rely on. The special teams unit is bad. End of story.
It was another loss where the Ticats were pretty much outclassed the entire game. After making a thrilling comeback over the Argos last Monday, the Ticats made many of the same mistakes, but the Argos found a way to not allow them back into the game. Hamilton still won the season series over the Argos 2-1 and still hold the tiebreaker over Toronto, but that is of little solace after a loss in a game that could have helped put the Ticats well ahead of their rivals and all but sunk the good ship Argonaut in 2016. Instead, the two teams are now tied in the standings and the Argos have a sense that they can get themselves back into the race.
The Ticats can get this bad taste out of their mouth relatively early as they host the Montreal Alouettes this Friday at Tim Hortons Field. The Als are a mess right now. They benched Kevin Glenn for Rakeem Cato last week, then traded Glenn to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last night, and have Duron Carter being Duron Carter. The Als are ripe for the picking and the Ticats need to beat them, and do so rather emphatically.