Jamal Peters, Argonauts have Hamilton’s number (& 12 other thoughts on Toronto’s Labour Day win)

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Playing in Hamilton on Labour Day was once a dreaded affair for the Argonauts, but they’ve not only won two such contests in a row, they’ve defeated the Tiger-Cats in nine of their last 10 regular season matchups.

Here are my thoughts on Toronto’s 41-28 victory.

Bad Chad is still good

Chad Kelly completed over 65 percent of his passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 27 yards on the ground and his league-leading seventh rushing touchdown. This is what a poor outing looks like for one of the best players in the CFL.

His offence still scored 41 points despite being shut out in the second quarter, though he appeared frustrated at times and he tried to force balls into impossible windows. The Tiger-Cats played a lot of man coverage early on, which hasn’t generally been successful against the Argos this season, but it seemed to prevent Kelly from getting into a rhythm.

Take what they give you

Kelly came into this game with the most yards per passing attempt in CFL history (11.3), but this may have been one of those games in which check-downs were in order.

Hamilton was expecting Kelly to look long and did a nice job taking those throws away. The Tiger-Cats’ cornerbacks peeled off short responsibilities to help out on corner routes, which led to one of Kelly’s interceptions.

Kelly’s other pick was the result of Hamilton’s linebackers fanning out quickly. He tried to hit Kurleigh Gittens Jr. on a dig route, but in lofting it over the linebackers, he gave safety Stavros Katsantonis time to come downhill in front of the Toronto receiver for the interception.

Pocket protectors

Kelly’s success this season is thanks in part to the protection provided by his offensive line. They’ve allowed a league-best 10 sacks and kept Kelly clean once again in this game.

In fact, Kelly hasn’t been sacked since the Touchdown Atlantic game back in July. The hits he took on Monday were self-imposed. On two occasions he held onto the ball for an extra beat to allow his receiver to get open, and he initiated contact on two of his rushing attempts.

Return of the Toronto Sack Exchange

The Argonauts are second in the league in sacks behind only the Calgary Stampeders, but they gained some ground this week with five more quarterback takedowns. Adarius Pickett, Shawn Oakman, Brandon Barlow, Deionte Knight, and Folarin Orimolade each registered a sack as rookie quarterback Taylor Powell was under siege all afternoon.

Scheme theme

Head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Dinwiddie seems to love the progression element of play-calling. He will often base his attack on plays that have a similar look to those he’s run previously, but with a slight tweak.

In this game, much of his offence centred around jet motion from Kurleigh Gittens Jr. He ran a perfectly-timed jet sweep early in the first quarter, then Dinwiddie called several offensive plays with that same action later in the game.

DaVaris Daniels’ touchdown over the middle came on one such play when Katsantonis fired downhill to chase Gittens. There was also an outside pitch to A.J. Ouellette and a quick slant, both taking advantage of linebackers who were caught looking at the jet sweep. Late in the fourth quarter, Dinwiddie went back to Gittens on the jet to convert a crucial first down and put the game away.

Tricks of the trade

After not running much in the way of trick plays over his first two-and-a-half seasons in Toronto, Ryan Dinwiddie has dialed one up in back-to-back weeks.

Last week, it was a flea-flicker touchdown pass to DaVaris Daniels over the middle, and this week it was a running back pass from A.J. Ouellette to Dejon Brissett up the sideline for a score. The backfield action mirrored an outside running play Toronto has run several times this season with Cam Phillips cracking the end and the receivers to that side stalk blocking.

This time, however, Brissett took off downfield after selling the block and Ouellette launched it to him in the end zone. This play came late in the game when the result wasn’t really in question, which I think will cause some people to questions why Dinwiddie didn’t save it for another game.

I believe the answer lies in the fact that the purpose of both trick plays was to back the secondary off in run support. The flea-flicker exposed aggressive safety play from Calgary’s Branden Dozier, and the running back pass caught Hamilton halfback Javien Elliott looking in the backfield. These two plays, as well as Kurleigh Gittens Jr.’s jet sweep should open up space for Ouellette moving forward.


Not many people on the planet look more like Thor than A.J. Ouellette, so it’s probably fitting that he arrived at Tim Horton’s Field waving around a replica (I’m assume) of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.

The fact that he brought the hammer to “The Hammer” makes it that much more fun. Mjolnir made an appearance during the celebration that ensued following Ouellette’s touchdown pass as he struck the ground with the hammer and his teammates fell down, as Thor’s enemies are prone to doing when he uses Mjolnir.

As a coach, I’m not a fan of excessive celebrations (and yes, the use of a prop did draw a penalty) but with the score out of reach, in Hamilton on Labour Day, I probably would have let the boys enjoy this one instead of screaming at them on the sideline.

Peters picks Powell

Jamal Peters sure loves playing against the Ticats. Last year, he picked off Hamilton quarterbacks five times in a two-game span. This year, he has two interceptions in his two games against the Tiger-Cats (he didn’t play in Toronto’s opener against Hamilton).

As they often are with Peters, this interception was an impressive display of anticipation and coordination. Peters was playing down low in the flats but took off when he saw Taylor Powell look downfield to his side. He then got just enough depth to tip Powell’s pass to himself for the pick.

Musical chairs

The Toronto secondary experienced personnel turmoil once again this week as defensive backs continued to drop like flies. DaShaun Amos, Josh Hagerty, and Jonathan Edouard all went down last week, though Edouard was able to return. This week, Jamal Peters came out for an extended period, Tarvarus McFadden missed a number of plays due to cramping, and Roberson Daniel had to come out on multiple occasions.

For the second week in a row, defensive coordinator Corey Mace was forced to play Adarius Pickett at safety and use Jordan Williams as a defensive back for a few plays. Mason Pierce, from the Colorado School of Mines, dressed for the first time as a pro and was forced into the game almost immediately. The plan had been to play Pierce in seven-defensive back looks, but just about every exotic plan for the secondary went out the window when the injuries started adding up.

McFadden got the start at halfback this week for Amos, and though he’s a gifted corner, he appeared to struggle a bit in space. It couldn’t have helped that Mace continued to move him and Pierce all over the field, though that also prevented Hamilton from being able to pick on either of them easily.

A few flags fly

One of the major focusses this week for the Argonauts was reducing the number of penalties they committed, which has been a problem all season. The team had only three midway through the third quarter, then added six more late with the game out of reach.

The last three penalties were foolish and unnecessary but the message was clearly heard as reflected in the early stages of the game. I don’t expect Dinwiddie to be happy, per se, but the team probably won’t be running gassers all week, either.

The Leake effect

Javon Leake was one unusually fast punter away from scoring his CFL record-tying fifth punt return touchdown of the season, even though Hamilton was doing everything they could to keep the ball away from him.

The Tiger-Cats took no yards penalties on their first three punts, and even pooch-kicked to him with the wind at their backs in the third quarter. It’s safe to say Leake is in the heads of his opponents, their punters, and their coverage teams.

Fly over

As is often the case on Labour Day in Hamilton, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum sent two impressive WWII planes over the stadium following the national anthem. Earlier this season, a Chinook helicopter made a slow pass just above press box height, but the sight of the B-25 Mitchell and Lancaster bomber flying slowly over the stadium was truly something.

Next up

The Toronto Argonauts (9-1) get set to host the Montreal Alouettes (6-5) at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday at 1:00pm ET.

This is the first of back-to-back meetings against Montreal with Toronto leading the season series 1-0 thanks to a 35-27 win in Montreal in mid-July. Fans who donate non-perishable food items will have an opportunity to take their photo with the Grey Cup as a part of Purolator’s Tackle Hunger program.

Ben Grant is the radio colour analyst for the Toronto Argonauts. He has been coaching high school and semi-pro football for 20 years.