The Hamilton Tiger-Cats stumbled out of the starting gate once again…or maybe it was more like a face-plant.
The Ticats fell hard to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night, having been thoroughly dominated in every phase of the game, eventually falling 43-16 in an eye-opening, loss.
It was the eighth straight year Hamilton has dropped their first game of the regular schedule.
After many around the CFL spectrum wanted a closer look of the Ticats following an off-season of acquiring flashy offensive players, the Tabbies revealed in their Week 1 loss that their defensive problems might be deeper than we think.
The defensive issues reared their ugly head against the Riders, a team most people didn’t even give a punchers chance to go into Ivor Wynne Stadium and come out with a win on opening night.
A lack of pressure pivot allowed Rider quarterback Darian Durant to complete 25 of his 34 pass attempts, a 73.5 per cent success rate.
Durant was able to go through his progressions – save for a lone sack from Ticats linebacker Renauld Williams – nearly untouched and pick apart the exclusively man-cover scheme employed by Hamilton’s secondary.
Shoddy tackling in the open field, which has plagued this team at times through recent years, didn’t help either.
Weston Dressler, among others, chewed up the ‘YAC’ (Yards After Catch) to help run Durant’s passing yardage total to 390, most among CFL passers in the first week of the 2012 campaign.
Well-schemed offensive calls helped Dressler get mixed up in coverage.
A lack of proper switching and communication in Hamilton’s defensive coverage, allowed Dressler to grab 13 balls for a whopping180 yards and three majors.
Two of Dressler’s scoring catches came in the third quarter when Saskatchewan took complete control of the game.
Speaking of no. 7 in Green and White, it was he who seemingly got away with a 52-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.
Dressler appeared to make a reception on a low throw from Durant during a second down play with 9:52 left in the first half.
It looked as if the tip of the ball might have hit the ground, but at game speed it was a tough call for the officials who ruled a catch.
Durant and the offence quickly came to the line of scrimmage on the ensuing play, rushed the snap, thus not allowing Cortez to throw the challenge flag.`
After the game, Cortez said he didn’t have a chance to see a replay before deciding whether or not to challenge.
Two plays later, Chris Getzlaf hit pay dirt for the Riders who took an eight-point advantage thanks to the big play made by Dressler that could have easily been reversed.
Even when there was a chance for Hamilton’s defence to step up and make a play to turn the tide, the unit could not capitalize.
Midway through the second frame, Geoff Tisdale, starting his second stint with the club, made a great read and break on a Durant pass intended for Getzlaf. Tisdale had what looked like a sure interception slip right through his hands.
Despite a slow-start on defence, Hamilton was still within striking distance. After an 89-yard touchdown burst by rookie running back Chevon Walker – one of the few Ticat bright spots, rushing for 132 yards on seven carries – the Tabbies were down just one. And they appeared to take the lead on their next possession.
A 97-yard touchdown pass from Henry Burris to Chris Williams was nullified because of a questionable call illegal blocking play on left Guard Peter Dyakowski. Rather than taking a two-point lead, the Ticats began to falter.
The Riders scored the final 20 points and showered their new head coach, former Ticats defensive coordinator, Corey Chamblin with a bucket of Gatorade.
It was supposed to be Hamilton, drenching Cortez to celebrate his first win as a professional head coach to begin the final home schedule at Ivor Wynne. Instead his Ticats suffered a loss, which brought some of Hamilton’s flaws to the forefront, under the bright lights that hid them so well during the lead up to the 2012 season.
However, no team is ever as good or as bad as they might look in such a blowout type of game. Even though the loss was on the ugly side, the issues are correctable.
You can bet on the next questionable call, whether or not he views a replay, Cortez will heave his challenge flag in the direction of the official.
As for the defence, it would be foolish to think coordinator Casey Creehan will allow over 40 points and 500-plus total yards to be rung up on his unit in consecutive weeks. But, Creehan’s troops will have their hands full, as they prepare for the cross-country trip to BC Place in week two.
A date with the defending champs and 2011 MOP, Travis Lulay awaits.