The good and bad of Hamilton’s season-ending loss to the Eskimos

Despite a valiant comeback attempt, the Ticats season ended on Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos in the East Semi-Final.

There are plenty of reasons that Hamilton’s season ended two games shy of where fans hoped it would. But ultimately, the team simply was not good enough in 2016 to get the job done.

Terrible: The non-call that changed it all

OK, so let’s get this out of the way first. That non-call on roughing the passer was bull crap. Don’t believe me or think I’m a biased homer who can’t separate emotion from actuality? Check out this tweet from TSN’s Derek Taylor.

You’ll notice that Odell Willis isn’t even in the picture when the ball is clearly out of Zach Collaros’ hands. That’s as clear an indication that it was a late hit and should have been flagged as there could be. No, it was not a head shot, but that does not matter. Getting hit in the head is not the only reason roughing the passer is called. A few weeks ago, Eskimos fans, and their head coach, were livid when B.C.’s Adam Bighill was pushed in the back and rolled into Mike Reilly’s legs. No call was made, Maas flipped out (as he does often) and challenged. The command centre changed that call and a penalty was called. So this isn’t about a hit to the head. It’s about a late hit, and unless you simply do not want to see it by looking at the still shots that Taylor tweeted out, you cannot validly argue that the hit by Willis was very late and should have been flagged.

Another thing, can we please stop calling out fans who are ticked off about a bad call by pointing out that other things caused the loss? Everyone knows this. It is never one play that determines the outcome of a game, but it does not need to be pointed out every single time people get angry about a blown or missed call. Just like a bad call doesn’t negate the other factors, neither do the other factors negate the bad call. It is not either-or. It can, and often is, both.

Did the Ticats lose this game because of another horrendous command centre ruling? No. But that should go without saying. But was a badly blown call a factor in the outcome? Absolutely. If the Ticats get that call, Collaros isn’t in a position to throw the interception that led to Edmonton’s winning field goal.

But none of what occurred negates that fact that the command centre blew this one. The league talks often about protecting players, but after yesterday, they really do not have a leg to stand out. If that is not a penalty for roughing the passer, nothing is.

Bad: All the other reasons the Ticats lost

Outside of the blown call, the Ticats also blew a number of golden opportunities. They left upwards of 18 points on the field. Brett Maher missed a field goal and an extra point, while Zach Collaros twice missed open receivers for touchdowns, he overthrew Junior Collins and under threw Brian Tyms. In a three-point loss, those plays loom large.

But it wasn’t just Ticats mistakes, either. The Edmonton Eskimos ran the ball down Hamilton’s throat with John White to the tune of 160 yards on 20 carries. When the Eskimos needed a big play, they gave the ball to No. 30 and he did the rest. He made tacklers miss, hit the whole hard and got great blocking. Edmonton threw for eight fewer yards than White himself ran for, which is not something you see every day in a CFL contest. That should tell you just how dominant White was on Sunday.

Hamilton also couldn’t tackle. Part of that was White, but the other part is that the Ticats haven’t been able to tackle all year. This game was a microcosm of their season as a whole. Injuries, inconsistency and inexperience hurt this team all year, and all three aspects reared their ugly head in this game. The Eskimos played well enough to win and the Ticats played as they have all year. That’s why Hamilton is done and Edmonton is off to Ottawa.

Good: Credit where it is due

Cleshawn Page, Emmanuel Davis, Chris Davis, Dominque Ellis and Mike Daly, who subbed in after Courtney Stephen was hurt on the first play of the game, did a superb job keeping Edmonton’s vaunted passing attack in check. Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker combined for just six catches for 84 yards, and the Edmonton team has a whole only passed for 152 yards on the afternoon. Those are incredible numbers. Blame can be placed in a lot of areas for the loss on Sunday, but the secondary is not one of those areas. They were great. Period.

Bad: Failure to seize momentum

Hamilton had ample opportunities to not only win the game, but blow it wide open and they just didn’t do it. We already talked about the points left on the field, but Edmonton fumbled the ball four times and lost none. None! That is uncommonly lucky. If the Ticats are able to scoop up one or two of those, this is a different game.

They also failed to capitalize when Edmonton took a roughing the kicker call in the second quarter. It gave Hamilton new life, but when the team got into a third-and-one situation two plays later, Kent Austin opted to punt again and it netted the Ticats just nine yards of field position after a short punt by Maher, who was still feeling the effects of the hit he took three plays earlier, and a 15-yard, no-yards call. It was a questionable coaching decision by Austin, and while he could not have known what the outcome would be, felt in the moment like he should have gambled. Maybe he was gun shy after Edmonton stuffed Hamilton on an earlier third-and-one attempt, but with Maher clearly still banged up, he jumped off the trainer’s table to go make the kick, it would have made sense to go for it. The Ticats didn’t, Edmonton got good field position and drove to kick a field goal before the half ended. In a three-point loss, things like that stick out.

Good: Digging into the bag of tricks

It wasn’t all terrible yesterday, and the Ticats pulling out the onside punt was not only needed, but also brilliant. That might have been the best executed onside punt I have ever seen. Maher placed the ball perfectly, he got the right bounce and spin needed, and Jermaine Robinson was there at the perfect time. It was a thing of beauty and it paid off. The Ticats would use that stolen drive to score a touchdown that would get them to within one. Which led to one of the coolest moments on the year.

Good: The tying rouge

I’m not sure if ever in the history of the CFL has a stadium exploded more on a single point than Tim Hortons Field did on Sunday when Brett Maher booted the kickoff 86 yards after the Ticats scored to make it a one-point game. After scoring to make it 21-18, the Ticats went for two and I thought it was a mistake. But then it was pointed out that the team would be down one and a single would tie it. The Ticats had the wind at the back and it got me thinking that maybe Maher could boot it far enough to tie it on the kickoff. When he did, Tim Hortons Field erupted. It was the loudest I had heard that place since Labour Day. It was a classic only-in-the-CFL moment.

Good: Tyms’ double double

After being given a chance to showcase himself in the season finale last week, Brian Tyms was given a second showcase game and he did not disappoint. He was targeted early and often, and led all players in catches, with eight, and receiving yards, with 114. He also caught the two-point convert that gave Maher a chance to tie it with a single on the kickoff. Injuries decimated Hamilton’s roster, but the silver lining was that it allowed them to see what they had in some youngsters, and Brian Tyms looks like a keeper.

Final Thoughts

That’s another Ticats season in the books that ends without a Grey Cup championship. The drought now reaches 17 years. There are kids who will graduate high school in June that were not alive the last time Hamilton won the Grey Cup.

But this season ended in the way that it really should have. They showed heart, that’s for sure, but in the end they were bested by a superior team and showed fans across the country why they were 7-11.

Where they go from here is analysis for another day, but changes should be afoot. They always are. The book has closed on the Ticats 2016 season and the ending is sadly the same one that fans have been forced into reading the last 17 years.

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