Early in the third quarter, the Edmonton Eskimos appeared to have full control of Saturday's game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. They were up 31-6, their offence was moving the ball consistently, and their defence was shutting the Hamilton attack down. Everything changed from there, though, with Ticats' QB Jeremiah Masoli setting a new CFL record with 23 consecutive completions (hilariously enough, the man with the old record was Edmonton head coach Jason Maas, who put up 22 for the Eskimos in 2008) and leading the Ticats to an eventual 37-31 win, the biggest comeback in team history:
— Paulo Senra (@paulosenra) July 24, 2016
That comeback completely changed the narrative around this Hamilton team, and about Masoli in particular. For the last few weeks, it was all about if the Ticats could keep afloat until quarterback Zach Collaros was ready to go. Masoli had been largely uninspiring overall through the season's first few weeks, and while he got off to a good start in their opening win over Toronto, he was a key part of the problem in losses to B.C. and Winnipeg, and not really much of the solution in last week's win over Montreal. That storyline continued through the first half and the opening minutes of the third quarter, with Masoli unable to move the chains and keep drives afloat. After that, though, he lit them up in a way last year's Grey Cup halftime performer Fall Out Boy would have approved of, finishing with a very impressive 31 completions on 38 attempts (81.6 per cent) for 396 yards and three touchdowns, plus an incredible two-point convert to Chad Owens that put Hamilton up 34-31:
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 24, 2016
A performance of that level is in the top tiers of the CFL, and it may present some interesting questions for the Ticats going forward. Collaros does have the better track record and larger sample size and is a key part of this team, but there might be even more reason to not rush him back now and see if Masoli can maintain any of this momentum going forward. Masoli showed a terrific command of the offence late in the game Saturday, and great chemistry with receivers like Luke Tasker (11 catches for 146 yards), Andy Fantuz (six for 80 yards and two touchdowns), Owens (five for 51) and Terrence Toliver (four for 37 and a touchdown). Even if he does go back to the bench immediately, at least that will provide the Ticats more confidence in their backup if they do need to call on him. His showing Saturday gives them at least something to ponder about when they should return Collaros to a starting role, though.
Meanwhile, the Eskimos' defence (and their secondary in particular) that had struggled early but seemingly turned things around in last week's 20-16 win over Winnipeg now faces renewed questions. Nothing they did against Masoli and the Hamilton receivers in the second half worked, and that's certainly concerning going forward. Was this just a fluke, or are opponents figuring out their coverages and tendencies? Of course, it didn't help the Edmonton offence suddenly stalled after a great first half either, leaving the defence out on the field for lengthy periods. Still, the 31 points the Eskimos put up and the 354 passing yards with three touchdowns and a 76.2 per cent completion rate that quarterback Mike Reilly posted are good enough to win many CFL games with a decent defensive performance, so a lot of the heat here will fall on the defence. Were they just victims of an opposing quarterback's incredible hot streak, or are there further structural issues here? Those are questions Maas will have to answer, and they're more concerning than the ones about his record falling.