The Labour Day Classic on Monday was supposed to be a measuring stick game for the Toronto Argonauts. For the new-look Boatmen, their Labour Day Classic loss on Monday to Hamilton felt like 2019 all over again. The Argos weren’t ready for the spotlight.
Losing to a division and heated rival like Hamilton always feels like two losses at once. Particularly when it comes to the Labour Day Classic, a familiar outcome for Toronto now since 2012. But Monday’s loss by the Argonauts to the Ti-Cats has added significance because of the message that the Boatmen didn’t send. They weren’t ready to play, and ultimately, they might not be ready to contend in the East or for a playoff spot this season.
Instead of staking their claim in the Eastern Division. The 32-19 loss by Toronto to Hamilton, sends Toronto to 2-2 and while, the Argos are technically in a three-way tie for first with Hamilton and Montreal. The reality is that the Argonauts are now in a position where Friday’s LDC rematch with the Ti-Cats is a must-win game.
Each game carries more weight in a shorter season, and the Boatmen’s ship could start seeing some turbulent waves if they lose again to Hamilton at home. With a trip to Saskatchewan followed by a home game with Montreal. The team could be staring at 2-5 if they don’t course-correct quickly.
The 13-point loss to Hamilton on Monday creates the appearance that the game was competitive. Even certain aspects of the box score create the illusion that the LDC was evenly contested. But the truth is that the Argos were dominated. They were ill-prepared, made way too many mental mistakes, let their emotions get the best of them. And at Tim Horton’s Field, Hamilton made Toronto look like pretenders to the Eastern throne.
Toronto Argonauts Week 5 Report Card @ Hamilton
On paper, the numbers don’t look bad for Toronto on offense. They gained 369 total yards and led in time of possession. However, the Argos didn’t mount a TD drive until late in the game, when the outcome was already decided. Most of Toronto’s yards came late on two 4th quarter scoring drives.
Credit to Hamilton’s defense, which has played well all season long. But Toronto was undisciplined, failed to establish a rushing attack, and Nick Arbuckle turned the football over twice. In two crucial spots in the game. One was on a poor decision near the sidelines in the first quarter, and the other was where Arbuckle threw a pick-six near his goal line.
Nick Arbuckle only completed 56 percent of his passes on the day. He was sacked three times and showed poor decision-making. On the road in a big spot, Arbuckle and his offensive teammates buckled under the pressure of the game.
Overall Grade: C minus
Toronto’s defense came to play in the early going. Much like they have done in the first four games of the season. The Boatmen’s defensive unit kept the opposing team’s offense at bay while their own offense went through struggles.
Unfortunately, despite registering three sacks and some big hits and pass-breakups along the way. The Argos defense started to falter and wear down in the second half. The secondary gave up way too many big plays down the field. A recurring theme this season, and there was some key missed tackles and blown coverages against Hamilton.
Players like Chris Edwards, Dexter McCoil, and Shawn Oakman continue to play at a high level. Henoc Muamba also had his best game for the Boatmen. But once again, Charleston Hughes was invisible. The CFL’s 2019 sack leader has yet to register a sack in the season’s first quarter. And despite the impromptu bye week and added rest, Hughes looked worn down. It’s fair to wonder if father time has caught up to him.
Overall Grade: C
Argos Special Teams
Toronto’s special teams’ units regressed after a solid performance against Winnipeg in week 3. Hamilton outclassed the Boatmen on Monday in this department by a wide margin. Boris Bede has been excellent all season. But the Ti-Cats nearly blocked one of his punts. They put consistent pressure on him. And the Argos units were extremely undisciplined.
Playing out of sorts was a theme for the entire Toronto team in Hamilton. The Argonauts special teams’ in particular, had seven of the team’s nine overall penalties. Frankie Williams’s 67-yard punt return for a touchdown was a game-changer, and on the flip side, Toronto’s punt return unit wasn’t, averaging an abysmal 0.8 yards on five returns.
Overall Grade: D
This was, by far, Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff’s worst performance of the season. The Argos were undisciplined. They looked lost early on offensively. The team had plenty of time to prepare for Hamilton’s defense, and they looked lifeless and listless on the offensive side of the ball. The creativity that Dinwiddie’s offensive staff showed in week 3 was invisible in week 5.
Glen Young’s defensive unit is star-studded, but many of the Argos high-profile players like Cameron Judge and Charleston Hughes are not playing up to their billing. The feeling out process is over. It’s the defensive staff’s responsibility to get the most out of their players. Week after week, the Argos have had blown coverages and given up big plays down the field in the passing game. There may need to be some schematic and personnel changes to rectify these issues.
Mark Nelson’s special teams unit was not up to the task against a superior opponent on Monday. Jeff Reinebold and his group worked circles around Toronto, and they were ready to play. Nelson’s group, like the rest of Toronto’s team, wasn’t up for the challenge.
Overall Grade: C minus
Toronto Argonauts Overall Week 5 Grade: C Minus
Looking Ahead For The Argos
The Argonauts’ loss to the Tiger-Cats Monday was a reality check. In retrospect, and this was addressed in my LDC preview and prediction article on Sunday. You could see this outcome for the Boatmen coming from a mile away.
After all, the team’s momentum was stunted by the postponement of the Elks game after their exhilarating week 3 win against Winnipeg. Furthermore, Last week, Toronto had field problems at Lamport Stadium and had to move their practices. And on top of that, the Argos practiced without several of their starters last week due to COVID protocol issues.
There’s no shame in losing to Hamilton on the road. It’s a familiar result for the Boatmen in the last few years. But it’s how Toronto lost the game; that is the most demoralizing aspect. Emotionally, they were ready to play, but mentally, they weren’t. And it showed. The Argonauts didn’t handle the atmosphere well. It starts with their rookie head coach and their young quarterback.
How Toronto responds to the adversity of this loss on Friday at home against Hamilton will be the most revealing aspect of this season. The Argos have a short week to prepare, but it can become a long season if they don’t respond favorably in the LDC rematch.
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