The soul-searching begins in earnest for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a necessary process that should be painful and hopefully productive if this recent string of self-destruction is to end.
Failure — and the end is inevitable because too much is at stake at a time in the season when far too little progress is being made.
And therein lies the dilemma, a team that shows promise, only to self-implode, saving its absolute worst when a play on either side of the football has to be made.
At 3-5, there’s plenty of time turn this around, but at no time have the Ticats looked this vulnerable.
“We got to be desperate in many different ways,’’ conceded starting quarterback Henry Burris.
“We got to find a way to get over the hump. That’s the bottom line right now. There’s no time for excuses.”
Three losses in a row, three bitter defeats that were produced with the Ticats leading in the fourth quarter, will test a team’s character and mental toughness.
Labour Day now looms and the spectre of change hangs over a club whose season may be headed on the brink if back-to-back losses to the Argonauts is allowed to play itself out.
These are, and make no mistake about it, tough times in Tiger Town, where a number of factors have conspired against the Ticats in losses to Calgary, where the run defence was wretched, a setback to Winnipeg, where a case of fumble-itis and an inability to defend the pass neutered the Tabbies, and the recent misstep Thursday night in Montreal, where the offence couldn’t finish off drives.
To compound matters, no challenge flag was thrown on a non-catch that ultimately stood as the longest play from scrimmage on a night when every facet of football, be it coaching, scheming, execution and late-game discipline were all called into question.
By the time the Ticats play host to the Double Blue on Labour Day, some of Hamilton’s walking wounded will be closer to returning — at least that’s the hope.
By the time the Argos arrive in The Hammer, the Burris-led offence has to rediscover its poise and precision.
In retrospect, Hamilton’s most complete game unfolded the last time it played the Als, a team that is moving in the opposite direction of the Ticats, on July 21.
It was then when the defence made plays and provided its offence with ideal field position, a unit that capitalized by scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals.
In their 39-24 win, the Ticats scored 32 first-half points.
Fast forward to Hamilton’s return game in Montreal and what one witnessed was an offence that looked indecisive and incapable of executing when touchdowns were required, which ultimately led to a 31-29 loss.
“Ultimately, we just didn’t play well enough,’’ head coach George Cortez said as he stated the obvious. “It’s not good when you trade three points for seven points.”
It’s not good when a defence looks completely hopeless in stopping an Als offence that basically controlled the clock its final three possessions to end the game.
When Avon Cobourne scored a receiving major, it gave the visitors a 26-18 lead, a well-designed pass to the flat that featured a wide-open Cobourne as the Als decided to send a linebacker toward receiver Chris Williams, a non-factor as a pass catcher whose punt return for a touchdown tied a CFL record with his fifth return of the season.
In Montreal’s final three offensive series, the Als would run 19 plays and generate 176 yards, including a phantom 40-yard completion to S.J. Green.
How the Ticats did not force someone other than Green to make plays downfield is anyone’s guess.
Why Rey Williams was asked to drop into coverage on an Anthony Calvillo 17-yard run right up the gut, a play that would set up the game-winning three points on the night’s final play, is a complete head-scratcher.
It’s not good when a defence yields a 300-yard passing game, even though Calvillo has now gone seven straight by tossing at least 300 yards, a 100-yard rushing game and a 100-yard receiving game all on the same night.
Whether it’s being more stout along the line of scrimmage, more disciplined and physical in the defensive secondary, the Ticats defence desperately needs to address its issues.
Far too many breakdowns are being exposed, far too many yards produced and far too many points when the game is on the line.
There’s plenty of blame to be spread around the Hammer and far too little answers that are being presented.
As the Ticats inch closer to the precipice, how fitting if the Argos are the ones to push them off the edge.
The Argos have their own issues to deal with, but they pale in comparison to Hamilton’s woes.