(Editor's Note: I was at a wedding reception last night, so my thoughts on this game won't be as thorough as usual.)
Rarely, if ever, do games live up to the hype that preceded it. The same cannot be said of last night's great game between Hamilton and Winnipeg. Everyone expected a hard-fought, tight contest, and that is exactly what we got. This game could have gone either way, and as a fan of football, that's really all you can ask for.
Bakari Grant had his best game of the year, with 83 yards and a touchdown. It is nice to see the young guy step up when needed. All the playing time that he, Aaron Kelly and Chris Williams are getting now will bode well for the team in the future.
Chris Williams, save one play (that will be discussed below), had an amazing game. You can't really complain when a guy puts up over 160 yards and scores. One key mistake is all that changes Williams's game from being outstanding to being good. That's too bad, because aside from that, Williams was outstanding.
Kevin Glenn was also very good. It's hard to find a lot of fault in a 351-yard, two-touchdown performance. He did throw a very costly interception that was returned to the house, but that was really his only mistake of the night. Glenn takes a lot of abuse from fans, but a lot of it is undeserved. Glenn produces at a high level, and last night was another example of that.
Justin Hickman is very quietly putting together an All-Star-caliber season. Another two sacks last night gives him five on the season. While Stevie Baggs has been used in coverage and sees more double teams, the freed-up Hickman is making plays. Last night was no different.
The key play of the game was the Chris Williams fumble on the one-yard line. Williams had a touchdown, guaranteed; but a Winnipeg defender (I believe it was Joe Lobendahn) punched the ball out of Williams's arms just before Williams crossed the goal line. That was the one play that changed the game. The Cats score there and I feel comfortable saying they probably win the game.
Penalties, which totaled 13 for 130 yards, killed the Cats. Time and again, Hamilton would stop Winnipeg on second down only to see a flag hit the turf and extend a Winnipeg drive. You shoot yourself like that, especially on Defense, and you are not going to win many football games.
I want to put something about the Defense – a Defense we were all raving about back in Week 3, 4 and 5 – but I wouldn't know where to start. The unit as a whole has been disappointing since the win against Montreal, especially the Secondary. The pressure-heavy scheme doesn't seem to be getting much pressure, nor is it producing enough turnovers. Is it the scheme, the players, the coaching? I don't know. It just hasn't been very good.
A few weeks ago, I read a fan's complaint that the Tiger-Cats were too plain on second and third and one. This fan wanted the Cats to try something, especially on second and short. Well, last night the Tabbies had Quinton Porter (the team's short-yardage Quarterback) fake a sneak and attempt a pass. A block was missed and Odell Willis cleaned Porter's clock. That sack snuffed out a very promising drive for the Cats.
It's hard to be too harsh on Justin Medlock, but a missed field goal (it would have been two, but one was wiped out by a penalty) was the difference between overtime and a loss. The miss did come from over 50 yards, so again it's hard to bury the guy for missing that. The fans' standards are so high for Medlock right now, that a missed 50-plus-yard field goal qualifies as a negative.
All credit goes to Winnipeg for making plays when they needed to make plays, but the Ti-Cats gave this game away. This was a "W" that turned into an "L." Hamilton could have won this one going away if not for some costly mistakes.
But that Cats have proven they can play with the big boys, even on their turf. A 4-4 record is nothing to be happy about, but winning in the 'Peg is not going to be easy for anyone, so you can't get too down about the loss.
It doesn't get any easier for the Tabbies, as next up is the back-to-back series against the Als. If the Cats play like they did tonight, minus the mistakes, they can beat Montreal. In fact, if they Cats play without tonight's mistakes they can beat anyone. I'm not one of those "moral victory" guys, but it is heartening to know that the Cats, despite their .500 record, are capable of going into a hostile environment and not wilting under the pressure.