Ticats lose more than just a game against Redblacks

On a checklist of things that could have happened to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night, you might have hit the trifecta of terrible:

Lose the game? Check.

Drop the season series to Ottawa? Check.

Lose one of the most valuable members of the team? Check.

The third one is the worst loss of all three.

Losing Brandon Banks, possibly for the year with a broken collarbone, is a blow this team could ill-afford to take. He leads the team in catches, yards and touchdowns, and was the go-to guy for Jeremiah Masoli. Banks, like Masoli, was a legit MOP candidate and losing him just as the Ticats are about to hit the playoffs is the worst possible timing for an injury like this.

We have already seen Jalen Saunders and Chris Williams go down for the year with knee and Achilles injuries, respectively. Terrence Toliver is on the six-game injured list due to a concussion and who knows if he will be back. And before the season even began, Shamawd Chambers was felled by a knee injury. That’s three former 1,000-yard receivers and a former Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian lost.

If any of those players were still around, the loss of Banks might not be so devastating. But that quintet of players the Ticats will soon have on the six-game would probably be better than many team’s current starting receiving unit.

We have seen what the Ticats offence has looked like without Banks. He missed two games in mid-September, both losses, one in which the offence did not find the end zone. Even with the Ticats adding reinforcement by the way of Terrell Sinkfield, this offence went as Brandon Banks went. When he was at his best, the Ticats had a chance to win every game. Without him, the task became that much more difficult.

Now we get to find out if the team is up to the task.

Abysmal second half

The Ticats took a 25-14 lead into the mid-game break and looked in command, but the second half saw Ottawa score three touchdowns on their first four drives and eat clock late in the game with the wind in their face. Hamilton’s vaunted defence, especially the #NoFlyZone, was anything but in the second half. Trevor Harris picked the Ticats apart as it seemed as if Ottawa’s stable of pass catchers were open whenever Harris went back to throw.

But the offence also had their issues, with just six points in the game’s final 30 minutes and just one lone field goal in the final stanza while the Ticats had the wind at their back after choosing to take the wind instead of the ball after winning the toss and deferring to the second half. Little good it did as the Ticats struggled mightily with just five total drives in the second half, none of which found their way into the red zone.

For as good as the Ticats looked during the first half, they were equally as bad in the second.

Mental errors

Full credit to Ottawa for putting it together in the second half and getting the win, but they certainly did get a lot of help from an undisciplined Ticats team that made a lot of mental errors.

Firstly, they kept taking bad penalties at the worst possible time. Hamilton took 12 penalties for 128 yards, but the number isn’t as important as the timing of some of them. There were the drive-extending ones, like Sean Thomas-Erlington’s roughing the punter flag, and some that were just inexcusable, when Jumal Rolle lined up offside on the goal line. The Ticats did themselves no favours by being undisciplined and allowing Ottawa to stay on the field, eat up clock and score points.

Then there was the Ottawa kickoff that landed very short and in the mad scramble to pick up the loose ball that saw the Redblacks tap it out of bounds. The wind was wicked in Ottawa on Friday, and in those situations, the returner needs to be on his toes to ensure things like that don’t happen. Frankie Williams was caught napping and it cost the Ticats. You just can’t make these types of mistakes and expect to win many football games. Ottawa did what they had to do to win, but man did the Ticats do their best to help them out.

I lost count with how many times Ticats’ receivers dropped passes, including normally sure-handed players like Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker. Banks had one of the most egregious drops in this one when he had 10-feet between himself and the defender, but bobbled the ball as he was heading out of bounds. You take bad penalties, you turn over the football, and you drop passes, you lose football games.

That command centre review

So let’s talk about the Redblacks’ challenge, shall we?

The play in question saw Ottawa’s R.J. Harris barrel over Hamilton’s Richard Leonard on an overthrown pass by Trevor Harris. Harris, who was mic’d up for one of TSN’s silly “Live Mic” games, was heard coaxing Rick Campbell to challenge. Campbell did and the challenge was successful.

But I don’t like it. It’s hard enough playing defence in football nowadays without calls like this going against you. You can’t touch a receiver after five yards, you can’t breathe on the quarterback and you have to be a magician to avoid any contact with the head area, but apparently, you can’t even stand your ground on the field anymore.

It was Harris, not Leonard, who initiated contact, but yet it was Leonard who was penalized. That’s the standard I want to be set for pass interference. Defenders have a right to their position as well, and offensive players can’t just run them over to get where they want to be.

Expect apparently they can and that’s just not right.

Anthony Cioffi’s dirty hit

You’ll get no argument from anyone, including Redblacks fans, that Anthony Cioffi’s second-quarter hit on Luke Tasker was dirty and worthy of a penalty. The ball was nowhere near Tasker and the play was essentially over when Cioffi flew in and levelled Tasker unnecessarily. The hit will likely make Cioffi lighter in the wallet, and while I see some are calling for a suspension, I doubt that happens. Should it? Probably, since fines don’t seem to be sending enough of a message, but I’d be absolutely shocked if Cioffi missed any time due to the hit.

But the hit, and Ottawa’s continued support of serial headhunter Kyries Hebert, makes we wonder if maybe it isn’t a coincidence that these types of plays follow first-year Redblacks defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe around. Thorpe had Hebert with him when he was the DC in Montreal, and Ottawa was where Hebert chose to sign after his release from the Als. We’ve seen Hebert continue his dirty ways and now we have Cioffi doing his best Hebert impression. Is it wrong to think that maybe this is just how Noel Thorpe likes to teach defence? I’m not saying this is some Bountygate-level stuff, but it can’t be coincidental that these types of things keep happening on Thorpe’s watch.

Lewis Ward continues to impress, but enough with “pro football” records

You can’t take anything away from what Lewis Ward has accomplished this season. For any player to come in and hit 45 consecutive field goals is impressive. For a rookie to do it, and an undrafted one at that, it is almost unfathomable. Big props to him for a season that will likely see him pick up some hardware at the CFL player awards during Grey Cup week.

But when all the talk is about how he broke a pro football record, it just comes off as the little brother trying way too hard to get the big brother to notice them. Lewis Ward has the CFL record for most consecutive field goals. That’s good enough. Comparing his accomplishments to that of NFL players just makes the CFL look small. The NFL is NEVER going to recognize Ward’s accomplishment, and all this does is give the CFL fans with a Napoleon complex the chance to tweet out “Well, actually, the record is held by Lewis Ward” whenever they watch an NFL game that mentions Adam Vinatieri’s record.

Ward’s record is impressive, period. It doesn’t need added modifiers to make it seem more impressive. He’s made the most consecutive field goals in CFL history. Leave it at that.

Looking ahead

It’s bleak, folks. Yes, the Ticats still have a faint hope for finishing first and securing the bye into the East Final that comes with it, but they no longer control their path to first. They need help and that help needs to come from the most cringeworthy of sources: the Toronto Argonauts.

Yes, Ticats fans, if the Tabbies beat the Redblacks next week to bring these two teams even once again, you will be forced to cheer for the Toronto Argonauts the following week when they play the Redblacks in Ottawa to close the season. The Ticats will also need to beat the Montreal Alouettes, but let’s be honest, that shouldn’t really pose much of a problem.

Sometimes football makes strange bedfellows, and watching Ticats fans cheer for the Argos would be one of the weirder things we’ve seen in a long, long time.

Must Read