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CFL Week 18 Report Card: The Argonauts Get Much-Needed Victory In Near Defeat

The improbable late-game theatrics surrounding Toronto Argonauts games at BMO Field in the last two seasons continued on Saturday. And for some reason, it involves some kicking curse.

Perhaps Toronto FC’s overall futility, and woes at BMO, have passed over spiritually to anyone else who attempts to kick a ball in the stadium.

Especially when the game is on the line. See Hamilton’s Michael Domogala missed tying extra point in 2021, or former Lions kicker Jimmy Camacho’s three missed field goals in the final few minutes last October, or David Cote’s shanked game-winner in Toronto’s opener this season, or the latest victim, Sean Whyte. And the curse hasn’t discriminated against only road teams; it’s affected the Argos as well. Boris Bede missed a late game-tying extra point against Winnipeg earlier this year.

In case you missed it because you were watching the Blue Jays fall 0-2 to the Seattle Mariners in the MLB playoffs. The now 9-6 playoff-bound Toronto Argonauts have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving weekend. Because they survived a late scare, found a way to overcome adversity, and got some luck on their side, thanks to Sean Whyte missing a potential game-tying 41-yard field goal. The boink off the cross bar helped the Boatmen best BC 23-20.

Down 20-16 in the fourth quarter, it sure looked like the Double Blue was going to have their most aggravating loss of the 2022 season. The Boatmen dominated BC in the early going. But the team’s inability to score majors in the red zone kept the Leos alive, and they crawled their way back into the game.

A win is a win, and you take it and move on. The Argos desperately needed a victory with Montreal on their tail for the division. And considering that Toronto was coming off a demoralizing 29-2 defeat in Calgary. Where the Boatmen lost more than just a game. Star players and their pride. The Argonauts had to bounce back. And they did.

While the Argonauts wait and see what happens between Montreal and the now, Bob Dyce led Redblacks on Monday afternoon. Ottawa, who is hiring former CFL coaches off the street to help aid Dyce, has an uphill battle at Molson. But no matter what happens there, Toronto has kept themselves a step ahead as they head to Edmonton next week to play the winless at-home Elks.

Before we head into Week 19 and focus on the final three weeks of the regular season. Let’s hand out some grades for the Argos in Week 18.

Toronto Argonauts Week 18 Report Card

Coaching: B

The Boatmen’s coaching staff needed to rebound after last week’s debacle in Calgary. Specifically the offensive side of the ball. Ryan Dinwiddie did a better job this week designing plays. He was much more aggressive, and Toronto moved the ball well, mainly through the air. But his play calls in the red zone area left much to be desired. Toronto’s best play in the red zone was drawing BC offsides.

Dinwiddie continues to struggle with his clock management and the usage of challenges, and he is 2 of 10 on the year in the latter category. The usage of timeouts was also an issue against BC.

Corey Mace’s defense got off to a fantastic start. Especially considering the key players who were missing from the lineup. Toronto had a unique starting group on the field, and players played in different spots than usual. And predictably, as the game wore on, the team struggled with busted coverages and looked out of sync.

Argonauts Offence

Quarterbacks: B

 BETHEL-THOMPSON, Mcleod27/4067.5%3521055
 KELLY, Chad0/10.0%0000

When it mattered most, McLeod Bethel-Thompson came through late. The numbers were undoubtedly there all game. But early on, the execution wasn’t. Like most MBT games, there was a good balance of famine and feast. Pressure in the pocket has certainly affected Bethel-Thompson’s play every week. However, his fumble in the fourth quarter was a really bad play. He held onto the ball too long in a situation where he needed to get rid of the football quicker. The faux pas almost cost Toronto the game. MBT did however, make big throws through the game and came through in the clutch late, even using his legs.

Running Backs: B minus

 OUELLETTE, A.J.12443.7130
 BETHEL-THOMPSON, Mcleod3248.0170
 KELLY, Chad341.321
 GITTENS JR., Kurleigh100.000

Once again, there wasn’t much running room created by the Argos’ offensive line. But that didn’t preclude A.J. Ouellette from attempting to run over everyone in his path. And on some plays, he succeeded.

Receivers: B+

 AMBLES, Markeith8111216315.1250
 GITTENS JR., Kurleigh69844114.0210
 PHILLIPS, Cameron13552755.0550
 NIELD, Tommy1137337.0371
 OUELLETTE, A.J.5621154.2100
 BANKS, Brandon3418-36.0170
 LEAKE, Javon12999.090
 HAYDEL, Jeremiah24703.540

Without DaVaris Daniels, it was mostly a two-man show for Toronto against BC. Markeith Ambles (8-121) stepped up to the forefront. Kurleigh Gittens had a steady game. Cam Phillips provided perhaps the game’s prettiest offensive play, a 55-yard over-the-shoulder catch and run. But he was only targeted three times. Kudos to Tommy Nield, busted coverage, defensive neglect, or not when he’s been called upon this season. No matter how infrequent, Nield has made plays. However, none more significant than the one he had against BC.

Offensive Line: C minus

Toronto’s offensive line hasn’t been perfect all season. So it’s no surprise they played less than mediocre against the Lions. BC “only” had three sacks, but they were consistently pressuring Bethel-Thompson in the pocket. A weekly occurrence. The Argos line created very few run lanes. Another weekly occurrence. And the true measure of line play is down near the goal line. Every yard is a struggle for the Argos. You would think opposing defenses are using NFL scrimmage rules against Toronto, with the level of penetration involved in those situations.

Argonauts Defence

Defensive Line: B

The best performance by JaGared Davis since two weeks ago, when he had two sacks against Ottawa. Davis stepped up with six tackles and two sacks against BC. Robbie Smith had another solid effort. Toronto is in good hands with him, and he is one of their most efficient players up front.

The Argos moved Shawn Oakman and DeWayne Hendrix around the formation. And there were some missed assignments, particularly against the run. Getting to Vernon Adams is the biggest key. He can sling it downfield when he has time to throw with the best of them. When there was pressure early in the game. VA struggled. Less pressure later on, and Adams made plays.

 DAVIS, Ja’Gared602000
 SMITH, Robbie401000
 EDWARDS, Chris500000
 PRIESTER, Robert300001
 METCHIE, Royce300000
 RICHARDSON, Shaquille200000
 MUAMBA, Henoc200000
 MCFADDEN, Tarvarus210000
 PETERS, Jamal200000
 BARLOW, Brandon100000
 JONES, Jonathan110000
 FAYAD, Ali100000
 ALLEN, Dejon100000
 SANKOH, Tigie100000
 BEDE, Boris010000
 HOYTE, Trevor020000
 MARION, Benoit010010
 HAGGERTY, John010000
 ADEBOBOYE, Daniel010000

Linebackers: C

What did you expect? Toronto was without Wynton McManis and moved Chris Edwards out of the box. So as a result, players like Jonathan Jones, and Shaq Richardson, were out of position and made minimal impact.

Henoc Muamba was playing traffic cop, trying to help his new backer teammates out. It was one of his quieter games. On non-QB sneaks, the Leos rushed for nine yards per carry.

Secondary: B minus

The TSN play-by-play announcers made it appear as if this was Robert Priester’s first-ever CFL game. As if his performance came out of nowhere. But people who have followed the team are fully aware of the quality of Priester’s play as a starter this season. When Chris Edwards was suspended, he did a tremendous job filling in as a SAM backer. And he’s also performed at a high level as a boundary halfback. Priester was one of the stars of Saturday’s game.

Joshua Bell, specifically William Fields, deserves a lot of credit for the play of Priester and the now-injured Maurice Carnell. Both young players have been outstanding.

Three specific plays by the secondary bring this overall grade down. The Alexander Hollins deep ball for a TD was terrible. But the one that didn’t count was worse. A 36-yard catch and run by Hollins, where multiple Argos impersonated Blue Jays hitters by whiffing at thin air. Luckily for Toronto, the gain was called back due to a holding penalty.

Some of the tackling in this game was very poor, and I think players playing out of position played a part in that. But the Keon Hatcher 31-yard touchdown was, by far, the defense’s worst play of the game. Argo’s tacklers were striking out at the plate, much like the Blue Jays against the Mariners.

Special Teams: C

Not a great day for punter John Haggerty, who had a decent average overall. But his lack of hang time on punts was troublesome for the coverage units. The Argos nearly gave up a punt return for a touchdown by Terry Williams.

Boris Bede had a quiet day at the office. His stat line, 3 of 3, is fine. But he was called upon to convert very short-field goals.

If Mickey Donovan’s special teams units can figure out how to block for returns. Javon Leake might actually score this season. Leake showed a lot of great open-field ability against BC. He did however have a poor sequence where he fielded a punt poorly and caused the Argos to be pinned deep near the shadow of their end zone. The mistake nearly the cost the Argos with a safety.

Argonauts Overall Team Grade: C+

On the one hand, you want to give the Boatmen a break. They have several new starters in the lineup from a week ago, and key players were missing in action on both sides of the football. And yet the team found a way to bounce back from adversity and win.

On the other hand, Toronto, from week to week, has shown a propensity for delivering incomplete performances. They have won quite a few games this season, where they have danced with danger when it wasn’t necessary.

You’d like to believe that the Argos can be much better. But by now, after 15 games, to expect anything different than what they have shown may be asking for them to go against brand. Championship teams play at their best when the games count the most. We have reached that stage of this season now.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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