Fodder for those who think statistics don’t add up to a heck of a lot.
Could there be anything more misleading than the numbers of Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris? He’s on pace to record the best stats of his Canadian Football League career.
Yet the Ticats will drag their tails home from Winnipeg after losing on Friday night by a score of 34-12 against a previously terrible group of Blue Bombers, who now have three victories.
The Ticats are 4-8 and in clear danger of missing the playoffs. Burris had his string of 10 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass broken, and he did not come close to the season-high 418 yards he threw up against the Edmonton Eskimos last week.
Burris finished with 156 yards, his lowest total of any game in 2012.
However, the Ticats’ problems start after Burris, not with him. Head coach George Cortez, 12 games into his tenure, has not been able to make his mark overall, and the defence is porous, with no answer for the run.
Meanwhile, Burris’ counterpart at Canad Inns Stadium, Buck Pierce, couldn’t help but be a bit rusty under centre.
But Pierce, in his first game since July 13, brought an intangible to the position that the Bombers were missing with Alex Brink and Joey Elliott. Pierce’s veteran savvy got the Bombers out of some trouble, and there was a presence in the pocket, something the Bombers had been lacking.
Pierce didn’t take long to remind Bombers fans, and the team, what they were missing.
On Winnipeg’s second possession, he appeared to be in trouble but got off a shovel pass to Chad Simpson, who went for 13 yards and a first down. On the next play, Pierce hit Terrence Edwards for a 37-yard gain. The Bombers got out of the drive with just a field goal, but neither Brink nor Elliott showed the moxie to make either of those plays while Pierce was out.
Players would never acknowledge as much, as it would be seen as a shot against Brink or Elliott, but their confidence rises when a guy of Pierce’s stature simply steps on to the field.
The Pierce/Edwards combo clicked again in the third quarter, hooking up for a 28-yard gain. A few plays later, Brink, in on short yardage, went to the outside for the Bombers’ first offensive touchdown in 230 minutes, 15 seconds. It was the first in the Tim Burke era, and the first since Aug. 24 against the B.C. Lions.
At the half
Could Bob O’Billovich, promoted to vice-president of football operations by the Ticats after four seasons as the club’s general manager, be on thin ice if Hamilton fails to make the playoffs? It’s not out of the question. The three-win seasons are a thing of the past, but the Ticats have spent the past three years hovering around mediocrity. Now, there’s almost no chance they will finish .500 ... A wobbly pass by Burris nearly was picked off by Winnipeg defensive back Johnny Sears. Later, Sears, who helped keep Chris Williams to one reception for eight yards, went up high in third quarter to deny Bakari Grant a reception ... On the next Bombers series after his big catch early in the first quarter, Edwards had what appeared to be an easily catchable pass zip through his hands and the home side had to punt ... The Ticats can’t take the kind of penalties that brought out flags on Friday night and expect to turn their season around. Two face-masking transgressions, one for piling on and another for roughing the kicker cost them 55 yards. Those penalties are preventable with a little more concentration ... Funny that the Bombers’ Brandon Stewart wondered why he was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he clearly punched Hamilton’s Samuel Giguere in the mask with a right hook. Why do players complain when the reason for the flag is evident to everyone in the stadium?
The Bombers had been accused of failing to put in any effort in many games this season, yet went into Friday night with 26 quarterback sacks, tied for the CFL lead with the Eskimos, and added three more. You don’t get to the opposing quarterback that much if you don’t care about your job ... Luca Congi has been one of the few bright spots for the Tiger-Cats, hitting on all 10 of his field-goal attempts this season from 40 yards or more ... Bombers fans who get despondent have to smile when they think of what linebacker Henoc Muamba should be doing years into the future. There’s no denying the hustle of the 2011 first overall pick, and he approaches every play like his sole reason for living is to hunt down the football. When Muamba forced Andy Fantuz to fumble, it was the fifth time in 2012 that Muamba has made such a play, the most in the league. With under a minute left, Muamba sacked Burris and managed to tackle Avon Cobourne at the same time ... How bad was it for Winnipeg through the first 11 games? It led for a total of 56 minutes ... Fitting that coaching staffs on both sides were bundled up on the sidelines on the last full day of summer. Football in Canada is best when there is crispness and a touch of chill in the air.