For the second straight year, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are looking for their first win in Week 3.
Just like everyone in the Hammer thought, right?
Not so much.
A lot was, and still is, expected of the 2012 edition of the Black and Gold, but no one foresaw another two-game losing skid to start a Canadian Football League season in Tiger Town.
It has been a challenging start for Hamilton’s defensive unit, which ranks last in the league in a number of important categories: Points allowed (82), rushing yards per game (164.5), total offensive yards per game (441.5), touchdowns (8), passing touchdowns (6), quarterback sacks (1) and, on top of all, the Ticats are the only team yet to record a takeaway.
“It’s really been about [a lack of] continuity and chemistry,” middle linebacker Renauld Williams said.
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Brilliant in bits and pieces, drives and quarters, the Ticats’ offence is determined to string together a full on-field hour of the highest order on Saturday. Click here to read more.
Despite the rankings, numbers don’t always tell the true story, especially with such a small sample size. Hamilton’s defence did not impress in Week 1, but Week 2 offered a glimpse of improvement.
For example, 16 of the 39 points allowed - a conceded safety, an interception returned to Hamilton’s one-yard line and Tim Brown’s 81-yard punt return touchdown - against the Lions had little to do with the defence.
Twenty-three points surrendered is not only a much better looking and tolerable number, but is a sign of the Ticats’ advancement in defensive coordinator Casey Creehan’s system.
“We’ve been shuffling guys around since camp. People were moving to positions that they’re not accustomed to playing,” Williams said of the new scheme. “It’s a matter of guys getting comfortable with their positions and then getting comfortable playing with each other.”
The defensive backs seemed to find some cohesion on the Left Coast. A strong performance from Hamilton’s secondary went somewhat unnoticed at BC Place.
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay was held under 180 yards through the air and Geroy Simon, the CFL’s all-time leading receiver, caught just three balls for 33 yards. The key: Hamilton avoided giving up the big play ball. BC’s longest completion was just 26 yards.
However, questions remain about the effectiveness of the defensive front. The Ticats defensive line generated better pressure against the Lions, but could not contain Lulay, allowing him to break the pocket and extend drives with his legs.
“We’re really relying on our front four to get pressure and that’s the game plan right now,” Williams said.
“If you watch everybody else in the league, they’re sending everybody, we’re not sending everybody. We’re playing real vanilla. That’s what coach Creehan wants and that’s what he’s used to - his front four getting pressure and not needing to blitz as much.”
Hamilton’s defensive line has registered a resounding goose egg in the quarterback takedown category so far. A far cry from the defence Creehan helped coach in Winnipeg last season that led the CFL in sacks with 55, 42 coming from the front four.