The concern isn’t that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost 33-21 to the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday night or that their previously superhuman quarterback looked like a mere mortal.
No, the real worry is that many of the issues that plagued the Ticats on this night are the very same ones that have held them back all season and it may be fair to wonder whether will be fixed in time to make 2016 into anything memorable at all.
Collaros was exceptionally ordinary against Toronto, throwing for an even 300 yards but completing just 56 per cent of his passes while committing three costly turnovers. He took responsibility for his poor performances and head coach Kent Austin insisted there were plays to be made.
But the Ticats were dominated at the line of scrimmage; the one sack surrendered by the Hamilton offensive line an egregiously misleading number. Collaros spent much of the day running for his life, throwing in a hurry or taking a big hit as he released the football.
The Argonauts deserve some credit here, too. Defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler, the granddaddy of the bend-but-don’t break school of CFL defence, went against his football DNA to blitz the crap out of the Ticats. They brought pressure less than a half-a-dozen times in a Labour Day loss, then brought it on almost every play Saturday.
And all those things that have plagued the Ticats this season — a porous secondary, horrendous penalties, bad tackling, shoddy special teams — they were factors, too. Hamilton had one good quarter, the second, and were outclassed for the other three.
Brett Maher had a punt blocked for the third straight week. Cassius Vaughn looked lost on the boundary corner for the second straight week while also taking four penalties. Brandon Sermons missed some tackles. He was not alone.
Meanwhile, former Ticat quarterback Dan LeFevour — who has been with the Argos all of a month and hadn’t started a game in more than two years — strafed his old team for 329 yards, while adding 39 on the ground.
Then the Argos did a weird thing. As the raucous locker-room celebration died down, general manager Jim Barker informed linebacker T.J. Heath that he’d been traded to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for quarterback Drew Willy and draft picks. Heath had two interceptions against the Ticats and was given the game ball his (now former) teammates. It was also his birthday.
The trade is an indicator that the Argos see themselves as a contender in the East, Ricky Ray and his busted lung be damned. At 5-6, they are on level terms with the Ticats (though they have lost the season series.) By losing this one, Hamilton has turned the Division back into a three-team race.
The Ticats play another pivotal divisional game next Friday at home against the Alouettes. It, like every other game from now until the end, will loom large. Hamilton needs wins, sure, but also evidence that all things that are wrong will get better, some way, some how and soon.
The list is growing. Time, on the other hand, is getting short.