It sounds like hyperbole, but the Toronto Argonauts season was on the line Friday. Losers of three of their last four, with an impending trip to Hamilton on Labour Day. The Boatmen could not afford to lose another home game and fall to 4-6. Such a scenario would have thrust Montreal into a first-place tie and set up Hamilton only a half-game behind.
Trailing 13-3 late in the second quarter to the Ticats. Things looked pretty bleak for the Double Blue. But a late touchdown scoring drive right before the half reenergized the Argos. Even with Seth Small connecting on a controversial last-second 58-yard field goal. The Boatmen were back in the fight.
Toronto turned things around in their favor in the second half. It was the perfect storm for the Boatmen. Outscoring Hamilton 27-3 in the final two quarters. Thanks to a career night by Jamal Peters and advantageous play on both sides of the ball.
Stats don’t always tell the story. The Argos won this game 37-20, and yet there were outgained immensely 452-301 and only possessed the football for 21 minutes.
All season long, Toronto has made a bad habit of squandering opportunities. But at BMO Field, in front of 14,963 fans on Friday, they capitalized on every one of their opponent’s mistakes. The Argonauts, down 19-13 in the third quarter, had two touchdown scoring drives that started in Hamilton territory. Thanks primarily to their defence. The last and final Argos’ major came courtesy of Jamal Peters’s pick-six.
The Argos offence deserves credit, though. Finishing drives and cashing in when the team approaches the scoring zone hasn’t been a given from week to week.
Before looking ahead to next week, when the Argos and Ticats will meet in Hamilton for the 51st Labour Day Classic and the conclusion of the four-game season series, let’s grade all aspects of Toronto’s much-needed victory over Hamilton.
Toronto Argonauts Week 12 Report Card
Coaching Grade: B+
Things didn’t start off well for Ryan Dinwiddie and his entire staff. The Argos struggled to move the ball offensively, and the defence was a step behind Hamilton. The special teams had a silly sequence where they should’ve pinned Hamilton deep at their two-yard line. But instead committed a nonsensical major foul penalty to get the Ticats out of early danger.
But as the game progressed, all three units of the Argos found their groove.
The game-changing sequence for Ryan Dinwiddie came after the Argos mounted their first td drive of the game. McLeod Bethel-Thompson greeted his coach on the sidelines with an enthusiastic show of approval. Where he told Dinwiddie, “I got you.” It was a breakthrough moment in the game between the play-caller and his quarterback. Like two teammates riling each other up.
Quarterback Grade: A-
MBT struggled early on. It wasn’t so much his lone interception of the game, which was a defacto punt on second and long. But Thompson was rushing his throws and couldn’t get into a comfort level.
But a late second-quarter drive put Bethel-Thompson back on the right path. A key sequence in the game came where MBT avoided a ten-yard loss on first and goal and somehow managed to get rid of the football and throw an incompletion. Thompson had two defenders draped all over him. Had he not been able to release the football into the grass, the Argos do not score a touchdown on that drive.
The Argos got into a first and goal situation because Thompson eluded free rushers and scrambled to find DaVaris Daniels on a first down conversion to the two-yard line.
After starting the game on his first six drives, 4-11 for 29 yards with an interception. McLeod went 15-21 from that point on, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns. At halftime, the TSN broadcast was all aboard the Chad Kelly hype train. But Thompson showed why so many of his teammates and coaches have faith in him on Friday night.
Running Back Grade: C
The Argos only ran the ball ten times in this game. Once on a 14-yard reverse with Brandon Banks. AJ Ouellete finished with 16 yards on six carries. Javon Leake toted the rock only three times for 13 yards. Neither running back factored into the receiving column a week after being significant contributors in that area versus Calgary.
On the surface, the stats indicate a failing grade for this group. However, AJ Ouellette, in particular, was fantastic in pass protection. The Argos schemed him up to aid the team’s makeshift line and act as a last line of defence, and he came through on multiple occasions, buying Bethel-Thompson extra time.
Wide Receivers Grade: B
The numbers were far from flashy for this group. But all five of the team’s top receivers played their part well. Damontie Coxie had arguably the sexiest reception of the game, a beautiful over-the-shoulder 30-yard catch that helped seal Hamilton’s fate. The Argos might have a new weapon in Coxie who can stretch the field.
Markeith Ambles, DaVaris Daniels, and Kurleigh Gittens all scored majors. But it was Brandon Banks, who contributed 81 overall yards, that made the most of his opportunities. His 38-yard catch and run on Toronto’s first td drive helped shift the momentum back in the team’s favor.
|GITTENS JR., Kurleigh||4||9||26||10||6.5||14||1|
Offensive Line Grade: C
It wasn’t a disaster this week. The team still couldn’t run the ball and gave up only two sacks. However, there could’ve been several others if not for Bethel-Thompson avoiding takedowns. Or play saving blocks by AJ Ouellete.
The entire Argos offensive scheme and play calls are designed to offset the line’s weaknesses. It’s going to be that way for a while. Toronto has to work around it. On Friday, they did with some success.
Defensive Line Grade: A
Welcome to the CFL, Brandon Barlow. The Boston College standout was stout against the run, notching four tackles, delivering five pressures and a sack.
Shane Ray arguably had his best game in Canada. He was harassing Hamilton’s passers all game and finished with two sacks and a forced fumble.
The pressure applied by Toronto’s pass rush, which has been nonexistent all season, helped force early throws and turnovers. Jamal Peters’s second interception with the Argos up one was caused by Shane Ray forcing Evans to the outside. All three of Hamilton’s pivots couldn’t escape the pocket for rushing yards and had to release the ball earlier.
Toronto will win a lot of games if they can repeat what they did on Friday, pressuring the quarterback.
Linebackers Grade: A
Wynton McManis was all over the field, making plays. The CFL’s leading tackler finished with 11 tackles in the game. There was one missed tackle in space, where McManis forced a runner inside who was tackled short of a first down. But McManis showed his competitive spirit by pounding the turf in frustration for not creating a loss on the play.
Chris Edwards was also on top of his game. He registered seven tackles. Henoc Muamba was relatively quiet with two tackles. But all three of the Argos backers were excellent in coverage. And the entire unit did a good job against the run.
Secondary Grade: A-
A few things were keeping this from being a perfect grade. Toronto did allow nearly 400 yards passing. The Argos also blew two coverage assignments that should have been easy scores for Hamilton. One came on a Steve Dunbar drop when he was wide open in the end zone.
The other occurred when Kiondre Smith was streaking downfield without a defender within twenty yards of him. Fortunately for Toronto, Dane Evans made an incorrect read on the play. A few plays later came the game-sealing pick-six.
The Argos also caught a break when Matthew Shiltz left the game. He was 13/15 for 144 yards a score. Hamilton wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard, but they were moving the ball well. And Toronto’s defensive backs had some shoddy tackling in the open field. Especially early in the game.
Maurice Carnell IV had a heck of a performance. He was making his second straight start at halfback and finished with seven tackles and a sack. Considering all the injuries to the position, coupled with the ejection of Eric Sutton. Toronto was lucky to have Carnell back in the fold. Since the early days of the summer, he has proven to be a playmaker.
However, the star of the entire show was Jamal Peters. He had the type of game that defensive backs dream about. Three interceptions and a touchdown. And it was fitting that the game ended with him breaking up a pass in the end zone.
Special Teams Grade: A-
Save for a few terrible penalties early on. Mickey Donavan’s crew had a strong evening. The coverage units were very good, unlike their last meeting with the Ticats.
Nik Lewis’s favorite kicker Boris Bede was 3 of 3 on the night and easily nailed a 56-yard field goal, with an assist from the wind at BMO Field. The kick could have been good from 70.
Punter John Haggerty had a great night averaging nearly 47 yards per punt. He had to deal with swirling winds. If not for a foolish disqualification penalty by Eric Sutton. Haggerty’s punt to Hamilton’s two-yard line could have changed the game’s momentum sooner.
Toronto Argonauts Overall Team Grade: B+
Not every aspect of the Argos’ victory over the Ticats was pretty. But the team desperately needed this. Not just to retain their spot atop the East. But from a confidence boost standpoint. The Boatmen have been through a lot of adversity the last few weeks.
The Argos are, by no means, out of the clear. But they bought themselves some breathing room.
After weeks of finding ways to lose games. Toronto seized control against Hamilton and rode a perfect storm to victory. If they can repeat, that effort moving forward. The Argos have a chance to live up to their potential.
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