Sunday, 26 September 2010

Saskatchewan 32, Hamilton 25

This was a tough one, no doubt. While it was a very exciting game, the outcome was very difficult to stomach. Hamilton played a very good game, but mistakes at inopportune times cost them the win. This was a game that the Cats had, but let get away. It's one of those games that shows that Hamilton is a good team, but not yet a great one.

First and foremost, another great game running the ball by DeAndra' Cobb. Another huge statistical performance for the much maligned Running Back. Cobb ran the ball with purpose and seemed to see the holes with ease. There was one big negative in his game, but that will be discussed later.

An offshoot of Cobb's performance is that the O-Line seems to be gelling well heading down the stretch. Sacks are a rarity, and now the holes are opening up in the running game. Kudos to the Offensive Line for fixing the problems in their run blocking.

Dave Stala put together a very fine game. He led the team in receiving and made key catches, as usual, on second down. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again sometime soon, but Stala has been a great acquisition for the Cats. I couldn't be happier that he is on this team.

The only place to start is with... DeAndra' Cobb. Those fumbles killed the Cats. Both of them were inside the red zone, with the second one being lost at the one-yard line, and it's mistakes like that that kill teams. You can't take away plays and have the game stay the same in every other respect, but one has to wonder just what the final score would have been had Cobb been able to keep a firm grip on the ball.

While I liked a lot about the offensive play calling tonight, I have to take issue with one thing. When you have Arland Bruce, arguably the best Receiver in the CFL, why is he not being targeted more? He had one very bad dropped pass, but he needs to be fed the ball. Look at what he did the last time against Saskatchewan. Now, I'm sure the Riders did everything they could to minimize Bruce's impact, but when he gets the ball in his hands early and often, good things happen.

Five cracks from the one-yard line are four tries too many. Had it not been for two Saskatchewan penalties, the Cats would have once again been stuffed on the goal line. This has been a problem for way too long, and it needed to be fixed two years ago and still hasn't been. It's cost the team games in the past, and it's likely to cost them games in the future as well.

Two of Saskatchewan's TDs were terrible. Twice the Cats' Defense gave up huge passing plays that resulted in touchdowns. One of those a game is unacceptable, but to allow two is indefensible. The Cats have done a great job all season long of not giving up the big play. The Defense has played the typical bend-but-don't-break style that is Greg Marshall's calling card, but this was one time that the 'D' bent some and broke some.

While this has nothing to do with the actual game on the field, I had the great displeasure of sitting next to a completely clueless Roughrider fan. I have absolutely no problem with people going into another team's park to cheer on their team. Lord knows I've done my fair share of hootin' an' hollerin' at the Rogers Centre SkyDome when the Cats visit Toronto to play the Argonauts, but this Rider fan was a complete buffoon. Every play that went the Riders' way was celebrated as if it was the greatest play of all time, and every play that went against Saskatchewan was the worst in sports history. I kid you not, this guy jumped up and clapped at a four-yard run. A four. yard. run. He acted as if it was the greatest run in football history. Then, Arland Bruce catches a screen pass, and the guy shakes his head in disbelief. Like he's stunned that anyone would dare be able to gain yards on God's team. Any flag that went against Saskatchewan was bogus; any against Hamilton was just "good refereeing." It's fans like that that make me angry. Celebrate, cheer, even get in the face of some loud-mouth homers, but please, have some sense. When you act like a fool, you're just embarrassing yourself.

Final Thoughts
This game really didn't show anything other than that the Riders and Tiger-Cats are two very evenly matched, good-but-not-great teams. Neither of these teams is a juggernaut, and neither is terrible. This game did not establish anything that we didn't already know.

It's nice to see Cobb string two very impressive games together. Had he not fumbled, he'd be the toast of the town based on his last two games. However, he did fumble, and that is problematic. He's had fumbling problems since arriving in Hamilton, and it seems like there is always something wrong with his game that stops him from being a dependable, reliable runner.

At the end of the day, a loss sucks, but at least it was an entertaining football game. However, with the talent on this team, being entertaining isn't good enough anymore. This team should be winning these games. Championship football teams win these games. Right now the Tiger-Cats are not playing like a championship-caliber team. They are a good team with a lot of talent, that's undeniable. They are most definitely a playoff team. But the Cats were these things last season; this season was about stepping up to join the upper echelon of the league, to join the Calgarys and Montreals of the world. Getting into the playoffs was no longer the goal. The goal was to win a Grey Cup. That begs the question: is this team a Grey Cup contender? To be honest, I don't know anymore. I hold out hope that they are, but every time they lose to a team that is a contender, it makes me wonder whether the Cats are at the bottom of the top or the top of the bottom.

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