The Toronto Argonauts lost at home to previously winless Ottawa on Sunday simply because they couldn’t match the energy of a highly motivated Redblacks team. Ottawa wanted the game more. And it showed in every way possible.
A box score can tell you many different things, depending on how you look at it. But as Tony Montana once famously said, “the eyes they never lie, Chico.”
You can’t manufacture hunger. And it was clear as Sunday’s game progressed that Ottawa was the hungrier team. They were starving for a victory after losing their first six games by a total of only 36 points, and three of those defeats were by three points or less.
Toronto didn’t overlook or underestimate Ottawa because of their 0-6 record. They were outplayed and outhustled by the REDBLACKS. Toronto had an opportunity to dampen Ottawa’s spirits and put the game away early, but they didn’t have the killer instinct. And unlike in previous weeks, the Argos couldn’t flip the switch late to push for a victory.
The Double Blue had the REDBLACKS on the ropes. Up 10-6 with a minute left in the first half. Instead of going up 17-6. The Argonauts settled for a field goal to go up by seven. Toronto’s defense then fell asleep at the wheel at the end of the second quarter. In less than a minute, Ottawa drove down the field, making several plays, and tied the game at 13.
The game was tied at the break. But Ottawa won the game in the final minute of the first half. Once Toronto gave them life and hope. There was no denying the REDBLACKS the rest of the way.
The wacky East just got even more complicated and wackier. Every team in the division now has a dog in this fight. But before we move forward to Week 9 and Toronto’s first of four games against Hamilton in the next five weeks.
Let’s painstakingly look back and grade every aspect of the Toronto Argonauts football club in Week 8.
Toronto Argonauts Week 8 Report Card
Coaching Grade: C minus
Ultimately at the end of the day, when a team underperforms or doesn’t play to the best of its ability, especially at home. It always falls on the coaching staff. After all, sports are a results-oriented business.
Ryan Dinwiddie needed to come up with a better plan on first down to counter Ottawa’s run-heavy defensive attack. More play-action would have slowed down the pass rush, and Toronto got too predictable and stubborn on first down.
However, more than anything. The Argos players failed to execute in critical moments on Sunday.
Toronto’s offensive players had prime opportunities to make big plays and didn’t. Dinwiddie called man-beater plays that should’ve paid huge dividends.
There were several designed plays on offense that should’ve worked. In the second half, points were left off the board because of multiple missed throws to open receivers and dropped passes down the field in crucial spots.
The Argonauts’ defense, who played pretty well for the most part, also came up short when it counted most. There were some blown assignments but mostly missed open field tackles on game-changing plays. The late drive by Ottawa in the second quarter was a black mark on Double Blue’s overall day defensively.
The biggest knock this week on the coaching staff is how players started to lose their composure late in the game.
Usually, this grade would be much lower. But after watching the game a second time, it’s clear that players were put into a position to succeed by their coaches. But they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Quarterback Grade: C minus
On paper, McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s game looks fine. 25/39, 340 yards passing with one touchdown and zero interceptions. Good enough numbers to help you have a nice week in Fantasy Football. But Thompson’s stat line is deceiving. He should’ve been picked off on the first series of the game, and late in the game, he missed layup throws down the field.
It wasn’t a bad game for McLeod. And in his defense, he wasn’t exactly bailed out by his offensive line or receivers. But missed throws in key spots eventually catch up to you.
At TD Atlantic, with the game hanging in the balance. MBT missed wide-open receivers in the 4th quarter. And if not, for a Wynton McManis, pick six; the Argos lose in Nova Scotia.
MBT’s trait is that he tends to run hot and cold in every game. Same story on Sunday. At one point, Bethel-Thompson completed 12 straight passes. But fell apart after that, failing to drive his team for another score from the second quarter on.
Running back Grade: C minus
If not for shared deficiencies by multiple parts of the team. The overall grade here would be lower for Andrew Harris. A week after, he accumulated nearly 200 yards of offense. Ottawa, to their credit, made a concerted effort to stack the box and stop Harris, and they accomplished their goal by holding him to 17 yards on nine rushes. Harris also lost a fumble for the second week in a row.
The Argos should’ve been able to take advantage of the REDBLACKS over committing their entire defense to stop Harris. But they didn’t. Harris ran hard, but his offensive line did him no favors, and he was consistently hit in the backfield.
Harris did contribute in the passing game with five receptions for 48 yards. But unlike two weeks ago, when the Riders bottled up Harris. Toronto failed to take advantage of it.
Wide Receiver Grade: C minus
On paper, the Argos got solid contributions from this unit despite being down two more receivers. DaVaris Daniels and Dejon Brissett.
Toronto missed Daniels’s blocking and physicality in the run and short passing games.
Kurleigh Gittens and Markeith Ambles factored into the game plan heavily, and they were targeted 18 times, producing 11 receptions for 168 yards. Unfortunately, the double blue duo couldn’t get enough separation down the field and dropped some key passes late.
A week ago, although he didn’t produce any numbers on the stat sheet. Upon further review, Brandon Banks played a decisive factor in drawing coverages to his side of the field, and it opened everything up for his teammates. Something that Ben Grant from Xs and Argos astutely pointed out in his film study from Week 7.
Banks received more targets this week (4) and produced a beautiful touchdown reception from 29 yards. But he only finished the day with two receptions for 39 yards. Toronto is still trying to figure out how to utilize Speedy B properly on offense, and it’s still a work in progress as the team edges closer to mid-season.
Tommy Nield was a pleasant surprise this week. He contributed four receptions for 50 yards. The Argos hope to get Juwan Brescasin and Eric Rogers in the future. But Nield showed on Sunday that can be a serviceable option in the future if needed.
Cam Phillips could’ve had a more significant day (4-35) and might have reeled in the game’s most decisive score if Mcleod Bethel-Thompson had connected with him on a wide-open deep ball down the field.
Offensive Line Grade: D
Just a bad day overall at the office for Toronto’s offensive line. The unit gave up four sacks but could’ve allowed four more. The line had serious trouble with CFL sack leader Lorenzo Mauldin. But he wasn’t the only Redblack defender to cause issues on Sunday. McLeod Bethel-Thompson was under a lot of duress, and the pocket collapsed late in the game.
Philip Blake, who was playing out of position at left tackle due to Toronto being down to option C at the position. Surprisingly although he wasn’t perfect in pass protection. Blake’s primary issues came in the run game. He looked out of sorts and also had two procedure penalties in second and one situations. Playing out of his natural spot certainly contributed to his faux pas in lining up correctly.
The Argos need to put Philip Blake back to left guard and switch Dejon Allen to left tackle.
What made matters worse is that rookie Gregor MacKellar struggled in the trenches filling in for Blake at left guard. Predictably, Davon Coleman and Cleyion Lang pushed the rookie around. And Ottawa defensive coordinator Mike Benevides wisely sent multiple pressures at the CFL novice, and it worked.
The entire Argos line had a rough time dealing with Ottawa’s stacked box.
Defensive Line Grade: C+
An uneven performance overall. Shawn Oakman (1 sack) and Shane Ray (2 sacks) had their moments of brilliance. But way too often, Caleb Evans escaped from the pocket and broke containment. And Toronto’s defensive line had issues at the point of attack. Allowing 113 yards on the ground.
Linebackers Grade: C minus
Arguably the best position on Toronto this year wasn’t at their best on Sunday. Wynton McManis (8 tackles) and Henoc Muamba (6 tackles) had some excellent tackles in the open field, and their coverage underneath was solid for the most part. But when push came to shove, this unit didn’t make any plays of substance.
Late in the game, Wynton McManis cost his team dearly when he made a big stop on second down, which would’ve kept the Argos within one score late. But McManis foolishly gave Ottawa an out by throwing William Powell’s cleat across the field. McManis was penalized for his lapse in judgment, leading to the REDBLACKS going ahead 23-13 instead of 19-13. To make matters worse, Chris Edwards lost his cool too and was flagged. A frustrated Edwards had a non-descript performance on Sunday, and the 2021 CFL All-Star was practically invisible.
Secondary Grade: D
Jaelon Acklin’s stat line from Sunday says it all. The Argos killer had his way with Toronto’s defensive backs making them look foolish on multiple plays.
The Argonauts’ secondary missed multiple tackles in the open field throughout the game and fell asleep on the crucial Ottawa drive before the half. Caleb Evans had only five incompletions all game, connecting on 82 percent of his passes for 286 yards. Outside of the disaster in BC, this was the worst performance by Toronto’s secondary this season.
There were instances where Toronto’s defense could’ve gotten off the field on second down but could not make tackles in the open field. There were also busted coverages in the game. Twice in coverage on Jaelon Acklin. And on the game-sealing Nate Behar touchdown. A lousy showing overall.
Special Teams Grade: C
The Argos return game was a nonfactor on Sunday. They averaged minus 0.8 yards on punt returns, thanks to a 12-yard loss by Banks late in the game and just 15 yards on kick returns. This was partly due to Ottawa’s unique hang time strategy on kickoffs and punts by all-world specialist Richie Leone. But the Argos are still scrambling for answers in their return game.
On a positive note, Boris Bede connected on both of his field goals. And John Haggerty had a good day punting the ball. (6-46.7avg). The coverage units weren’t bad, especially considering that the team was missing two of their best players in that area. Josh Hagerty and Tigie Sankoh.
Toronto Argonauts Overall Team Grade: C minus
Sometimes the best team on paper doesn’t always win. Each game has its own personality. The Ottawa REDBLACKS deserved and earned their first victory of the season on Sunday. On the flip side, the Argonauts deserved to lose the game, and they didn’t match Ottawa’s intensity and faltered in crucial spots.
There’s no denying the Argonauts’ talent level. However, the team is dangerously thin on their offensive line with no help in sight in the immediate future. The primary issue, however, is not the Argos’ talent level.
The ongoing issue is that Toronto has bad team tendencies. They should be better than they are right now. After six games, it feels like what should’ve been a transformative stretch for the franchise the last three weeks wasn’t.
A genuine championship contending team raises their level of play to match up with their opponent, and the Argos didn’t do that on Sunday.
No one can be compared to Winnipeg right now. But the Blue Bombers don’t lose the type of game Toronto played on Sunday. The Boatmen had a chance to create separation in their division and sink the REDBLACKS season by winning at home. The Argos failed to raise their game and play at a high level. It might be just a brief hiccup, but the reality is that it could be Toronto’s identity in 2022.