Heading into Friday night's CFL matchup between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, much of the discussion was well in favour of Hamilton. The Tiger-Cats were coming off a 51-8 thumping of Edmonton and were 4-7 on the year, while the Bombers had lost four straight and were in crisis mode following last week's 44-3 beatdown by Calgary. However, there were always reasons to think the Bombers might at least keep this close, ranging from the return of quarterback Buck Pierce to Hamilton's defensive ineptitude to the Winnipeg fans, and the Bombers did much more than that, thumping the Tiger-Cats 34-12 and embarrassing them in the process.
There were plenty of great moments in this for Winnipeg. Pierce completed 21 of 30 passes (70 per cent) for 288 yards and a touchdown, the best performance under centre the Bombers had seen in a while. Chad Simpson collected an incredible 134 rushing yards on just 19 carries, an average of seven yards per carry, and he added 58 further yards on four catches. Middle linebacker Henoc Muamba was all over the field all night, recording five tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble, and the Bombers shattered plenty of streaks, recording their first win under new coach Tim Burke, their first touchdown in 239:48 and their first touchdown pass in 309:32. They improve to 3-9 on the year and are only one game back of Hamilton, so even their playoff hopes aren't completely dead yet. However, before Bombers' fans start celebrating too hard, they might want to consider how much of a role the Tiger-Cats' struggles played in this one.
That's the major coda here. Much like Hamilton's win against Edmonton, a beatdown of a bad team playing poorly doesn't necessarily mean all that much. The Tiger-Cats certainly met that criteria Friday night; this was a crucial game for them in terms of their playoff hopes, but they came out with a completely flat effort. The defence maintained its season-long struggles against both the pass and the run, especially in the second half, and the offence couldn't get anything going in either half. Avon Cobourne was reasonably effective on the ground, collecting 77 yards, but it took him 18 carries to get there (an average of 4.7 yards per carry). Henry Burris was definitely "Bad Hank" Friday night, completing just 11 of his 24 passes (45.8 per cent) for 156 yards. Of course, he didn't get much help from his line, which allowed three sacks and countless pressures, or his receivers, who weren't able to get open and make big plays.
This was pretty much a poor showing all around by the Tiger-Cats, and that should somewhat limit the exuberance in Winnipeg. (Also, for the record, this win alone absolutely does not justify the firing of Paul LaPolice, especially considering that the team went through its worst stretch of the year between LaPolice's firing and now). However, the people who really need to be concerned are the Hamilton fans. In an extremely winnable game with massive implications, their team fell completely flat; that's far closer to their season-long performance than last week's win, which is looking more and more like an outlier. The status quo isn't working for the Tiger-Cats, and on a team whose expectations were so high, that's a major problem.