The Argos Touchdown Atlantic victory over the Riders had a transformative feel for their 2022 season. While bizarre in nature, Sunday’s Toronto victory over Saskatchewan in the rematch was a shining moment for the Argonauts’ difference-making players like Andrew Harris and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The lights literally went out during the game in Regina, but Toronto’s biggest stars shined when things got dark.
Argos Overcome Themselves
The Boatmen dominated the line of scrimmage against a depleted Roughriders team, outgaining them by over 300 yards. But their self-inflicted miscues nearly cost them a game they should’ve won more easily.
Sunday’s game was a classic example of the importance of when you play someone versus who you play. In some respects, Toronto was fortunate to play the Riders at less than their best on the road. But what stood out the most was the team’s leaders standing up and bringing their best when the game was on the line.
Toronto overcame their own worst enemy, themselves, to win a game they almost singlehandedly lost.
There are so many positive and negative ways to look at Toronto’s late rallying 31-20 victory over Saskatchewan.
Let’s grade out all aspects of the team and look at what worked and didn’t work on Sunday.
Argos Week 7 Report Card
Coaching Grade: C
On the one hand, Argos’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie was at his absolute best as a play-caller in terms of play design. A week after Saskatchewan completely bogged down Andrew Harris and Toronto’s ground game. Dinwiddie made excellent adjustments in Round 2 against Saskatchewan’s defense. Despite several in-game injuries to his offensive line. Toronto’s scheme on offense clicked, exploiting gaps in the Riders’ defense on the ground and through the air.
It was arguably one of Ryan Dinwiddie’s best-called games for Double Blue. However, there were several in-game decisions that left a lot o be desired. From questionable challenges to play calls in short yardage situations, or on the team’s go-ahead field goal, where the Argos intentionally took a sack, to the team’s ill-fated 61-yard field goal attempt before the half, that backfired greatly.
Ryan Dinwiddie is a good football coach, a tremendous communicator, and an excellent play caller; he is very detail-oriented and demanding. But he needs a better support system for challenges and must improve his in-game management. The short yardage and red zone issues continue to be a carry-over problem from 2021, and they showed up again in Regina. I can only imagine how good Toronto’s offense can be if these areas ever get corrected. Will they?
The unit that kept Toronto from imploding entirely on Sunday night was their defense. Corey Mace has hit his stride as a first-time play caller. If he keeps this up, it won’t be long before he’s a head coach. Even though Saskatchewan was severely hamstrung in Week 7, with a novice QB playing in Jake Dolegala and a depleted receiving corps. Mace’s unit held the Riders to only 174 total yards. If Toronto’s offense and special teams didn’t shoot themselves in the foot. This game would’ve been an absolute blowout.
Mickey Donovan’s special teams have been up and down all season, and Sunday provided a bit of both. Especially as it pertains to five killer penalties from this unit. But there was a bit of redemption late when the Argos sealed their victory on Mario Alford’s fumbled kick return.
Quarterback Grade: A-
If not for his backfield mate, Andrew Harris. You could strongly argue that McLeod Bethel-Thompson was the team’s most impressive player on Sunday. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding him. MBT lost his starting LT before the game. And then had to operate in the pocket with both of his tackles going down during the contest.
Bethel-Thompson stood tall and led the team back late. McLeod threw for 336 yards and two scores. Completing nearly 80 percent of his passes in the process. A terrific performance overall, only marred by a poor interception thrown early in the game.
MBT seems to finally have an excellent command of Ryan Dinwiddie’s offense, and that bodes well for the Argos’ prospects moving forward.
Running Backs Grade: A+
There are not enough superlatives to explain how impressive Andrew Harris has been for the Argonauts. His leadership has already shown up on the sidelines and on the field. But on Sunday, everything that has made Harris great his entire career was on full display against the Riders. Not only did he outgain Saskatchewan by himself 188-174. But a determined Harris took it over late when the game was on the line. He wasn’t going to let the team lose. Words can’t do his performance justice.
Harris was battling for yards, on 33 touches, with a makeshift offensive line in front of him. I don’t know at 35 years of age how long he can keep this up over the long haul, but somehow, 33 touches on 70 Argos offensive plays didn’t seem like enough during Sunday’s game. Argos don’t win without Andrew Harris leading the way.
Harris did have a fumble during the game on third and goal. But it was an effort play; he was mobbed in the backfield, was stuffed but tried to reach out and score in desperation. By the end of the game, when desperate times called for desperate measures, it was Harris who got the call and answered it emphatically.
Receivers Grade: A
Toronto’s deep receiving corps will take turns having a different standout every week. This week it was Kurleigh Gittens Jr. The Canadian superstar was targeted eight times and reeled in all of them for 152 yards and a touchdown. The strength of Toronto’s receiving group is its overall depth. But it’s increasingly clear who should be the top weekly target.
Brandon Banks was absent in the passing game in a shift from previous weeks. Perhaps a sign that the pecking order in the passing game has changed.
DaVaris Daniels and Markeith Ambles had solid outings, combining for 13 catches and 129 yards. Daniels, unfortunately, was injured when he was struck in the head. The officials dropped the ball, not flagging the Riders for the illegal contact.
Cam Phillips was relatively quiet until Toronto’s game-tying 4th quarter drive when he snagged a pretty five-yard major. The play between MBT and Phillips was well designed and executed by both parties. Phillips has earned his quarterback’s trust, and their chemistry is growing.
Offensive Line Grade: B-
A mixed performance overall, but Toronto’s offensive line, partially struggled because of in-game injuries. The team had to reshuffle the deck several times.
The Argos, who went without their starting tackles for large portions of the game, allowed three sacks (although one was a late concession to kill clock) and came up short in crucial short-yardage situations at the goal line and near midfield late.
Toronto’s most significant weak point on their offensive line is Justin Lawrence’s inability to snap the football to his quarterback. His blocking at the point of attack has been fine, but his errant snaps are costing his team every game. It’s an ongoing issue that nearly cost the Argos the game late.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson was credited with two fumbles, but neither was his fault. Shane Richards had some rough moments in pass protection; Charleston Hughes took him to school on a play where the CFL vet nearly killed Thompson and forced a fumble.
On a positive note, Dejon Allen deserves credit for battling through injuries and finishing the game when Toronto ran out of options. Philip Blake also did an admirable job as an emergency left tackle before he got injured as well. And rookie Gregor MacKellar held his own after being thrust into duty.
Defensive Line Grade: A
The sack total wasn’t there for Toronto like it was in TD Atlantic (5). Only one this week, a clutch play late in the game by JaGared Davis that enabled the Argos’ late rally.
Toronto’s defensive front was stellar at the point of attack, and they completely shut down the Riders rushing attack, holding Jamal Morrow and Frankie Hickson to just over two yards per rush.
Linebacker Grade: A
Business as usual for the Boatmen’s linebacking corps. Wynton McManis, Chris Edwards, and Henoc Muamba are playing at the top of their game. They didn’t allow runners or receivers to breathe freely. What’s really standing out from this group is how sound they are from an assignment standpoint—credit to the players and linebackers coach Kevin Eiben.
Secondary Grade: A
A team effort by Toronto in not allowing Jake Dolegala any easy options in the passing game. Dolegala only completed 46 percent of his passes. In his defense, Dolegala was working with a limited cast and did have a couple of nice throws, including a pretty hookup in the end zone with Tevin Jones. But the CFL novice struggled to read coverages and probably should’ve been picked off more than once.
The Argos had one breakdown in coverage, a 51-yard completion to Samuel Emilus. But Saskatchewan’s receiving corps could not get open.
An impressive stat was Toronto holding one of the CFL’s best young receivers, Kian Schaffer-Baker to zero catches on eight targets.
Jamal Peters and Tarvarus McFadden had fantastic games in coverage. Peters nearly had two interceptions, one on what should have been a pick-six. Rookie Eric Sutton played really well in his first ever CFL start at safety. Sutton was replacing Royce Metchie, who was away from the team dealing with personal issues concerning his brother Houston Texans WR John Metchie.
Special Teams Grade: B-
Anytime a special teams unit has five penalties for 62 yards and allows a 112-yard return on a missed field goal. It’s hard to overcome that. But the special teams did redeem themselves late.
The FG return for a TD by Alford shouldn’t catch a special team’s unit by surprise. You must be prepared for that possibility when attempting a 61-yard field goal. Toronto had some poor tackling during the return. But that play aside, overall, the Argos did an excellent job in return coverage throughout the game. And redemption for the Boatmen came from forcing a late Mario Alford fumble in a scoop and score scenario that sealed the victory.
Ill-fated 61-yard FG attempt aside, Boris Bede had a good game, connecting on three field goals and netting a rouge on a 92-yard kickoff. The strength shown on Bede’s single in that direction is probably why a 61-yard kick was attempted.
John Hagerty had a solid game punting the football. 45-yard average with a long of 63.
Brandon Banks had Toronto’s best return of the game of 35 yards. And it came at an opportune time late with the score tied at 21.
Toronto Argonauts Overall Team Grade: B+
Throughout a long season, each individual game has its own different personality. The measure of a good team is being able to win in all types of ways. We have seen that in the CFL with Winnipeg for the last three seasons. No one wins ugly games more beautifully than Mike O’Shea’s Bombers.
The 2022 Toronto Argonauts are a very talented football team with some glaring warts. But the team’s leadership is what stands out the most. The quarterback is playing and leading at a high level. And the team’s new leader Andrew Harris is changing the Argonauts’ culture.
Defensively, the Argos will be tested in the coming weeks against much healthier offenses than the one they just faced. But there are very few units in the league playing as well as they have the last few games.
If the East-leading 3-2 Toronto Argonauts can clean up some of its deficiencies, they have a chance, when the smoke clears, to go back to Saskatchewan and compete for a Grey Cup on November 20th.
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