last night's close loss.
What would this team do without Chris Williams? The man is an unstoppable force right now. He scored his fifth return touchdown of the year, breaking Earl Winfield's team record, and tied the league record for return touchdowns. This one was a 69-yard beauty that was set up after a great block by Marc-Antoine Fortin. Williams has pretty much sewn up Most Outstanding Special Teams Player, but he also has more than a puncher's chance of winning the big prize, Most Outstanding Player. If there is one player that has epitomized the word "outstanding" so far this season, it has been Chris Williams.
While he didn't put up monster stats, six catches for 59 yards, this was Sam Giguère's best game as a Tiger-Cat. A lot was expected of the former first-round pick and maybe too much was expected early on. He's still a first-year player who has been away from the Canadian game for four years. It was going to take him some time to get adjusted. He also plays a position, wide receiver, that doesn't see a ton of action. He saw some today and put up decent numbers. Perhaps this was just the type of game that he needed to get him going.
While he didn't blow the doors off, I think Avon Cobourne's return to the lineup was a successful one. He picked up 94 yards from scrimmage on 13 touches and scored one touchdown. I think he did enough to warrant staying in the lineup, and hopefully George Cortez feels the same way.
Luca Congi has been getting hammered from every direction about the deficiencies in his game. Basically, he's being ripped for not being Justin Medlock. Well, when the Ti-Cats needed Congi, he came through for them. He went a perfect five for five on field goals and nailed a clutch 47-yard kick near the end of the game. Congi has just two misses on the season and was arguably on of the best players on the field for the Ti-Cats last night.
I hate, hate, hate complaining about officials because it comes off as excuse making. But two of the biggest turning points occurred on a single play. The Ti-Cats were called for a facemask on S.J. Green when there was no facemask to call. Simply put, no one touched Green's facemask! Even worse was that Green shoved defensive back Ryan Hinds to get open on the play, caught the ball and then was awarded with the phantom facemask call. The Als ended up scoring a touchdown just two plays later. I get that refs will make bad calls from time to time, they are only human, but this was one of those times when you cannot make the wrong call. The no-call on the push off was bad enough, but to compound it with the facemask penalty that didn't actually happen just made matters worse. Those calls weren't the sole reason the Ti-Cats lost a two-point game, but they had a huge impact.
The other big mistake was Cortez not challenging the catch, which was not a catch, by S.J. Green. Replays showed very clearly that Green trapped the ball with his body against the ground and that an incomplete pass was the correct call. But Cortez did not challenge it and the Als would end up ending that drive with a field goal. This is the second time this season Cortez has messed up not challenging a disputable catch. The first instance game in Week 1 when, in a very similar play, Weston Dressler caught a pass that replays showed hit the ground. Like rookie player, rookie head coaches are going to make mistakes. But like players, you want them to learn from their mistakes and not make them again. Well, Cortez has now made the same mistake twice and I will hate to see the reaction should he make it a third time.
While not the reason behind the loss, Henry Burris had a less than stellar game against Montreal. He went 22 of 34 for 281 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he never really found a rhythm and he overthrew a lot of passes. His interception came off a bad overthrow to Onrea Jones. Burris has been in a little bit of a funk every since the bye week. While "Bad Hank" did show up like he did in Winnipeg, "Good Hank" wasn't there either. I hope this isn't the start of problems with Burris, but that amazing July seems like a long time ago.
One of the most questionable moves the team made after training camp was cutting veteran tackle Belton Johnson and replacing him with rookie Marc Dile. It looks like that may have been the wrong decision. Dile has not played well in Johnson's old position and he was the culprit behind a drive-killing sack that forced the Ti-Cats to try a long field goal – lucky for Dile, Luca Congi bailed him out – and give the ball back to Montreal. One more first down would have sealed the game, but Dile let his man come free and bury Henry Burris in the turf. Keeping Johnson and putting Dile on the practice roster may have been the smarter move.
Two plays and three decisions are all that really stood in the way of the Tiger-Cats evening their record at 4-4. That's a tough pill to swallow. Losing by two in Montreal is not the worst thing that could happen, but now the Cats have put themselves in a very difficult situation. They are two games back of the Als, could be two games back of the Argos if Toronto beats Edmonton on Monday and could be in last place if Winnipeg can topple the mighty Lions in Winnipeg tonight.
Regardless of the outcomes of those games, the Labour Day Classic and the rematch the following Saturday in Toronto loom large. I will stop short of saying the Ti-Cats have to win both games, but they definitely cannot afford to lose both games. Lose them both and this season is over.
With no games until September 3rd, the Ti-Cats will end of the month of August without a win for the first time since 2003. Not exactly the type of month we all expected after the way July ended.
So next up for the Ti-Cats are the hated Argos, starting with the final Labour Day Classic that will ever be played at Ivor Wynne Stadium. If there was ever a game the Ti-Cats had to win, it is that one. Win that one and you will hear the sigh of relief all the way in Vancouver. Lose it and the fans might just tear the stadium down then and there. The next two games will probably determine the Tiger-Cats' season. I suspect it will be a very anxious time in Tigertown over the next 10 days.