Saturday evening the Tiger-Cats earned their first victory of the season by defeating the winless Ottawa Redblacks at Tim Hortons Field. While it is a sign of progress that the Tiger-Cats overcame their self-defeating bad habits to secure this win. Luckily for the Tiger-Cats, the Redblacks had to deal with their struggles with inconsistency and injuries.
Turnovers, quarterback sacks, and an ongoing struggle to score in the red zone have become expectations for the 2022 edition of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. During their first drive of the game, the Tiger-Cats were able to produce an explosive pass play by Dane Evans to Anthony Johnson, but the receiver then had the ball stripped and recovered by the Redblacks. Later in the 1st quarter, Lawrence Woods fumbled a punt return, losing an offensive possession and giving the Redblacks another opportunity on offence. In the second half, a half in which the Tiger-Cats have set up a defensive score for their opponents the last 4 games, Dane Evans was sacked for a 24-yard loss and then fumbled the ball giving the Redblacks the ball on the Hamilton 1 yard line. The Tiger-Cats still had two opportunities to score in the final three minutes of the 4th quarter to win the game. On their first attempt, they failed to score from the Ottawa 7-yard line. Due to the Redblack’s inability to close out the game, the Tiger-Cats had another short field possession, and this time they scored a touchdown from the Ottawa 3-yard line.
With these mistakes in mind, it is important to note that the Tiger-Cats were able to break their losing habit and win a game against an East division opponent. The Tiger-Cats need to address the issues that have defined the Tiger-Cats season so far in 2022. To win games against high-quality opponents the Tiger-Cats need to stop trying to defeat themselves. If they can correct those glaring issues they are good enough to be a very good team at least a very good East division team. Let’s see how the Tiger-Cats performance measured up to this week’s 5 Growling Questions.
Growling Question #1 result
Can the Tiger-Cats defence pressure the Redblacks quarterback and produce four or more quarterback sacks?
The answer to this question is no, and it almost cost the Tiger-Cats the opportunity to get their first win. The Redblacks gave quarterback Caleb Evans his first start of the season and came out looking like a seasoned veteran. Evans was able to produce explosive passing plays and was able to extend drives with his quarterback runs. The Tiger-Cats did get 3 quarterback sacks, 2 by Julian Howsare and 1 by Mason Bennett. Going forward the Tiger-Cats need to continue to find ways to pressure quarterbacks consistently.
Growling Question #2 result
Will the Tiger-Cat’s defensive front seven be able to contain the Redblack’s run game and hold their rushing attack to less than 4 yards/carry?
The answer to this question is also no, but the run defense did improve as the game went on. Early on in the game, the Redblacks had an average of 6 yards/carry. The Tiger-Cats front was able to tighten down and limit the rushing game to 4.3 yards/carry on 21 rushing attempts. This was especially important in the 4th quarter when the Redblacks had a chance to close the game out with a few additional first downs. But the Tiger-Cats defence was able to step up and get an additional offensive possession for the offence which lead to a game-winning touchdown.
Growling Question #3 result
Will the Tiger-Cats offensive line be able to protect Dane Evans and give up less than two quarterback sacks?
Once again the answer is no, and coincidentally the 5th version of the Tiger-Cats offensive line also gave up five quarterback sacks. At some point, the Tiger-Cats are going to need to settle on an offensive line lineup so that they can develop chemistry and start growing as a unit. Run blocking was better than the previous week’s but that small improvement did not help slow down the Redblack’s pass rush. It is easy to blame Dane Evans for multiple turnovers per game, but realistically he has never had an opportunity to settle into a game and play his best football so far this season.
Growling Question #4 result
Can the Tiger-Cats score three touchdowns?
The answer to this question is yes, and this was the deciding statistic in the game. The Tiger-Cats were able to score a rushing touchdown and two passing touchdowns. The 3rd touchdown came at the end of the 4th quarter when Dane Evans completed a 3-yard pass to receiver Tim White to take the final lead of the game. There were other opportunities for the Tiger-Cats to score. Two of their drives ended with a turnover on downs near the Redblacks goal line. Lawrence Woods had a chance to score a touchdown on an 88-yard punt return in the 4th quarter. Woods stumbled before scoring at the Hamilton 8-yard line.
Growling Question #5 result
Can the Tiger-Cats win the +/- turnover battle?
The answer to this question is no, and the Tiger-Cats were lucky to overcome their turnovers to still win this game. The Tiger-Cats had three fumbles and an interception. Two of those fumbles impacted the scoreboard directly. A fumble by Anthony Johnson of their first drive after a 61-yard pass, and Dane Evans fumble on the Ottawa 1-yard line in the 4th quarter. The Tiger-Cats defence was able to intercept two of Caleb Evan’s passes. But that still resulted in a -2 turnover ratio for the Tiger-Cats.
It is important to remember that the Tiger-Cats were able to defeat the Redblacks to get their first win of 2022. But if the Tiger-Cats want to win more games, and potentially win important games, they will need to address their issues. Those issues can be boiled down to turnovers, red zone scoring efficiency, and protecting their quarterback. The next game for the Tiger-Cat’s is Thursday, July 21st at 10 pm EDT when they visit the 3-1 BC Lions. For Hamilton to have a chance to get their second win, they will need to eliminate their own self-defeating mistakes.
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