Week 19 of the CFL season saw the Argos take the field Saturday night against the Elks with nothing at stake. That’s if you don’t count snapping the football club’s six-game losing streak in Edmonton. Or Toronto winning ten games in a regular season for the first time since 2015.
Because 8-8 Montreal defeated Ottawa 34-30 on Friday night, the possibility of clinching the East division against the Elks no longer existed for Toronto. The now 10-6 Argos will have to wait till next Saturday afternoon in Montreal for their first crack at winning the East crown.
On Saturday night in Edmonton, Toronto looked like a team going through the motions. The team’s sense of urgency a week ago against BC was gone. The better part of the first half, the Elks looked like the more motivated team. Edmonton played their tails off, seeking an elusive victory at home.
Trailing 16-6 at the half, with a much more important game on the horizon next week. The hook for crucial players didn’t seem too far away from happening in the second half.
The Boatmen could’ve waved their white flag and lived to fight for a more important day. But instead, the Double Blue kept fighting, worked their way back, and captured their first lead of the game, 28-23, with 27 seconds left. And then had to hang on in the closing seconds to win.
Saturday was a preliminary detour before the main event coming next weekend in Montreal. But before we look forward, let’s see how all aspects of the Argos fared against Edmonton in Week 19.
Argos Week 19 Report Card
Argos’ defensive coordinator Corey Mace and his staff deserve a ton of credit for making necessary adjustments against Edmonton that went against the type of defensive style they are accustomed to playing.
Edmonton forced Toronto to switch up its typical schemes. To slow down the Elks’ rushing attack, which shredded the Argos in the first half. Mace started sending more rushers into running lanes to stop Kevin Brown before he could get started. The Argos, who rarely blitz, started sending extra rushers at Taylor Cornelius. Pressure creates diamonds. Three separate blitz calls off the edge were game-changing plays. Two of them forced interceptions in scoring territory, with Edmonton leading.
The switch-up in strategy paid dividends. Toronto held Edmonton to only one scoring drive in the second half. To their credit, the Elks and Taylor Cornelius still made some plays in the final two quarters. But it was a far cry from how Edmonton rushed for over 100 yards and controlled the clock for an astounding 20 minutes in the first half.
Ryan Dinwiddie had another poor challenge this week, as he desperately tried to buy an offensive pass interference early in the game. He is now 2 of 11 on the year in that category.
The offensive game plan called for more running this week against an Edmonton defence that struggles significantly in that area. Toronto didn’t lean on it enough. But when it mattered, the run calls paid off. Dinwiddie’s best play call was his last one. A beautifully designed inside run that sprung AJ’s go-ahead major. The Argos’ offence struggled to get going early. A typical weekly theme and settled for way too many field goals. Other than that, the second-half adjustments worked.
A tale of two McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s on Saturday night. Isn’t that always the case? The 5/8 for 34 yards passer in the first half who failed to extend drives with mistimed throws. And the MBT who threw for 239 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson is a B quarterback because he plays like a C and an A quarterback in every game. So this grade suits him.
Running Back: A
You wouldn’t know it because of Toronto’s poor overall numbers as a running team. Last in the CFL. But A.J. Ouellette continues to play at a high level when called upon. As a runner, receiver, and pass blocker.
Nine carries for 91 yards against Edmonton for AJ. Including a game-winning 25-yard td run. Of which, you can argue that he shouldn’t have scored. Nevertheless, this game called for a significant performance by Ouellette, and he delivered it. Declan Cross also had an excellent game paving the way for some of AJ’s best runs.
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Despite their quarterback having ample time to throw, the Argos’ receivers struggled to get open for large portions of the game. There were some missteps along the way as well. But late in the game, Toronto’s receivers came through with vital catches. DaVaris Daniels and Cam Phillips made some big plays late that helped lead the team to victory.
Offensive Line: A-minus
It’s been a long time since the Argos’ offensive line has been worthy of a passing grade. This was the week. The run blocking was better than it has been in ages. Perhaps that had something to do with the opponent. However, McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s and the offense’s struggles had very little to do with pass protection. MBT had a lot of time to throw in the pocket.
The Argos only allowed one sack to former teammate Treston Decoud. Shane Richards, who started for RT Dejon Allen, had a very good game. With the exception of a holding penalty.
Ryan Hunter, who has been seeing meaningful snaps every week, also played well. He’s starting to pick up the nuances of the Canadian game.
Defensive Line: C plus
It wasn’t a great game for the Argos’ defensive front. They get pushed around early and struggled to get penetration. And the edge rushers struggled to contain or take down Taylor Cornelius in the pocket. Edmonton rushed for 179 yards overall. At 7.2 yards per rush. Things got better after adjustments, but Toronto’s defensive line was running out of gas late. Shawn Oakman did have a splash play early on with his fifth sack of the season.
The issues against the run by Toronto’s defensive front extended to the linebacking corps. There were too many missed tackles early in the game.
The overall pass coverage by this unit was great. Henoc Muamba was his typical active self, registering eight tackles, including a big hit on Cornelius, which resulted in a Tre Ford cameo that benefitted the Double Blue greatly.
Shaq Richardson at the SAM spot has been a mixed bag. To no one’s surprise, his coverage has been great. But his play against the run has not been. However, Shaq made two game-changing plays on Saturday night. The first came on a blitz in the fourth quarter, which led to a Dashaun Amos interception near the end zone. The second saved the game. On yet another blitz, Richardson tipped Tre Ford’s pass, which was plucked out of the air by Royce Metchie.
Jonathan Jones made one defensive play. But he made it count, registering a huge sack on Taylor Cornelius late in the game. The well-executed blitz kept the Argos’ hopes alive.
Secondary: B plus
All things considered, Toronto’s secondary held up very well. Especially in a game where the defensive backs had to cover a lot of ground for a lot of time due to Taylor Cornelius escaping the pocket and extending plays. The loss of Robert Priester early on didn’t help matters, but Toronto’s secondary, with the exception of Derel Walker’s 44-yard catch late, avoided giving up pass plays down the field. Which typically happens on scramble plays that last more than ten seconds.
The Argos allowed only one reception over 17 yards all game. Royce Metchie and Dashaun Amos both finished with an interception a piece. Metchie’s pick off Tre Ford was the biggest play of the game. Jamal Peters also had a near interception. As well as Joshua Hagerty. Chris Edwards continues to play well at his new adopted spot at cornerback.
Special Teams: C+
The overall grade is dragged down by two awful plays that probably should’ve cost Toronto the game. Something tells me that Jeremiah Haydel is not getting a championship belt from Mickey Donovan after his performance in Alberta.
The poor Haydel had two unfortunate mistakes on returns. One was an ill-conceived throwback play on a kick return, where Haydel threw the ball forward, leading to a turnover and easy points for Edmonton. Then on another return, Haydel bumped into his own teammate, fumbling the ball away. At that moment, with the Elks up eight in the fourth quarter with six minutes left. The game probably should’ve been lost. But a Royce Metchie interception off Tre Ford saved the day. And maybe Haydel’s job. Maybe.
Boris Bede was back to his 2021 form. As Toronto’s only form of offense, nailing all five of his field goals. Including a 5-yard kick. Bede also had a tremendous kickoff late in the game. After Ouellette’s td score, Cam Phillips was flagged for a misconduct penalty. Toronto had to kick the ball from their own ten. Bede kicked it 71 yards, and Trevor Hoyte and the coverage unit did a great job limiting the return to Edmonton’s side of the field. Punter John Haggerty had a solid game, booting four punts for a 53-yard average.
Argos Overall Grade: B+
Grading on a curve. For all intents and purposes, Toronto could have folded up shop and called it a night early. It felt like an exhibition game for the Argos in the early stages. But the Boatmen’s competitive juices got going, and they played hard to win the game. It was a promising sign. The team showed a lot of character. I know it sounds crazy because the Elks haven’t won at home since 2019. But winning in Edmonton, especially considering the circumstances of Saturday, wasn’t an easy thing for Toronto to pull off.
The real measure of the Argos’ entire season will be determined by how they play against Montreal next Saturday. There is a hell of a lot more at stake against the Alouettes than there was against Edmonton.
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