HAMILTON, Ont. -- Henry Burris and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were looking good in late July when they headed into their bye week atop the East Division following a 35-34 road win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
They haven't won since.
Hamilton (3-7) will try to snap an ugly five-game losing streak Saturday night when it hosts the Edmonton Eskimos (5-5). And the game is an important one for the Ticats, who are third in the East Division and in danger of missing the playoffs.
You can watch the game on TSN and TSN Mobile TV at 3pm et/Noon pt.
Finishing third in the East won't necessarily secure Hamilton a post-season berth given the existence of the crossover in the CFL. If the fourth-place finisher in one division has more points than the third-place finisher in the other, then the fourth-place squad crosses over into the other division and assumes the final playoff berth.
And that crossover team could be Edmonton, which is tied for third in the West with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"We're in a rut right now," said Burris, who is in his first year with Hamilton. "We've been going through some big-time growing pains, making too many mistakes, playing inconsistent football and it's cost us a number of games. But there's still a lot of time left in this season and it's never over until it's over.
"It starts with one game and we need this victory bad."
But it won't come easily against an Edmonton team still stinging from two straight losses to arch-rival Calgary. The Eskimos' defence leads the CFL in interceptions (18), is tied for the lead in sacks (24) and has allowed the second-fewest points (20.5 per game).
Hamilton will be without rushing leader Chevon Walker (lower body) for the second straight game. That means veteran Avon Cobourne, who had 113 yards rushing on 13 carries in last weekend's 45-31 road loss to Toronto, will earn his third start of the season.
But the onus will also be on Hamilton's struggling defence to play better. The Ticats head into weekend action ranked last in 21 of the CFL's 25 statiscal categories.
Veteran linebacker Rey Williams says he's past being frustrated. Now he's angry.
"I'm embarrassed because I think we do have some good players on defence and how can you call yourself a good player on defence when you're (giving) up numbers like that?," he said. "You start to question yourself. . . Are you that good? Are you not that good?
"It's frustration at first, but now it is anger. Guys are angry and guys get testy and we're not letting the little things go anymore. If you mess up, guys on the field are going to let you know you messed up . . . And I think it's a good thing. There's no more mistakes. We've got to find a way to help this team win football games."
The defence has had to overcome rotations due to injuries and rookies getting used to the game. The front office has brought in three new players in the last week to shore-up the defensive side of the ball.
Torrey Davis, who came from Calgary last week, will start at tackle, and Brandon Peguese, who was acquired from B.C. on Monday, should also see action at defensive end. On Thursday, Hamilton traded fullback Darcy Brown to Edmonton for linebacker Ricardo Colclough.
Ticats coach George Cortez admits while he's disappointed with his team's results, he's trying to focus on the rest of the season.
"Win or lose for coaches, and I think for players also, when you get a day away from the last game you're on to the next game," he said. "You're preparing for the next game. If you're dwelling on the last game, you've never going to recover to do the best you can do."