A Fan’s Perspective
While I cannot compare to the person who originally penned the “A Fan’s Perspective? articles for ticats.ca in 2004 (for those of us who know it was), but here is my assessment on last night’s game.
I had high hopes for a Tiger-Cats win against the Alouettes last night, but I was expecting it to be a close game, and our team to stay competitive throughout the game. In this, I was not disappointed, except for the fact that we lost a very winnable game.
Corey Holmes not playing could hurt the Special Teams play, and take plays out of our Offensive play book. This is a man that needs to be given the ball as many times as possible, and he will make magic happen on the field. I was VERY happy to see Bobby Brooks start for the second time at MLB. He is a true run-stopper, and has an uncanny ability to read the opposing quarterback.
On to the game. We had good coverage on the opening kick-off, and successfully pinned the Montreal offence deep in their own end. The Defence played very well, stopping Anthony Cavillo’s offence from gaining any yards. This forced the Alouettes into punt formation near their goal-line. They took 2 illegal procedure penalties (on purpose) either because of a tricky return formation, or they were attempting to draw us offside. This just moved them back to their one-yard-line, and they conceded the safety touch they were intending to all along.
Jason Maas looked sharp early, and engineered some good yardage on his opening drive. Fleming had a decent punt with a limited return, but I would like to see him punt the ball deeper. I DO like the hang-time on his punts, allowing the coverage team to get down-field and make plays.
On the ensuing Montreal offensive series (IIRC), there was an extremely heads-up play by safety Wayne Shaw. There was a reception around the hash marks, and, while tackling the receiver, he punched the ball loose from his hand. Hamilton recovered, and ran the ball back to the Montreal 32. On comes the offence with an impressive play. Hamilton lines up in a standard formation. At the snap, both D.J. Flick and Craig Yeast make hard, sharp slants into the middle. This clogged up the zone (important). Josh Ranek wheeled out from his RB spot, and is in the clear 10 yards downfield. A perfect pass from Maas, and Ranek runs untouched for a 32-yard touchdown. The clogging of the middle of the defensive coverage stopped any chance that the Montreal MLB had of covering Ranek in the open field.
Bobby Brooks proved again why he will be a dominating MLB for Hamilton. He has great vision and is obviously a great study of game film. He has the size needed to stop the run (something that has changed as there are more “power?-type RBs in the CFL as of late), and he has the speed to cover slotbacks and RBs coming out of the backfield. His interception of an Anthony Cavillo pass calm off a perfect read. The TSN panel analysed it on the Telestrator, and they praised Brooks for squaring his hips as he mad the INT to prepare for a runback. It is the little things like that that define greatness. Unfortunately he got hurt on that play, and did not return to the line-up for the rest of the game. More on this later.
The offence stalled at the Montreal 40-yard-line and, instead of attempting a field goal attempt, Coach Marshall made a gutsy call (some may think it was him not having any confidence in Boreham’s kicking ability) to pooch-punt the ball to Montreal. This worked out incredibly well, as the returner let the ball bounce off his chest, and Tay Cody recovered it on the 10-yard-line. Unfortunately, on third-and-goal from the 1, Marwan Hage had a brain cramp, and got called for Illegal Procedure as he moved the ball into the neutral zone (NOT the Klingon or Romulan neutral zones, but you get the idea) prior to the snap. We move to the 6, and Jamie Boreham has a difficult field goal attempt on a sharp angle. He made the kick.
After trading a few FG’s, and a Montreal touchdown to Hamilton native Dave Stala, we once again pinned Montreal in the shadow of their goal posts. Another bone-headed play cost us two points. For some reason known only to himself, we had ONE EXTRA DEFENDER on the return team. Totally inexcusable. This gave Montreal a first down. The half ended with a score of 18-10 in favour of Hamilton.
I won’t say much about the second half except that we failed to adjust offensively, and it resulted in a measly three points scored. Brutal. There were flashes of brilliance, but nothing consistent.
Adriano Belli’s “late hit? on A.C. was a farce, IMHO. Cavillo was still in the motion of throwing the ball when Belli hit him. I think the referees are over-protecting “certain? quarterbacks (Anthony Cavillo and Damon Allen, to start), especially after A.C’s bellyaching to the press about the late hits he has been receiving. Boo-hoo. This is FOOTBALL, not choir practice. Cheatwood, however, was rightfully benched after his extremely late hit on Cavillo well after the whistle sounded to end the play. There is no excuse for that. Meanwhile, Maas had been taking questionable hits throughout the game.
Other refereeing inconsistencies. D.J. Flick was in the Montreal end-zone looking back and adjusting to a pass from Maas. His defender, without looking back to the ball, got his hands in front of D.J’s face, and prevented the catch (I think the ball hit the DB’s hands). That is a clear-cut interference penalty. The funny thing is, the same thing happened again on another drive, and the correct pass-interference call was made. The big difference is the fact that had the call been made in the end-zone, we would have had a first down on Montreal’s one-yard-line.
Back to Brooks’ impact. After he left the game, and Agustin Barrenechea came in to replace him, we had absolutely NO run defence. There – I said it; Agustin Barrenechea is simply not a good-enough MLB, let alone a great starting one.
Some other things I noticed that I found interesting.
There was a ballsy move by Coach Marshall to fake a punt in the second quarter. It might have worked, except for some poor execution by Pat Fleming. He did not “sell? the punt, therefore allowing the return team to go into pass coverage and intercept his pass attempt to Rob Hitchcock While it didn’t work out for us, it was a great call at the perfect time of the game.
Ryan Donnelly filled in admirably for the injured Greg Randall (or Damion Cook, someone please correct me). With the expected return of OT Pascal Cheron, this brings up the possibility of having an entirely Canadian offensive line. Matt Robichaud seemed to have an off-night with his long snaps in punt formation. I noticed that Fleming had to pick them off his shoe laces several times, and this could have contributed to his poor distance. Let me re-iterate: I DO like the hang-time he has on his punts, this allows the cover team to get downfield and limit returns. Craig Yeast (yes, Craig Yeast) would have had an outstanding game, but the fact that he dropped a perfect pass lessened it. I think he took his eyes off the ball for a split-second, looking at the Montreal end-zone with nobody between it and him. He made some difficult clutch grabs and taking big hits. Even his punt and kick returning showed vast improvement over last week (or, for that matter, the last two years). A great heads-up play he made was getting out of the way of a punt that was bouncing into our end-zone, the fielding it with defenders all around him. This resulted in a no-yards penalty, and no point for Montreal. That could have been extremely important, as we were down by 2 at that point. I finally think that Craig has finally gotten his shead screwed on correctly, and will be a tremendous asset to the team (this coming from ME)! Jamie Boreham went 4-for-5 last night, some with difficult angles. Quarterback Kevin Eakin was holding for Boreham last night, and that could have contributed to his success. Hopefully this will boost his confidence. He still needs to show the consistency we need in a placekicker. Willie Quinnie, I think, blew his chances of doing anything this year. Sure, he has 4.3 speed (Howard Jackson had 4.2 speed last year, and look what that got him), but he still makes stupid rookie mistakes. With a healthy(er) Corey Holmes next week, I believe it is time to see what Kwame Cavil can show us.
All-in all, this was a very winnable game for us. We kept Cavillo to around 200 yards passing, had better special teams play, the ball-control offence worked well (to a point), we threw deep more than we have in the past three games combined, and if not for mental errors and bad, inopportune penalties, we could have won that game. Playing so well against a team of Montreal’s calibre should send a spark of confidence to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and I look forward to next Friday’s home game against the Calgary Stampeders.