Analyzing Hamilton’s penalty and final drive

Fourteen seconds.

That was how much time between the penalty flag was thrown on Hamilton’ s Taylor Reed illegal block until Brandon Banks crossed the goal line in what he thought would be the Grey Cup-winning punt return.

For everyone else, the play already has a name. TSN branded it as ”The greatest play that never happened” after a quote from Ticats’ Brandon Stewart in postgame press comments while loyal Hamilton fans have deemed it the “immaculate infraction”.

It was a heartbreaking penalty that forced Zach Collaros and the Tigercats offense to travel even longer than Banks 90-yard return in just 35 seconds.

The run was insane and took a lot out of the former Washington Redskins return man. Banks has taken it to the bank multiple times this postseason already and with the game on the line, he put it all out on the line too.

Unfortunately, putting it all out there meant that Banks was not fully able to get back into the offense and spent the last few plays on the sideline.

With less than a minute to go, most teams will fair catch the ball and start their offense. That would have given Hamilton 52 seconds on the clock, since Banks had the ball for three seconds before the penalty was called.

As Banks started running downhill, the penalty flag floated down out of the air like the angel of death in a blood-orange cloak.
For the final drive after the sack, Hamilton’s offense traveled at 1.7 yards per second (51 yards in 30 seconds). At that rate, they would have gone 88.4 yards. Starting at the 20, the clock would have expired just inside the Calgary two-yard line.

But that isn’t Hamilton.

No way the blue-collar, snub-nosed comeback kids of 2014 would sit and wait. It would be against the team’s own nature to pass up one of their dangerous return opportunities. If they were going to win, they would win it on their terms.

Everything was prepped for that to happen. Calgary’s defense was getting ground down and was giving up bigger and bigger plays. They were primed to get burnt on a special teams set and Banks and Co. was ready to strike.

Stampeders’ starting punter Rob Maver was knocked out earlier by the block of the year, allowing Rene Paredes to come in and kick. He had punted a couple times before and was serviceable given the circumstances. But he wasn’t Maver, who had kept the return game at bay so far.

Banks went back and received the kick, ran towards the left sideline, circled back behind a defender and hit the numbers. He took his opening towards the opposite sideline outstriding the Calgary defenders and towards the goal line.

And as Banks started running downhill, the penalty flag floated down out of the air like the angel of death in a blood-orange cloak. It terminated the last scoring opportunity for the Ticats, but the clock marched forward like the Banks’ two blockers.

As the penalty was announced, Banks fell to his knees and stuck the ground in frustration. He hasn’t spoken to the media since and rushed out the locker room before media entered.

Reed, however, admitted to committing to the penalty.

“Yeah,” he said, speaking with reporters after the game. “We were there. I mean, we were there. So it hurts. I know it’s not just one play that made this game. But for me, that’s one play I shouldn’t have made.

“I shouldn’t even have made it close for the ref to call that. But I made it close, ref made a judgment call and obviously I was wrong on the play. I’m taking full responsibility. It hurts to be the number that was called and basically take the ball from a great returner like Speedy (Banks) and take a win from this great organization.”

The return has cemented itself already as one of the biggest penalties in Grey Cup history, displacing Saskatchewan’s extra man penalty that allowed Montreal a second chance at a missed field goal in 2009.

But it was Hamilton’s play to make.

Reed has already received praise for admitting to the mistake and speaking with press while North America feels for Banks. Heartbreaking barely scratches the definition of this play and there is nothing else that fans can do but raise their heads in pride for a team that played to their strengths. They lost the Hamilton way, with a game full of hard work and a chance to overcome at the end.

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