In the history of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats there was only one time the team had won by 50 points, a 65-15 beatdown of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999, until Saturday when they pummelled the Argos 64-14 at BMO Field.
To score 60 is rare, to win by 50 might be even more so and the Ticats did it by getting contributions from everyone. Touchdowns were scored through the air, on the ground, on special teams and defence. It was, by any definition a total team effort.
Here are the rest of my thoughts on the blowout:
Jeremiah, the Argo killer
When it comes to playing quarterback for the Ticats, being able to beat the Argos is one of the most necessary qualities and no one has feasted on the boatmen more than Jeremiah Masoli.
After Saturday’s scintillating performance, which saw him pass for 338 yards on 23-of-31, with three TD tosses, one TD run and one interception, that was negated by a strip and recovery by offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg, Masoli is now 6-1 in his career against Toronto with eye popping numbers. In those seven games, Masoli is 152 for 223 passing (68.2 percent) for 2,193 yards (313.3 yards per game) with 21 total touchdowns (20 passing, one rushing) and five interceptions. Wow.
In this game, Masoli found his rhythm, made some incredible plays — his falling-backwards-TD-pass to rookie Nikola Kalinic was unbelievable — all while playing efficiently and leading a Ticats attack to seven scoring drives out of the 11 he was on the field for.
After last week’s less-than-stellar outing against the Riders, a team Masoli has historically had trouble against, and questions about whether he was a product of June Jones’ highly effective run-and-shoot system, the reigning East MOP proved it wasn’t the system that made the player.
Erli contender for top Canadian
After a great Week 1 performance, were he was probably the best player on the field for either team, Sean Thomas-Erlington’s encore was to be even better against the Argos. The numbers, as it seems will become customary, are tremendous: 12 carries for 109 yards — that’s 9.1 yards per tote for those keeping track at home — and another 56 yards on three catches, including the highlight reel grab of the game.
Oh, and he did all that in just three quarters of action as he, like many of the Ticats starters, came out of the game in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. If Thomas-Erlington keeps this up, he will be in the conversation for the league’s top Canadian at season’s end.
Bralon breaks out, while Banks be Banks-ing
A week after having just one catch, and with the image of Brian Tyms dancing in the heads of many Ticats fans (including yours truly), Bralon Addison put those murmurs to rest by beasting on the Argos to the tune of a game-high 107 yards on six catches and three, yes three, touchdowns.
Addison wasn’t the only Ticats pass catcher to have a game against the Argos, as battery mate Brandon Banks also went over the century mark with 105 yards on a game-high seven catches. With Luke Tasker out of the lineup, and a pair of rookies in the starting lineup (more on them in a second), a lot of the load was going to fall on the Killer Bs. Both responded in spades, and we haven’t even talked about Banks’ return TD that really just felt like salt being poured directly into the Argos’ wounds.
Rookies? What rookies?
I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that the Ticats might have the best scouting staff in the entire CFL. While we can, and should, marvel at what the Calgary Stampeders have been able to accomplish year after year while letting guys go, the Ticats have quietly added a number of talented players, both Canadian and American, to the league over the last few years. It looks like that trend will continue as a number of Ticats rookies played pivotal roles in the team’s win on Saturday.
Two newcomers, both 2019 draft picks, found the end zone for the first time in their CFL careers. Maleek Irons came in for an injured Sean Thomas-Erlington, carried the ball twice for 18 yards right away and found the end zone (he would finish the game with eight carries for 32 yards).
But the touchdown everyone will be talking about was the aforementioned TD toss from Masoli to Kalinic. Not only was the pass out of this world, but Kalinic was open by a country mile and with his crew of friends and family in attendance — Kalinic played his university football at York — made the moment even better.
Kalinic was drafted because of his special teams acumen, but has been deployed quite frequently on offence early in the season. With his size, 6’2” and 245 lbs., he presents as an interesting matchup problem for opposing defences. Maybe we should have spent more time on draft day wondering how Kalinic would fair on offence as opposed to just on special teams.
A pair of American rookies also played big roles, as receivers Jaelon Acklin and Marcus Tucker both put in a more than respectable first game as starters. Tucker was filling in for the injured Luke Tasker, recording five catches for 76 yards, and his 44-yard catch and run set up the Ticats’ first score of the game. Tucker, who impressed on special teams a week ago with a pair of tackles, showed he can also contribute on offence when need be. Acklin, who was given the start over last week’s starting rookie receiver Josh Crockett, caught all five passes thrown his way for 59 yards.
Putting the special in special teams
The return of Jeff Reinebold has been a godsend for the Ticats’ special teams units. Not only has the team produced two return TDs in two games so far, with Brandon Banks adding a 113-yard missed field goal return to Frankie Williams’ 65-yard punt return from a week ago, but the coverage and blocking units have been so superior to last year as to make one wonder if the entire unit is also composed of new players (it isn’t, which tells me it is coming down to coaching).
The Argos have one of the most dangerous return men in the game in Chris Rainey, and another really good one in Kevin Fogg, and neither man did much of anything against the Ticats. Rainey had two punt returns for seven yards and three kickoff returns for 80 yards, while Fogg had six kickoff returns for 116 yards. In the grand scheme of things, those aren’t much, and the seven punt return yards are incredible given that teams have to give a player a five-yard halo on every return.
And a shoutout needs to be given to Mike Daly, who made one of the best blocks I have ever seen on Banks’ return TD. Daly held his man on a block for what felt like an eternity and did so completely legally. It’s those types of plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet that need to be recognized when they are noticed. If not for that block, Banks probably doesn’t reach the end zone, and it speaks to just how well this special teams unit is coached and played this season.
When the Ticats have been at their best, their special teams have excelled. After two games, it looks like dominant special teams have returned to the Hammer.
Speaking of dominant, we now turn our attention to the defence who ran roughshod over a completely overmatched Argos offence. Stud running back James Wilder Jr. was taken almost entirely out of the game, picking up just 12 rushing yards on six carries. He did make some plays in the passing game, with three catches for 33 yards, but it was a quiet night for the former rookie of the year.
What made that stifling run defence even more impressive was how porous they were a week ago, giving up over 170 yards on the ground to the Riders. We worried about the run defence last week; we most assuredly aren’t wondering about it this week.
But the passing attack of the Argos also couldn’t get anything going. Notorious Ticats killer S.J. Green had a very quiet afternoon, catching five balls (on 11 targets) for just 53 yards. Prized free-agent signee Derel Walker was near invisible after the game’s first play, picking up just 67 yards on four catches on the day the team gave away his bobblehead.
The Ticats were also able to generate a lot of pressure, sacking both James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson twice each. The pass rush was fierce, the secondary was lockdown, the run defence was stellar, and the team generated two turnovers, with both Simoni Lawrence (who also added a sack) and Rico Murray picking off Franklin and Bethel-Thompson, respectively.
The game’s turning point was Lawrence’s pick, because the Ticats went on their unstoppable run after that interception. Murray’s pick on the game’s final play might have been a bit petty and unnecessary, but given that he is a former Argo who the team let walk in free agency a couple years ago after helping them win a Grey Cup, he probably really wanted to add even more salt to that festering wound.
The answer to the trivia question “who scored the first ever CFL points for a Global player?” Gabriel Amavizca Ortiz, who kicked two converts for the Ticats in this one. Whether you are a fan of CFL 2.0 or not, it is still cool to see one of the players from that initiative score his first ever CFL points.
Always go for two
The Ticats did something different against the Argos and I wholeheartedly support it.
After each of their first four touchdowns they went for two. It has become en vogue to go for two early — the Stamps and Redblacks both have done it with consistency over the last couple of seasons — and I have long been a proponent of going for two, especially early. Over the course of a game or season, a team only has to convert a little more than half their attempts to make it worth it. The Ticats didn’t do that in this one — going two for four — but it didn’t cost them any points. I know some don’t like this, and I get it, but I like it. I like it when Calgary does it, I like it when Ottawa does it, and I will like it if Hamilton keeps doing it. Go for two, (almost) always.
The Ticats sit at 2-0 for the first time since 2004, and I could go into the laundry list of things that didn’t exist the last time the Ticats were 2-0, but this column is long enough already.
All I will say is that this 2-0 start could very easily reach 4-0 with a pair of games coming up against the Montreal Alouettes.
The Als, to their credit, looked a lot more like a respectable football team in their Week 1 loss to Edmonton, especially when Vernon Adams Jr. took the reins on offence. Adams will start the next two games, and possibly more, with Antonio Pipkin sidelined, so I don’t expect the next two games to be cake walks, by any stretch of the imagination.
But the possibility is there for the Ticats to start the season 4-0 for the first time since… [checks notes]… 1989!? Well alrighty then. If the Ticats keep rolling like this, we could be seeing something not seen around these parts in 30 years.