The CFL schedule-maker placed it a day early, but if there was ever football worthy of marking Halloween, it happened in Toronto on Saturday.
On a dark, cloudy, and misty night, a team dressed in orange and black almost turned the Argos’ treat of clinching a playoff spot into a trick, forcing the team to survive an overtime scare to hang on to victory.
B.C. Lions kicker Jimmy Camacho handed out candy to the Argos by missing one game-winning field goal and having another blocked, but the biggest treat of the night came from the Saskatchewan Roughriders when they defeated the Montreal Alouettes. That gave the Argos sole possession of first place in the East Division and control of their own destiny in the race to host the East Final.
Offence: The overall numbers did not look great, but head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson did a masterful job of scheming up double moves against an aggressive B.C. Lions secondary.
The first of said schemes saw DaVaris Daniels score his fourth touchdown of the season on a stick nod, which entails a fake out route turned vertical go from the slot. In the red zone, defensive backs are often eager to bite on the first move and Lions cover man Austin Joyner did just that, leaving Daniels open in the end zone.
The rest of the night wasn’t as successful for double moves, but it wasn’t due to a failure of scheme or lack of separation. Early in the game, Toronto ran a lot of slants. When the Lions secondary thought they had it covered, the Argo coaches called double moves and had their receivers wide open.
On four occasions, massive plays were there but were not successful for a variety of reasons. These are plays that need to be made in professional football and McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be the first to tell you that missing four in one game shouldn’t happen.
Defence: After a rough outing against Montreal last week, it looks like the defence got its mojo back against the Lions. Here the numbers look more promising than the offence and 21 of the Lions points resulted from their ability to convert on what were arguably lucky plays.
Luck came in threes for the Lions offence, as there were three crucial plays on which the Argos had seemingly crossed their T’s and dotted their I’s, but still came away empty.
The first of these plays was the 53-yard catch by Shaq Johnson on a deep ball from Michael Reilly that set up a movie-finish touchdown from Bryan Burnham. The ball looked like it would be intercepted easily and yet somehow bounced and bobbled into the hands of Johnson — who was lying on his back — much to the surprise of everyone.
The second lucky strike was in the second quarter when Toronto gave up 30 yards in penalty yardage on consecutive second downs. The penalties extended the drive and resulted in a touchdown by Dominique Rhymes.
Lastly, there was the chance deflection by Bo Lokombo, which landed in the hands of Obum Gwacham and was returned for a touchdown to give the Lions a brief 21-20 lead.
Without that fortunate series of events, this game may have gotten out of hand quickly.
Offence: The coaching misstep in the final minute of game which resulted in the field goal attempt by the B.C. Lions was a potential narrative-changer. Luckily, the end of the game came with a favourable result for the Argos and Dinwiddie made amends with the team after the game by admitting fault for the confusion.
However, the improper time management could have seen the Argos miss the opportunity to clinch both a playoff spot, as well as home-field advantage. The beauty of making that mistake in a regular season win means that this will likely never happen again, with heightened awareness throughout the remainder of the regular season and post-season.
Another area of opportunity for the boys in blue came with another apology, this one from their newly minted QB1. Bethel-Thompson took ownership for his missed connections on deep passes throughout the game and vowed to work on correcting this in the coming week. Pair that with the return of some offensive threats to the receiving group and they are bound to see a re-energized offence next week.
Defence: There was not a lot of bad news for Chris Jones’ defensive unit. The one thing the coaches need to focus on going forward is discipline. Penalties changed the tide of the game and allowed for the extension of the Lions’ drives. Going into post-season play, penalties will be harder to make up for.
Next week, the first-place Argos will take on the Ottawa Redblacks one the road. This is a great time for Toronto to work on their record away from BMO Field, with only two wins coming on the road this season.
Ironically winning on the road next week will go a long way towards ensuring the team doesn’t play on the road during the playoffs. Another win next week will create further separation between the Argos, Montreal, and Hamilton. With two games left, this game is pivotal in deciding who ends up as the top seed in the East.
Next week will also see the possible return of several key players, including Canadians Cameron Judge, who was the lone scratch in Week 13, and Juwan Brescacin.
- “Playoffs?! You talkin’ about playoffs?” In the case of the Toronto Argonauts, the playoffs have been clinched for the first time since the 2017 season. The very same season Ricky Ray and company led the team to the 17th Grey Cup win in franchise history.
- Boris Bede was the player of the game going 5-for-5 on field goals with two 50 yarders.
- Future Hall of Fame linebacker Henoc Muamba reached the 500-tackle milestone.
- Rookie defensive tackle Sam Acheampong had a career day with four defensive tackles and one sack.
- Rookie defensive back Tigie Sankoh, Toronto’s Global player from the UK, notched three special teams tackles, the best performance of his young career.