The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are the best team in the CFL.
End of sentence.
We have tip-toed around this for far too long. While Winnipeg and Calgary and Saskatchewan all have decent résumés, it’s time we stop playing nice and just say the Ticats are the the CFL’s best team as we head into October.
Their latest victory, a 33-13 dismantling of the Bombers in Winnipeg, is the last piece of evidence anyone should need to proclaim them the league’s top team right now. They went into a hostile environment against the West Division leader and slapped them silly for 60 minutes.
The Ticats have the most wins and the fewest losses; most points scored, fewest points allowed; 6-0 at home, 5-3 on the road; 7-2 against the West, including wins over all five teams and sweeps of the Lions and Bombers (with a potential sweep of Edmonton coming next week); and 4-1 against the East, including wins over all three teams.
What more do they need to do before people will start putting some respek on their name?
This game started rough, as a two-and-out was followed by a surgical 11-play, 73-yard, nearly seven-minute drive by the Bombers that ended with Andrew Harris finding the end zone. The Bombers looked locked in and ready to atone for last week’s collapse in Montreal. Three minutes and 10 seconds later the game was tied at seven and the Tabbies would score 26 of the game’s final 32 points from then on out en route to their 33-13 victory.
It was thorough domination from the Ticats. They were relentless and never gave a very good Bombers team any room to breathe after that opening drive. Stout defence, precision offence and just enough special team was enough to hand the Bombers their first loss at IG Field this year.
This performance should be the last piece of proof you need to put the Ticats at the top of your power rankings, pork rankings or whatever rankings you want.
No one is better than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats right now. The debate is over.
Here are some more thoughts.
Simoni’s monster night
It was a tumultuous week for Simoni Lawrence. After another questionable hit — one that I did not think warranted a suspension — Lawrence was once again public enemy No. 1 for everyone outside of Hamilton.
How did Lawrence respond? By breaking the CFL record for tackles in a game.
Reggie Hunt’s record of 16 tackles stood for 16 years before Lawrence broke it by one against the Bombers. While all the chatter has been about a select number of hits he has made, Lawrence has quietly put together a Most-Outstanding-Defensive-Player-calibre season.
He is now second in the league in tackles with 78, one back of the leader, Cory Greenwood. He has four sacks, two interceptions and has been on a tear since coming back from his two-game suspension. He is near the top of the league in defensive plays and is a game wrecker week in and week out.
Lawrence might be playing the best football of his career in 2019, which is saying something for a guy who was already one of the league’s best defenders.
Evans continued growth
Dane Evans sure is great in the first half, isn’t he?
A week after torching Edmonton with touchdown passes on three consecutive throws, all Evans did for an encore was throw for over 300 yards… in the first half! Evans finished the game going 25-of-32 for 359 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
While the bulk of that came in the first 30 minutes, don’t think for one second that the Ticats went into their typical second-half lull. Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, but Evans did what he had to do early in the fourth to salt this one away. The Ticats also orchestrated scoring drives of 98 and 90 yards behind Evans’ strong play.
His decision making prowess was on full display on his second-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Banks. With the Bombers being flagged for offside, Evans essentially had a free play. So he threw it up to Banks in the back of the end zone knowing full well that the worst that could happen was accepting the penalty and moving the ball up five yards. Plays like this show Evans continuing to make great strides each week, becoming more comfortable in an offensive game plan that is being tailored to his skills.
Evans has people openly wondering if he has done enough to unseat Jeremiah Masoli as the Ticats’ starting QB of the future. What he has done recently, including in this win over the Bombers, is a big reason why.
Road trip drip
Before the season started everyone said the most daunting part of the Ticats’ schedule would come in mid-September with back-to-back-to-back road games in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. These three games would give us all the insight we needed into who the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were.
Now we know: they are the league’s best team.
A single-point loss to the Stamps, in a game they easily could have won, is all that stood between Hamilton and an undefeated road trip. The Ticats seemingly got better as the trip went on. The struggled against the Stamps and held on for dear life against Edmonton, but they cruised past the Bombers.
With the road trip over, we can now take all the caveats away from the Ticats. There is no more ifs, ands or buts. This team is the team to beat for the Grey Cup this year.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, as the Ticats committed far too many penalties in this game, with the team being flagged 10 times for 90 yards.
And it wasn’t just the volume, but the timing. They twice took time-count violations with the ball inside Winnipeg’s 10-yard line. The first one didn’t cost them, as they scored a touchdown anyway, but the second pushed them back and they had to settle for a nine-yard field goal.
They also took four penalties on special teams, which you know will drive Jeff Reinebold crazy, including either holding or illegal blocking on three straight punt returns.
Hamilton is clearly talented to overcome these types of errors, but it is still something you would like to see cleaned up before the playoffs start.
Killer Bs still swarming
There are three things in life that are guaranteed: death, taxes and the Killer Bs doing big things.
If the Ticats play a game, Brandon Banks and Bralon Addison are going make an impact. The league’s best receiving duo combined for 12 catches, 203 yards and two touchdowns with each player finding the end zone once.
Speedy B led the team with eight catches (on eight targets) and 113 yards, while Addison had four catches for 90 yards. These two are lighting up the league, currently sit second and third in the league in receiving yards, first and third in the league in receiving touchdowns, first and second in catches, and first and third in targets. Yep, that’s pretty good.
Addison also went over the 1,00-yard mark for the first time in his career, a nice milestone for a guy who was cut from the Argos a little over a year ago without ever playing a game for them.
There is a little concern here, as Banks come up limping late in the game, but he didn’t miss any time and was still featured in the offence. But it is something worth monitoring this week. The Ticats have been without Banks before, but we saw this movie last year and don’t want to see it again.
With the return of Luke Tasker on the horizon, possibly after the team’s third and final bye in two weeks, the Ticats offence will be even more dynamic. That should be a scary thought for defensive coordinators across the league who haven’t been able to slow down Banks and Addison with Tasker out of the lineup.
Steinauer for coach of the year
The consensus among many is that Khari Jones is a shoe-in for coach of the year. While what he has done to turn around the Alouettes is commendable, how is Orlondo Steinauer being overlooked?
Perhaps it is a product of the CFL’s outdated East-vs.-West award model, but Steinauer should be directly in the conversation for coach of the year, if not at the top of the list.
He leads the league’s best team with the league’s best record and has done it while dealing with massive injuries across his roster. Jeremiah Masoli, Sean Thomas-Erlington, Luke Tasker, Delvin Breaux, Jamaal Westerman and Adrian Tracy have all missed significant time with many of them being done for the season.
All the Ticats have done is pile up wins. The Ticats have lived the next-man-up credo better than any team this year. They will likely end the season with the league’s best record and the most wins in franchise history.
And let’s not forget that while the Ticats were a heck of a lot of fun to watch last year, they were an 8-10 team that only got into the playoffs because the East was a dumpster fire in 2018.
What Khari Jones has done in Montreal is worthy of being the big story it is, but if what Steinauer has done in Hamilton is not coach of the year worthy, I don’t know what is.
Roughing the passer
What constitutes roughing the passer seems to change on a weekly, maybe even on a game by game basis and is definitely frustrating trying to figure out what hits warrant flags. The latest example came when Willie Jefferson made contact with Dane Evans’ helmet on the play that resulted in Evans’ interception.
Evans got up convinced a flag should be thrown and when one wasn’t, Orlondo Steinauer threw his challenge flag. The challenge never happened as the refs said something to Steinauer that made him pick up his flag. Glen Suitor opined on the broadcast that perhaps the head hit was negated because Jefferson hit Evans’ arm before hitting his helmet.
Maybe I am wrong, but that has never been the standard for hitting the QB’s helmet. Whether ticky-tack or not, a defensive player contacting a quarterback’s helmet in any way has always resulted in a roughing the passer call.
All is well that ends well, as the football gods gave the ball back to Hamilton when Justin Tuggle picked off Chris Streveler two plays later to set up the Ticats for their final score of the night.
Oskee Wee Wee, motherf**ker!
If you know any Ticats fans, you likely know that they never seem to be as confident in their team as other fans are in theirs. It’s unfortunately the nature of the beast when your favourite team has never won more than 12 games in a season (and has only done that twice).
But Ticats Nation is puffing their chests a little bit and newcomer Tyrell Sutton has given them a rallying cry.
After his fourth quarter touchdown essentially ended the game, TSN cameras caught Sutton saying some naughty words on his way back to the sideline.
Those naughty words: Oskee Wee Wee, motherf**cker!
It lit up social media, and instantly became popular amongst the Ticats fanbase. It will no doubt be something you will see on social media for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if TSN will have their finger on the bleep button during next week’s game in Hamilton. That first Oskee Wee Wee chant might end up being NSFW (or NSFTSN).
Also, I have it on good authority that you can expect to see that saying on a t-shirt in the not-too-distant future.