The Toronto Argonauts are 7-4, back in sole possession of 1st place in the East, and Double Blue’s headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. But against BC, the Argos found a way to win after nearly finding a creative way to lose.
There are two ways of looking at Toronto’s overtime triumph over BC on Saturday. The glass half full mindset is that they are back into the playoffs. The glass-half-empty viewpoint is that Double Blue backed into the playoffs by barely winning a game they almost gave away.
One thing is for sure, The Argonauts’ 31-29 overtime victory against the Lions mirrored parts of their entire season to this point. After all, Toronto has made a habit of winning and losing some of their games in an ugly fashion. Whether it’s getting blown out on the road or squeaking out victories by the skin of their teeth. Two of Toronto’s home wins have matched the latter scenario. A 17-16 victory over Hamilton, thanks to a missed extra point. And yesterday’s bizarre win against BC, where Lions’ kicker Jimmy Camacho missed three potential go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter.
Nonetheless, the Boatmen are in a great position with three weeks left in the season. Next Saturday, they head for Ottawa before closing their regular season with back-to-back home games against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Edmonton Elks. Toronto is 5-0 at home this year, and their goal is to play at BMO Field in the playoffs. To achieve that, they will have to play better than they did yesterday.
Before moving on to Week 14, let’s look back and see how different aspects of The Argos fared at home in Week 13.
Week 13 Toronto Argonauts Report Card
Perhaps it was an omen of how things would go for the entire day. But on Toronto’s first scoring chance of the game, Boris Bede came out to kick a field goal with no holder on the field. Based on Bede’s performance this year, he probably would have successfully converted the kick anyway.
It wasn’t a glaring mistake, but the lack of readiness was a sign of things to come later in the game.
Truthfully, Toronto’s game plans on offence and defence were working early on. The Boatmen raced out to a 10-0 lead. But things began to go downhill from there.
Toronto’s defence gave up big plays in the passing game early on and allowed BC back into the fight as a result. What helped aid the defence in the second half was the weather. The field and ball conditions slowed down the Lions’ attack considerably. On the defensive side, the Boatmen had too many penalties and mental mistakes that extended drives.
Offensively, after a decent start, there was not a lot of creativity involved in the play calling. The Argos attack fell asleep for most of the game, relying on some runs and mostly overdone slant passes. The play calling inside the red zone left a lot to be desired. Toronto was deep inside BC territory twice inside the five and walked away with only chip-shot field goals.
Ultimately, the elephant in the room regarding the Argos coaching in week 13 was how poorly Ryan Dinwiddie handled the end of the game. During the season, with assistance from Markus Howell, Dinwiddie has made some sound decisions this season when it comes to game management and challenges.
But Saturday against BC, Dinwiddie had his worst performance of the season. The rookie head coach nearly cost his team the game by not knowing how many timeouts BC had left at the end of the game. The Lions had one. Dinwiddie assumed that kneeling twice would win the game for his team when that wasn’t the case.
In Dinwiddie’s defence and to his credit. After the game, he took ownership and apologized to his players for his mistake, which nearly cost his team the game and potentially a playoff berth. Had BC won, the Lions would only be a game behind Toronto for a crossover playoff spot.
In case you missed it, with 44 seconds left in the game, Toronto took over on offence up 23-22 looking to run out the clock. Rather than attempt to gain a first down running the football and, in turn, milk extra time. The Argos mistakenly lined up in a victory formation and kneeled twice.
The lapse in judgment led to Toronto punting out of their end zone and BC getting the ball with a chance to kick a game-winning field goal. It was an egregious mistake and had it backfired against the team, Dinwiddie would’ve had difficulty recovering from it, internally or perception wise moving forward.
Grade: D plus
On the positive side, McLeod Bethel-Thompson (23/37, 62%, 155 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception) did a good job handling the ball in rainy conditions. He also showed toughness and picked up a couple of first downs with his legs. Thompson even had a nifty seven-yard reception in overtime. MBT’s lone turnover came on a deflection at the line of scrimmage that Obum Gwacham snatched out of the air and raced down the field for a score.
On the negative side, Bethel-Thompson missed two big throws down the field that would’ve been easy scores, and that would have changed the complexion of the entire game. It was eerily reminiscent of his two big misfires in Winnipeg back in week two.
In close games, Bethel-Thompson has to make the easy layups. There’s no question that he can make the difficult throws because of his arm talent, but the difference between the truly elite quarterbacks and the good ones is the ability to make the simple throws consistently. You can’t miss opportunities when the situation calls for them. The plays MBT missed have to be executed.
Antonio Pipkin contributed nicely in his role as the team’s short-yardage runner, picking up first downs and scoring in overtime. He even had an excellent early game slant completion for 13 yards.
This was the Argos’ best rushing performance in weeks. Toronto rushed for 122 yards. DJ Foster, in particular, stood out, breaking some nice long runs and finishing with 65 yards on nine carries. Foster also chipped in with three receptions for 26 yards. John White doesn’t look all the way back yet from his injury. He finished with 11 carries for 39 yards.
Very quietly, Fullback Declan Cross once again did an excellent job blocking when called into action. But it was a welcome to the CFL moment for fellow fullback Dion Pellerin, who has played well all season long on special teams. But the CFL rookie finally showed up on the stat sheet with two catches, none bigger than his two-point conversion reception in overtime.
This group had two opportunities for big plays down the field, but the quarterback didn’t execute them. The Boatmen’s receiving corps also drew several pass interference calls. One that Chandler Worthy caused in the end zone set up the Argos final eight points in overtime.
For the most part, however, the big plays weren’t there for Toronto’s receivers. The longest pass play of the game came from a 21-yard DaVaris Daniels reception. Daniels finished with six catches for 51 yards and a major.
The Argos’ top two receivers Daniels and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (5-44), averaged under nine yards per catch. Ricky Collins Jr. had a day to forget, with four receptions for minus-one yard.
Dres Anderson, the son of legendary NFL receiver Willie ‘Flipper’ Anderson, saw his first action of the season with two catches for 20 yards. But he also had a key drop early in the game.
The weather and field conditions didn’t help matters, but this was by far the unit’s worst week of production this season.
The return of Guard Dariusz Bladek immensely helped the interior of Toronto’s line and its ground game. RT Trevon Tate played better this week than he did a week ago. Overall, the unit gave up only two sacks, but a lot of that had to do with an emphasis on short quick passes in the passing attack—a reactionary move by Toronto’s coaching staff after last week.
Philip Blake was solid as usual in the interior as expected, but rookie centre Peter NiCastro might’ve had his best overall game as a pro. He was phenomenal at handling the football in rough conditions and was steller at the point of attack. The Argos’ have themselves a keeper for a long time.
Although BC remains disinterested in establishing the run and is the worst rushing team in the CFL, the Lions’ averaged 5.3 yards rushing in this game and totaled 74 yards on 14 carries. The Argos up front held up much better in this game than they have in recent weeks.
Veterans Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law were reasonably active, applying some pressure in a few instances, but enough considering their resumes. Shawn Oakman left the game with an undisclosed injury early on.
The two players who were very active for the Boatmen were recently acquired veteran Junior Turner and DT Samuel Acheampong. The two combined for six tackles and two sacks. Both players looked like they had fresh legs. As opposed to some of the team’s other veterans.
Grade: B minus
Chris Edwards was productive as always, registering four tackles, applying several pressures, and breaking up three passes. Sometimes Edwards’s aggressive style works against him, and he will miss tackles going for the big hit, or he will play the receiver rather than the ball. Edwards missed an interception opportunity late in the game because of that style but his energy and high effort level are always evident every week.
Dexter McCoil’s performance (5 overall tackles) was up and down against BC. He had two costly offsides penalties. One late when Michael Reilly baited him into jumping on a hard count. The miscue by McCoil extended a late BC drive on 3rd down.
Henoc Muamba looked better this week than he did a week ago returning from injury. Muamba has been targeted by opposing teams blocking schemes, but he held up well on coverage and registered three tackles.
Grade: B minus
Lucky Whitehead was clearly less than a hundred percent, but that didn’t stop BC from taking multiple shots down the field with him. The Argos’ secondary got burned twice deep, but Michael Reilly missed the opportunities to capitalize.
For whatever reason, BC’s primary strategy in a rainy game was to throw deep passes in the second half consistently. BC’s poor strategy and lack of patience aided Toronto’s pass defence.
In the first half, before the rain came pouring down. The Boatmen’s defensive backs were victimized deep on two separate occasions. One to Bryan Burnham and the other to Dominique Rhymes, both into the end zone.
A week after making an excellent CFL debut in helping shut down Jake Wieneke to zero catches, Jalen Collins was victimized on BC’s first score. He rebounded after that play, but it was a baptism into the league for him, courtesy of Bryan Burnham.
In overtime, the Argos secondary faltered when Jacob Scarfone ran through arm tackles in the open field for an easy catch and score.
Toronto’s safety/halfback trio of Shaq Richardson, Crezdon Butler, and Jeff Richards had solid games for the most part. Specifically, Richards, who averted early injury and had a nice interception in the first quarter.
Grade: B minus
The Argos best unit on Saturday against BC. And all thanks and praise should go to Boris Bede. Not only was he Toronto’s best weapon on the day, connecting on all five of his field goals, two from 50 yards plus. But he also was stellar on kickoffs (74.6-yard average) and punts (46.0). Bede also scored a single on a 52-yard punt. He contributed 17 of Toronto’s 31 points. (5 FG’s, one single & 1 extra point.) Bede even handled a high snap that almost went over his head early in the game. Without him, Toronto doesn’t beat BC.
Except for a late 13-yard punt return by Chris Rainey. The Argos’ coverage units were excellent in this game. Global player Tigie Sankoh did a nice job covering kicks and could be a fixture in games moving forward.
On Saturday, Chandler Worthy had his best game returning kicks (26.5) and punts (10.5) for Toronto. Worthy’s 36-yard kick return after Obum Gwacham’s defensive TD helped shift back momentum for Toronto. Worthy also had a 30-yard punt return, which allowed the Argos to take a 16-14 lead going into halftime.
You add this all up with a blocked field goal by Samuel Acheampong that should have won the game for Toronto in the 4th quarter. And this was arguably the best outing of the season for Mark Nelson’s group.
Grade: A plus
Toronto Argonauts Overall Team Grade: C
The Argos are undefeated at home. They are the only team to defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this year. They have won four for their last five games. Nearly half their team is on the injured list. (19 players). And yet, there’s still a sense that Toronto is not as good as their record would suggest.
Are the Boatmen at 7-4 the best bad team in CFL history? After all, they have been outscored 273-248 this season.
Perhaps the true answer is somewhere in between. The last time Toronto made the playoffs, they were 9-9 and won the 105th Grey Cup in 2017. That Argos’ team showed a lot of heart and defied the odds and haters.
The best thing you can say about the 2021 Toronto Argonauts is that their organization wasn’t celebratory after their playoff-clinching win on Saturday. The team knows and feels like they should be better than they are.
There’s a specific song that annoys most CFL fans at the moment that has a hook that repeatedly sings out “What you’re made of.” The next three weeks for Toronto should reveal the answer to that question.