Ticats loss to Stamps one of the most painful in team history

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats played a helluva football game against the league’s best team and none of it matters because (a) they lost and (b) the Ottawa Redblacks didn’t. That means that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are officially eliminated from playoff contention in 2017.

Even without the Ottawa result, the 28-25 loss to Calgary would have gone down as one of the most painful losses in Ticats history.

It still doesn’t hurt as much as the loss to, who else, the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup in 2014, but the way the Ticats lost to the Stamps on Friday night will linger for some time.

Hamilton played a really good game, as they have every week since June Jones took over, but they did what they do in all their losses: fail to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes and make too many critical errors of their own.

I’m abandoning the regular format here because going through the stuff they did good and bad seems pointless now. The Ticats won’t be in the playoffs, so all the moral victory stuff doesn’t matter.

Hamilton lost this game for a number of reasons, the biggest obviously being the pass interference call on Courtney Stephen on the game’s penultimate play. Under no circumstances can you take that penalty. None. Bo Levi Mitchell threw up the Hail Mary-est of Hail Marys and it worked. It [expletive deleted] worked! How!? WHY!? Unfathomable.

While Stephen’s blunder may have been the biggest, it wasn’t the only mistake the Ticats made. There was a pair of failed two-point converts on their first two touchdowns, a blocked punt on the team’s first possession, a missed throw to Luke Tasker on 3rd-and-1 from inside the five, an awful interception by Jeremiah Masoli on a pass he never should have thrown, a sure touchdown pass that went through Brandon Banks’ hands, some missed deep throws that sailed out of bounds early in the game. It all adds up. We will remember the final critical error, but it was far from the only one.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about some good stuff even if it rings hollow. Brandon Banks continues his late-season resurgence as a legitimate receiving threat with another 100-yard game (115 yards on six catches); Shawawd Chambers continued his career resurgence with a six-catch game, and his 19 catches in four games in Hamilton equals the amount he had over his last 13 games; and despite the late-game collapse, the Ticats defense stonewalled the Stamps much of the night. Bo Levi Mitchell completed just 55.9 per cent of his passes and Jerome Messam ran for just 11 yards on six carries. All that great play goes for naught, but it was still very impressive.

And this is why, for Ticats fans, their playoff elimination will sting a lot more than it would in other years. This team fought hard to come back from losing their first eight games. Say what you will, but this Ticats team is good, record be damned. Had they squeaked into the playoffs, this was a team that no one would have wanted to play. Their three losses over the last seven games came by eight, eight and three points. Two of those games came down to the last play and one went into overtime. The problem is, those losses came at home, where teams are supposed to win. The Ticats couldn’t hold home court and because of that they will be going home earlier than many expected in June.

It is a tough end to a tough season in Hamilton. The poor start, the firing/replacing of coaches, an awful near-hiring decisions that brought on a fan revolt, the constant Johnny Manziel distractions, the late-season close losses. It was a year no one expected and one that took its toll on a fan base that is just starved for success.

The silver lining to all this is that without a playoff spot to worry about, the Ticats can start the process of making decisions on next year. They have extra time to decide what to do in the front office, what to do at head coach and what to do at quarterback. There are three games left and the Ticats can use these games to evaluate players for next year since wins and losses don’t matter anymore.

The 2017 season will go down as a tough one for Ticats fans, but if the team we have seen over the last seven games is the one we see at the start of the 2018, there is a lot to look forward to next season.

Unfortunately, after the events of Friday, all Ticats fans have left to look forward to is next season.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.