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Toronto Argonauts Thanksgiving Day Report Card: The Boatmen Come Up Big

The Toronto Argonauts are coming off their best regular-season victory in ages. The Argos Thanksgiving Day theatrics in Hamilton could be the catalyst that propels the team as a genuine championship contender this year.

In five days. The Boatmen found a way to win against Ottawa with all three phases and on Monday at Tim Horton’s Field. With their backs against the wall, Toronto showed a lot of character, rising to the challenge and making clutch plays on offence, defence, and special teams down the stretch to beat Hamilton 24-23.

On two separate occasions against the Tiger-Cats. It looked like the Boatmen’s ship was sunk.

Down 20-8 with 12:33 left in the game, after Jeremiah Masoli connected with Jaelon Acklin for a 45-yard score. And then, a diving interception by Ti-Cats Sam backer Kameron Kelly with 9:52 left in the game appeared to be the final nail in Toronto’s coffin.

But thanks to some great coaching decisions and execution by the team. Toronto got up off the mat twice and fought back, rising to the occasion in the most significant moment of their season.

The franchise has handled adversity well this season. Toronto’s triumph over Hamilton puts them at 6-3 with five games left to play in the regular season. They have a two-game lead in the East. The next test for Toronto will be how they deal with their new status and success. The bar has been raised for Double Blue.

Before the focus shifts to their next game in Week 12 at Montreal, let’s look back at all the different elements of Monday’s victory and the catalysts behind what was a thrilling conclusion against Hamilton.

Toronto Argonauts Thanksgiving Day Report Card

Coaching Staff

For the second week in a row. It was adjustments at halftime that won the day for Toronto. Especially on offence. But it was more than that. Rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie did a masterful job handling the clock and with game management.

Dinwiddie wisely used his timeouts in several vital sequences on Thanksgiving. Once before the half and the other at the end of the game when Hamilton was looking to go ahead. On Hamilton’s final go-ahead scoring drive, Dinwiddie ensured his team a shot to win on their last offensive series by using his timeouts.

At the end of the second quarter and regulation, the time management netted the Argos two critical field goals that ultimately won the game.

Dinwiddie’s challenge on McLeod Bethel Thompson’s potential game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter was also a lifesaver. Challenging a possible roughing the passer call on the play went in the Boatmen’s favor and paved the way for the team’s comeback victory.

Mark Washington’s defence has given Dinwiddie, and his offensive staff fits in their first three games against each other. But on Monday, in the second half, Dinwiddie’s play-calling won the day. The Argos scored 19 of their 24 points in that 4th quarter. Dinwiddie countered Hamilton’s aggressive blitzes by finding openings in the gaps left underneath. The play designs led to some nifty open space running by the Argos receivers.

For the second game in a row, Chris Jones’s Toronto defense once again held up in the red zone with their bend but don’t break style. Holding Hamilton to only 12 points in the first half was a miracle. The defense gave up plenty of yards and big plays, but when it counted most. Jones called the right plays to keep the Ti-Cats out of the end zone.

Mark Nelson’s special teams did a fine job overall. More on that later.

The one knock against the coaching staff besides the slow start on offence was the alarming amount of discipline issues again. The team committed 11 penalties in total—a problem spot for the Boatmen this year, particularly on the road.

Overall, it wasn’t an easy week for Double Blue’s coaching staff. They had to prepare their team to play two games in a five-day span. There was plenty of mental and physical fatigue attached to a process that saw them come out the other side with two wins.

Overall Grade: A minus

Toronto Argonauts Offence

Quarterback

“We have to start making some plays for him.”

Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie comments to TSN at halftime about McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s first half performance.

Things didn’t start well for McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the first half. He started the first two quarters, 7/15 for 84 yards. The game even got to a point where it felt like there was a chance that MBT could be pulled for Nick Arbuckle.

But when the smoke cleared, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is the reason why Toronto won this football game. The veteran signal-caller got red hot in the second half, throwing for 304 yards and two touchdowns. McBeth made several big-time throws in tight windows with the game on the line. None more significant than his do-or-die needle thread to Dejon Brissett on third and six at the end of regulation. The clutch pass would set up Bede’s game-winning kick. Thompson made several big throws with pressure right in his face.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson would finish the game with 400 total yards (388 passing & 12 yards rushing). Bethel-Thompson has always been treated as a hold the forte type player his entire CFL career. On Monday, he showed why he has earned the right to be the man on the pivot for Toronto the rest of the season.

Grade: A+

Running Backs

The Argos missed John White against Hamilton. Especially when it comes to blitz pickups. Hamilton wisely and at times successfully tested the Argos’ last line of protection on Monday.

As for the running game, Toronto only rushed the ball 11 times for 33 yards against Hamilton. Twelve of those yards came on a Bethel-Thompson first down scamper. DJ Foster struggled to get loose with seven yards on seven carries. He did, however, make some nice plays in the passing game with four receptions for 41 yards. Foster had a critical 17-yard pickup late in the game.

Declan Cross saw quite a bit of action as a pass blocker and even contributed with one catch for 11 yards on the receiving end. AJ Ouellette ran the ball three times for 14 yards. Patrick LaVoie had a nice catch and run for a first down early in the game that was called back due to a penalty but unfortunately, he went down with a hamstring injury.

It wasn’t a great day for this unit production-wise, but it was more about the passing game against the Ti-Cats.

Overall Grade: C

Wide Receivers

When it comes to selecting heroes for the Argos against Hamilton, the wide receiver position had several candidates. Take your pick.

Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (7-105) did a tremendous job for Toronto. He made several big catches against the Ti-Cats secondary. Ricky Collins Jr. (6-88) continues to be one of Toronto’s best playmakers with the ball in his hands. The veteran receiver broke several tackles in the open field and extended drives by doing so.

Chandler Worthy (5-57-1td) had a harrowing sequence in the third quarter on two plays in the end zone where he didn’t attack the football and secure a touchdown on back-to-back plays. But Worthy redeemed himself mightily on the Argos’ last three scoring drives.

DaVaris Daniels (2-34-1td) had arguably the most spectacular catch of the entire season in the 4th quarter, where he showed excellent body control and hands to snare a 22-yard score in the end zone to give Toronto’s its first lead of the game.

Damion Jeanpiere once again contributed nicely with three receptions for 39 yards. But another rookie, Dejon Brissett (1-13), made what might’ve been the play of the Argos season with a clutch reception late in the game that ultimately decided the outcome.

Even without proven and accomplished players like Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescasin in the lineup. The Argos receiving corps is getting better right before our eyes. The young pups are growing up fast.

Grade: A+

Offensive Line

Some good, some bad, and some ugly. The Argos line played better in the second half, but they consistently allowed pressure, particularly up the middle, against their quarterback. The unit gave up three sacks overall but allowed countless pressures throughout the game.

The run game never got a chance to get going due to the game script. But there weren’t many run lanes created. The biggest issue with this group was procedure penalties. The line had six accepted penalties overall.

Based on the big boys playing their second game in five days, it could’ve been fatigue setting in. But the line looked a step slow all game. Hamilton’s d-line kept beating them off the ball. When it counted most though, Toronto’s offensive line gutted it out and got the job done, especially late in the game.

Grade: C+

Argos Offence Overall Grade: B

It was a tale of two halves. What saves the day here is how elite the playcalling, the quarterback, and the receivers were for Toronto. They rose their level of play in the season’s most crucial moments.

Toronto Argonauts Defence

Defensive Line

CFL rookie sensation Shawn Oakman stood out again for the Boatmen. The 6’9 monster had another productive outing, registering five tackles, one pass knockdown, and recording his sixth sack of the year.

Cordarro Law was also very active in his second game as an Argo. He finished with three tackles, several hurries, and nearly had an interception on a play where he dropped back into coverage.

Kony Ealy and Fabian Foote both started for Toronto. But they were very quiet on Monday. Neither player registered a single tackle in the game. Ealy did do a good job setting the edge and preventing Masoli from scoring late in the game near the end zone.

Overall, Hamilton’s offensive line did a good job stonewalling the Argos front and creating running lanes. Hamilton rushed for 109 yards in the game, and Jeremiah Masoli had plenty of time in the pocket all game long and took several shots down the field.

Grade: C+

Linebackers

Dexter McCoil, Trevor Hoyte, and company got off to a slow start in the first half. Like many of Toronto’s players, they looked a step slow in the early going. Dexter McCoil picked up his play as the game progressed. He had a near safety sacking Masoli at the goal line and a near interception. The versatile veteran had 12 total tackles.

Chris Edwards was active as always, making plays all over the field. He finished with four tackles, also had a near interception, and knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

Grade: B

Secondary

Toronto’s secondary had its fair share of struggles in this game. They were either out of position or a step too slow all game long. The pursuit angles were poor, and the tackling at times matched that. Jeremiah Masoli looked like his old self against Toronto’s pass defence. Masoli completed 72 percent of his passes for 361 yards and two majors.

The saving grace for this unit was its coverage in the red zone, which has been consistently excellent this year. The Boatmen’s savvy veteran group has done a great job covering ground in this area and keeping teams out of the end zone.

Grade: B minus

Argos Defence Overall Grade: B minus

The bottom line is that even though Toronto’s defence gave up 470 total yards. The unit kept the team in the game when Hamilton could’ve easily been up three scores at the half. Toronto’s defence is not as good as it was earlier in the season. Injuries have played a part in that. But its best players like Shawn Oakman, Dexter McCoil, Shaq Richardson, and Chris Edwards continue to play at a ridiculously high level.

Toronto Argonauts Special Teams

It’s interesting that in Toronto’s two victories over Hamilton this year, both games were decided by one point (17-16 & 24-23). And in both contests, Hamilton missed extra points that sealed their fate.

Very quietly this year, Boris Bede has been one of the team’s very best players. He has been mister everything as a kickoff specialist, punter, and placekicker. Bede has also shown his value this year as a clutch kicker when the game is on the line with two game-winning field goals on the road. None bigger than the one he had from 51 yards against Hamilton.

But Bede’s value as a teammate and leader was on full display as he honored veteran long snapper Jake Reinhart, who went down to a season-ending injury against Ottawa. Bede paid tribute before the game to Reinhart and after his game-winning kick by saluting his teammate by holding up his number #58 on the field. The Argos social media team is saluting Bede by naming their account the ‘Boris Bede Stan Account.’ And rightfully so.

Speaking of long snapping, credit to Toronto’s front office for picking up Maxime Latour on short notice. The Argos signed him just days ago off of Ottawa’s practice roster. And the veteran came on and did an excellent job against Hamilton. No one ever notices or pays attention to a long snapper until something goes awry. In Latour’s case, he had big shoes to fill and delivered.

Chandler Worthy had arguably his best overall game returning kicks and punts in this game. And the Argos coverage units did a good job keeping Hamilton’s return game in check. One of the most significant turning points for Toronto came when their special teams stopped Hamilton from converting a fake punt in the first half. The Ti-Cats had all the momentum on their side and that play for Toronto helped change field position that eventually led to Boris Bede’s field goal before the half ended.

Overall Grade: A

Toronto Argonauts Team Grade: A

All season long, followers and supporters of the Toronto Argonauts have been debating whether they are “really” a good team or not.

The detractors of the Argos have pointed towards the fact that the team has been outscored by their opponents (207-201) in their nine games. The considerable criticism is that Toronto has “stolen” or been rewarded games by teams. Some will classify Hamilton’s loss on Thanksgiving to Toronto as such.

Toronto hasn’t won anything yet. Not even the East. There are still five regular-season games to go. However, the team has shown a lot in their last three games. From 3-3 to 6-3, three straight wins against divisional opponents like Montreal and Hamilton.

The bottom line is that good teams find a way to win games. Against Ottawa, the Argos won the game, in large part due to coaching adjustments and big plays from all three units.

Against Hamilton. Toronto found a way to win, playing a game on three days rest, in a place that they haven’t won in years. The Argonauts showed a lot of character, battling through adversity and not folding when they were down and almost out. Toronto made big plays in big spots under challenging circumstances. Something that good teams do.

The “Are they really that good Argos?” are starting to become a good football team. Winning as they did in Hamilton is evidence of that.

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