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Toronto Argonauts Week 14 Report Card: The Boatmen Survive Late Surge To Win Third Straight

After 12 games, two-thirds of the 2022 Toronto Argonauts season is complete. The 7-5 Boatmen are sailing into their final regular season bye week with a two-game lead at the top of the East with six games left to play.

EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

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1 Toronto12750142882774-3-03-2-05-2-0
2 Montreal12570103153213-3-02-4-02-3-0
3 Hamilton1239062513303-3-00-6-03-4-0
4 Ottawa1239062492910-6-03-3-02-3-0

On Saturday against Ottawa, after three quarters, and a 24-9 lead, it appeared that Toronto was going to sail into the bye week smoothly. However, a resilient Redblacks team, led by former Argo Nick Arbuckle, rallied and nearly stole the game late. It would’ve been a demoralizing defeat for Double Blue, who dominated but squandered opportunities to slam to door shut on Ottawa earlier. Ultimately, Toronto’s defence stood tall late to preserve the victory.

The Next Phase Of The Toronto Argonauts Season

Toronto and Ottawa will meet again in two weeks at TD Place, and both teams have a bye in week 15. The Redblacks can win the season series over the Argonauts by finally winning at home. But the Argos victory yesterday has helped create distance between them, Ottawa, and the rest of the teams in the East.

After Toronto completes its back-to-back road affairs with Ottawa, they will play Western teams until the final two weeks of the regular season. Two late October games against second-place Montreal.

The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for Double Blue. The Argos are banged up after playing nine weeks straight. Three key starters were injured in Saturday’s game; MLB Henoc Muamba, RT Dejon Allen, and DE Shane Ray. No official word yet on the severity or length of those injuries. But some rest can do a lot of good for players like C Justin Lawrence and LT Philip Blake, who have soldiered through several games despite being banged up.

But before we move forward to the final third of Toronto’s regular season, let’s grade all aspects of the Argonauts Football Club in Week 14.

Toronto Argonauts Week 14 Report Card

Toronto Argonauts Coaching Grade: A-minus

Corey Mace has grown into his own as a first-time defensive coordinator. Toronto has the league’s best red zone defence. And it shined brightly against Ottawa, especially in crucial situations in the game’s closing minutes without Henoc Muamba on the field. The Redblacks had two chances to score late, but Toronto held strong. Credit to the players and the scheme the Argos have in place for coming through in those situations.

Mickey Donovan had an arduous task against Bob Dyce and his stellar special teams unit. Toronto was up for the challenge and avoided being outclassed, which is a common occurrence for teams who face Ottawa. They didn’t fall for the bait of kicking to Devonte Dedmon. Despite Ottawa taunting the Argos on social media to do so before the game. Playing Ottawa’s special teams requires being on high alert at all times. In these close games, all it takes is one mistake to shift momentum. Toronto strategically avoided doomsday.

One of the better-called games this season by head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. Unfortunately, the Argos couldn’t finish drives and squandered a few scoring opportunities that could’ve made this game a blowout.

But as far as playcalling goes, Dinwiddie dialed up well-designed pass plays and tested Ottawa’s defence down the field. Something that the Redblacks dared the Argos to do in their last meeting at BMO.

Toronto accumulated over 400 yards in this game, but there was potential for even more.

Dinwiddie went to school on what Ottawa did in Week 8. He also wisely tested Ottawa CB Brandin Dandridge on the outside repeatedly. The returning CFL player was not on top of his game in his return, surrendered eight completions, and was called for pass interference down the field. You see a weakness and exploit it; that’s good coaching.

Clock and game management were also a plus on Saturday for Dinwiddie. Toronto handled the end of the first half perfectly. After Ottawa trimmed the Argos’ lead to 13-6. The Boatmen got the ball with only 21 seconds left but managed to get into field goal range. They did so by designing sideline routes and a quick completion and concession with two seconds left. Unfortunately, Boris Bede missed the 51-yard kick that would have given Toronto a ten-point lead.

You also get points for bravery. Late in the game, with the Argos up five and backed up near the goal line. Rather than run the ball, Dinwiddie drew up a beautiful pass downfield that, unfortunately, McLeod Bethel-Thompson overthrew because of pressure. Otherwise, Kurleigh Gittens would still be running. It was gutsy and the right call to go for the win at that moment.

What followed was even better by Dinwiddie. Instead of conceding a safety in his end zone. Up 24-19, The Argos brazenly punted the ball away. In the past, many CFL teams have taken the safety in that situation. But Dinwiddie trusted his special teams and his defence to keep Ottawa out of the end zone. A safety concession would’ve put Ottawa within a field goal to tie the game.

Quarterback Grade: B-minus

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 BETHEL-THOMPSON, Mcleod27/3969.2%3651145

Despite throwing for nearly 400 yards, it feels like the Argos offence and McLeod Bethel-Thompson left too many yards and points off the board against Ottawa. MBT made some big-time throws under duress, a weekly occurrence, but he also missed a few. Including throwing a poor interception during Saturday’s contest.

One of the more polarizing players in the CFL. The fourth leading passer in the storied history of the Argonauts, Thompson can run hot and cold in every game he plays. That was certainly on display against Ottawa. But MBT is near the top of every passing category in the league. And the Argos would not be 2021 East Division champs and leading the East again without him.

Running Back Grade: B-minus

RUSHING/RECEIVING

PLAYERCARYDSAVGLGTD
 OUELLETTE, AJ.10292.9121
PLAYERRECATTYDSYACAVGLGTD
 OUELLETTE, AJ.4426236.5130

If you were grading Austin James Ouellette on effort alone, he would get an A every game. Stats sometimes don’t do him justice. Because he does so much in the passing game as a blocker. The stats weren’t pretty this week. Ouellette did, however, score the first Argos rushing touchdown of the season by a running back. It took twelve games, but it sometimes takes 12 tacklers to get AJ down.

Receivers Grade: A

RECEIVING

PLAYERRECATTYDSYACAVGLGTD
 GITTENS JR., Kurleigh8121615520.1451
 COXIE, Damonte36683222.7390
 BANKS, Brandon684998.2190
 DANIELS, DaVaris4536119.0120

Canadian standout Kurleigh Gittens Jr. is headed towards another weekly Top CFL Performer award in 2022 after accumulating 161 yards on eight receptions and a major. The scary thing is that it could’ve been more. The Argos’ homegrown draft pick was wide open late in the game on what would have been a 108-yard touchdown.

Toronto’s scouting department must also be pleased with American import Damonte Coxie. He’s blended in nicely in the Argos offence, and you get the sense that he is only scratching the surface. The 6’3 Coxie had one of the game’s best plays, breaking multiple tackles on a 39-yard gain to Ottawa’s two-yard line.

Offensive Line Grade: C

The struggles to create running lanes continue for Toronto. Pass protection was also an issue again against Ottawa’s elite defensive front. Shane Richards struggled to come into sub-duty when Dejon Allen went down. Lorenzo Mauldin lucked into two sacks, but he could’ve had three more. He’s been a matchup problem for all of Toronto’s pass protectors. But the Argos are not alone in that.

Toronto’s entire offensive line needs a bye week. They need time to heal. Dejon Allen went down in this game, and Peter Nicastro is not expected back until late in the regular season. Trevon Tate could return down the line. But the current starters have been dealing with several nicks and bruises.

Defensive Line Grade: B-minus

For three quarters, the Argonauts’ defensive front, despite losing Shane Ray, controlled the line of scrimmage. But began to falter late in the game. Particuarly against the run. Toronto’s d-line struggled to get off blocks and disrupt the run-and-pass game. Ottawa rushed for over a hundred yards and over five yards per run.

Shawn Oakman finished the game with one sack but could’ve easily had two, if not for a questionable roughing call early in the game.

Linebacker Grade: B+

The importance of middle linebacker Henoc Muamba was on full display when he left the game. The red and black sea started parting with Muamba off the field. To their credit, Trevor Hoyte (4 tackles) and Jack Cassar did a respectable job in his place, including a crucial stop on Arbuckle near the end zone that thwarted one of Ottawa’s go-ahead attempts in the final minutes.

Wynton McManis was his usual active self; he paced the team with eight tackles and had a near sack on a blitz. Chris Edwards was fantastic in coverage. He did, however, drop a pick-six early in the game.

Secondary Grade: B

For three quarters, the Argos coverage in their secondary was stellar. Maurice Carnell IV nearly had two interceptions, if not for a penalty against DaShaun Amos. Jamal Peters continuing his All-Star campaign broke up a sure td pass to Jaelon Acklen.

But there were some slip-ups by the Argos secondary as the game progressed, exacerbated by poor tackling late in the game. Toronto showed some vulnerability in seam coverage and allowed some chunk plays.

After holding Toronto killer Jaelon Acklin in check in the first half, he started to emerge in the second half with five receptions. Nate Behar has out-muscled Argos’ DBs in both meetings this year. He had six catches for 76 yards on Saturday and consistently broke free from defenders in the open field. Ottawa will probably feature Behar more, and rightfully so, in their next meeting with Toronto.

Credit to Nick Arbuckle (290 yards passing), two hundred of which came in the second half, and Paul LaPolice for making adjustments and turning things around. But when it mattered most, Toronto’s defensive coverage saved the day, and they blanketed the Redblacks receivers in the final two drives.

Special Teams Grade: B

On a day when Boris Bede kicked his 200th career field goal. He had an off-game and missed two makeable kicks that should’ve given the Argos a more significant lead.

Kudos to rookie punter Joh Hagerty, who is having a terrific season. On Saturday, he had a challenging task, directionally kicking away from Devonte Dedmon. Haggerty still averaged 47 yards per punt, even though many of his kicks were designed to have a low trajectory.

The Redblacks did an excellent job countering the Argos strategy and had some quality returns. But Toronto’s coverage units limited the big plays Ottawa feeds off of. Jack Cassar had two excellent open-field tackles. But it’s worth noting how well rookie RB Daniel Adebeboye has taken to playing special teams in the CFL. He registered three tackles on Saturday.

Toronto Argonauts Week 14 Overall Team Grade: B

Admittedly, the tune on this song would’ve sounded much differently had the Argos blown a 24-9 lead and lost. Truthfully, Toronto had no business putting itself in a position to lose this game late.

However, the injuries to key players during the game started to take their toll on Toronto. The defence, which will rightfully be heralded as heroes for their late-game antics in the clutch, started to run out of steam and let Ottawa back into the game.

The same happened to the Argonauts’ offence; they moved the ball freely, but two missed field goals and missed opportunities limited the overall offensive output.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that Argos found a way to win when the game was on the line.

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