Stamps lose to Ticats in uninspiring effort in Hamilton (& six other thoughts)

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

Despite everything that has happened in this season of disaster in Calgary, entering their 15th game with just four wins on the season, they still held on to a slim chance of making the playoffs.

Once again, the team played relatively pedestrian football, with results not matching their effort in another loss. This time, they fell 22-15 to the Ticats in Hamilton, who themselves booked a playoff spot with the win.

Here’s what I saw from the couch in Calgary.

Minimal Maier

I’ve written in this space before about a seeming unwillingness to go downfield in the Stampeders’ offence, especially with burners Marken Michel and Tommylee Lewis available.

The Stampeders’ longest completion of the day was just 17 yards, with both Tre Odoms-Dukes and Michel turning the ball upfield to add some YAC to the offence.

In total, Maier would complete 26 of 44 passes for just 239 yards or an average gain of 9.19 yards per completion. By comparison, his Ticat counterpart Matthew Schiltz, who came in for starter Taylor Powell, threw for 225 yards on just 11 completions for a 20-yard average. That number is skewed due to a 70-yard touchdown pass to Tim White but shows what Calgary has been missing. When the Stamps had the ball, there were but a few attempts that went downfield and all fell incomplete.

After the game, Jake Maier spoke to Stamps TV and seemed more resigned than he has after earlier losses in the season.

“The effort is definitely there, the execution is just not, and it’s been like that for most of the season,” Maier said

“It’s so frustrating. I’ve said it all year; we’re a good enough football team to be in every single game we play in. It doesn’t matter who we play, where it’s at, who is in, who is out; it doesn’t matter. Any of the guys who put a helmet on for us have the opportunity to win a football game, but we’ve just been on the wrong side of these one-score, gotta-have-it games. Ultimately, we didn’t score enough points to win tonight and that’s on the offence, and I’m the focal point of that.”

Maier also lamented an underthrown ball to Odoms-Dukes late that could have resulted in a game-tying touchdown late in the game, but was nearly intercepted instead.

No time to execute

Maier was also on the run again facing constant pressure from the Hamilton defensive front.

The Stampeders lost Julian Good-Jones to the NFL in the offseason and cut long-time standout Derek Dennis in training camp, and have been paying the price all season.

Maier faced some sort of pressure on most of his drop-backs, which forced him into check downs and looking to the shorter routes in the tree as there is infrequently the time to allow receivers to get downfield.

With that kind of pressure opposing defensive coordinators can also afford to scheme against those underneath routes, gambling that the Stamps won’t be able to go deep down the field. This causes the offence to stagnate.

While you never know how a player will perform given the opportunity, on the offensive side of the ball, hindsight sure looks as though the Stampeders should have kept the lineman that was voted the team’s best last season.

Caught sleeping

A bizarre play late in the first half allowed the Ticats to get a huge chunk of the field with a 45-yard completion that would have been a touchdown if not for Tre Roberson being more alert than anyone else.

The play was snapped as the official blew his whistle and as that happened, the Hamilton offensive line just stood up. No Stampeders’ defenders in the box moved at all, perhaps confusing the whistle-in with a stoppage instead.

If the intention from Hamilton was to run this as some sort of deception, it worked perfectly. If not, I have no idea why the Stampeders’ defence acted as though the ball wasn’t live.

That drive ended with a field goal that helped Hamilton to a 10-point lead at the half.

Specials less than special

The Stampeders cover teams used to be a hallmark of Calgary football, but tonight they gave up a 15-yard average punt return to the worst return team in the league.

Averaging just over nine yards per punt return this season, Hamilton took it to the Stampeders late and got returns of 39 and 54 yards respectively on the final two Calgary punts of the game, putting them into plus territory both times.

While I’m never one to talk about injuries, one does have to wonder about the organizational impact of 18 players being on the six-game injured list. Special teams coverage is one area that could be wildly affected by seeing role players go down.

On the flip side, those same players could also be helping in the return game, where the Stamps averaged 8.5 yards per return on six punts, far below their 12-yard average on the season heading in.

Poor results collectively

Yet again, the Stampeders weren’t able to do what they needed to do in order to come away victorious.

With their seventh one-score loss of the season, Calgary is now within a hair’s breadth of being eliminated from playoff contention and would have been there already but for the Saskatchewan Roughriders four-game losing streak.

“Right now, we’re just not good enough,” said head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson after the game. “As a team, we just aren’t finding ways to win. We hang in there and hang in there but unfortunately, just keep getting losses.”

While Dickenson has been quick to parry playoff talk since the loss to Edmonton in the Labour Day rematch, he was almost dismissive of the topic after this loss.

“(The players) just don’t want to hear from anybody right now. They just want to decompress, get themselves home with the people that love them and that they love and just take a deep breath,” Dickenson said before talking about the opportunity to play being something to value and to take pride in.

“Sure, it would be nice to feel like we are getting better, and we are winning games and we’ve got progress to our goal which is to try and win a championship. It just hasn’t happened. It gets real tough, and it gets tense in (the locker room) and ultimately, it’s tough for these guys to find positive things about any game.”

Crazy as it seems

Despite the Stampeders being 4-11 on the season, it remains possible that they could find themselves in the playoff picture should the Riders continue their recent losing ways and the Ticats carry on winning.

Should the Ticats down the Riders next week, the Stampeders beating Sask would put them within a game of Saskatchewan. Calgary would then hold the tiebreak.

After that, the Riders would have just one game left against Toronto, while Calgary would need one win against either BC or Winnipeg.

I’m not saying it’ll happen, but even Lloyd Christmas knows there is a chance.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Go Stamps Go Show Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.