For the 1-5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats each game feels like the movie Groundhog Day. The Tiger-Cats come into the game with a perception of confidence, and a message that this will be the game that they will turn things around and play good football. But the reality is each game this year tells us who the Tiger-Cats currently are, a team that is defined by turnovers and missed opportunities. Coming into this Week 7 matchup the Tiger-Cats were riding the momentum last week after pulling out an ugly win at home against the struggling Ottawa Redblacks. The BC Lions are a much better team than those Redblacks and for the Tiger-Cats to get a road win they needed to play their best game of the season.
While the Tiger-Cats lost this game to BC 12-17 they played well enough to compete but failed to finish the job. This has become the expectation of the 2022 Tiger-Cats. Play well enough to show that they are good enough to win big games, but fail to make those key plays that are critical to winning those games. Hamilton has developed a reputation for finding a way to squander those opportunities regularly. Let’s take a deeper look at the Tiger-Cats performance vs. the Lions by seeing how they measured up relative to the 5 Growling Questions that showed a path to a Tiger-Cats opportunity at victory in Week 7.
Growling Question #1 result
Can the Tiger-Cats defence find a way to pressure Lions QB Nathan Rourke and produce four or more quarterback sacks?
The answer to this question is no, the Tiger-Cats defence was only able to generate one quarterback sack vs. Nathan Rourke and the BC offence. While coming up short with regards to pressuring the quarterback the defence did do a nice job of containing the high-powered BC offence. Unfortunately, a defence that consistently allows a team to pick up 1st downs takes away opportunities for their offence. The ability to consistently pressure a quarterback in the CFL leads to takeaway opportunities and game-changing plays. Hamilton was unable to put Rourke in that situation.
Growling Question #2 result
Will the Tiger-Cat’s defensive front seven be able to contain a Lion’s rushing attack led by James Butler by holding the BC running game to less the 4.0 yards/carry?
The answer to this question is also no, but the Tiger-Cats did slow down a rushing offence that had been a big factor in BC’s previous wins this season. The Lions were able to muster 87 rushing yards on 18 carries giving them a 4.8 yards/carry. The defence did not allow a rushing touchdown which is a huge improvement. This could be a good sign for the Tiger-Cats run defence the next several weeks as they face teams in the East division for the next six games.
Growling Question #3 result
Will the Tiger-Cats offensive line be able to protect Dane Evans and Matt Shiltz by allowing 2 or fewer quarterback sacks?
The answer is yes, the Tiger-Cats offensive line only allowed one quarterback sack this week. That is a huge improvement over the five sacks that they allowed last week. The offence was also able to rush for 117 yards on 24 carries for an average of 4.9 yards/carry. For the first time, this season the Tiger-Cats had the same combination of offensive linemen starting the game two consecutive games. With consistency, the offensive line has the opportunity to develop continuity and begin to play at a higher level. Only surrendering one sack, and producing a consistent running game is evidence of significant improvements for this much-criticized unit.
Growling Question #4 result
Can the Tiger-Cats find a way to score 3 or more touchdowns?
The answer is no, but the Tiger-Cats offence did have their opportunities to score and could not finish drives. Hamilton’s lone touchdown was a 3rd quarter touchdown pass by Dane Evans to Steven Dunbar Jr. on a 32-yard scoring strike. There were three other red zone possessions that the Tiger-Cats failed to score touchdowns. The Tiger-Cats were able to drive the ball to the BC 7-yard line but had to settle for a 14-yard field goal. Later in the game, the Tiger-Cats were able to drive to the BC 16-yard line and once again had to settle for a short field goal. And then in the 4th quarter, with an opportunity to score and win the game, the Tiger-Cats offence ran out of gas at the BC 11-yard line. Had the Tiger-Cats been able to find a way to score during two of these three situations they would have most likely won this road game vs. a good BC Lions team.
Growling Question #5 result
Can the Tiger-Cats protect the ball and win the +/- turnover battle?
The answer to this question is no, but the Tiger-Cats did make big improvements in this key statistical area. The Tiger-Cats offence had a fumble and an interception, and the defence had two takeaways with two interceptions. So the Tiger-Cats did have a 0 +/- turnover ratio, and this is the first game of the 2022 season that they did not have a negative outcome in this category. So the Tiger-Cats offence is improving in the area of ball security. The next step is to eliminate those turnovers, and the defence needs to force the opponent into more turnovers. When a team has a defence that takes the ball away well and an offence that can turn those into touchdowns, you have a team that is very difficult to beat. The Tiger-Cats have the potential to become that team, but they have a long way to go.
Historically, the Tiger-Cats tend to struggle on the road and vs. West division opponents. This game could have potentially been a BC Lions blowout, but the Tiger-Cats were able to compete and have a chance to win the game in the 4th quarter. Hamilton does seem to be getting better each week, but there are still improvements that must be made if the Tiger-Cats are going to turn this season into a playoff opportunity. The next six Tiger-Cats games are against East division opponents, including next week’s game at home against the Montreal Alouettes. These games will essentially determine whether or not the Tiger-Cats can be contenders for being the top dog in the East division. The fact that they are still in that conversation is a reflection of a weak CFL East division, but this becomes another opportunity for the Tiger-Cats. Up to this point in the season the Tiger-Cats have missed most of the available opportunities. In Week 8 we will see if Hamilton can take the next step and finish what they start.
Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7
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