The Toronto Argonauts (8-4) are now in a position to win the Eastern division at BMO Field next Friday if they defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-5). Thanks to another closer than it needed to be road victory against the Ottawa Redblacks in Week 14.
Another True To Form Toronto Argonauts Victory
If you’ve been following the Argonauts closely this season. Saturday’s come from behind 23-20 win against Ottawa was true to Toronto’s form in 2021. With the exception of a couple of games this year, the Argos have made a habit of snatching victories from the jaws of defeat.
In Week 1 at Calgary, the Boatmen trailed 20-12 and rallied with Bethel-Thompson to score 11 points in the final quarter, winning the game, on you guessed it, a Boris Bede field goal. An eerily similar scenario played out in Ottawa on Saturday.
In Week 6, home against Hamilton. The Argos nearly had a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead slip away in the final seconds but a missed extra point by the Ti-Cats gave Toronto a reprieve and the 17-16 victory.
In the rematch in Hamilton on Thanksgiving, having scored only five points through three quarters, McLeod Bethel-Thompson rallied Toronto to 19 fourth-quarter points and a last-second Boris Bede field goal at the gun to edge out the Ti-Cats 24-23.
Despite the fact that this is Toronto’s first winning season since 2015. Nothing has come easy for the Argonauts this year. They entered Week 14 with 21 players on their injured list. Several of them, key starters like Eric Rogers, Jamal Campbell, Dexter McCoil, Drake Nevis, Peter Nicastro, etc
The Boatmen sailed out of Saturday’s game, losing three more important players in RB John White, LB Chris Edwards, and DB Treston Decoud. White looks like he could be lost for the year with a left knee injury.
Because of the team’s mounting injury list, the degree of difficulty for Toronto will be increased this coming week, with the Argos playing their most important regular-season home game in years.
The Argonauts’ will be facing the Tiger-Cats for the fourth time this season in Week 15, with the East at stake. A win nets Toronto the division but also much-needed rest for the December 5th East Final. A loss could not only see the East slip from their fingers but also could jeopardize the Argos’ chances of hosting a game at all in the playoffs.
If the Argos play as they did in Ottawa and the Tiger-Cats play with the same passion that the late great Angelo Mosca possessed. Then Hamilton will blow the doors off of BMO Field and Toronto’s chances in the East.
But before we embark on the road to a pivotal Week 15 game, let’s look back at how all aspects of the team performed against Ottawa.
Week 14 Toronto Argonauts Report Card
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Toronto Argonauts coaching staff. Particularly rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. Especially when it comes to game management, which was actually a strength of his earlier in the season.
For three weeks running, Ryan Dinwiddie has made questionable in-game decisions, which have cost his team. Against Montreal, the team failed to challenge a Eugene Lewis touchdown, citing the inability to see a replay, after Lewis pulled Treston Decoud down by his dreadlocks to secure a touchdown. The following week, Dinwiddie and his staff failed to recognize how many timeouts BC had at the end of the game, and the gaffe led to the Lions attempting a game-winning field goal.
On Saturday, Ryan Dinwiddie attempted to challenge Devonte Dedmon’s 100-yard kick return for a major. Not only was a challenge not permitted in that situation but the brain freeze led to Toronto losing its challenge for the contest. In a close game, that decision could’ve proved costly.
Mistakes like these are going to sink the Boatmen’s boat eventually. They are coming at the worse possible time.
On a positive note, Ryan Dinwiddie introduced some new wrinkles in the team’s rushing attack. Utilizing an inside zone running scheme that Calgary has mastered for years. The addition of an extra offensive lineman playing slotback was effective and gives opponents something extra to game plan for at this late stage of the season. Another smart move by Dinwiddie was moving DaVaris Daniels inside to SB, it freed up one of the team’s best playmakers to contribute more plays in the passing attack.
Credit to Chris Jones and the Argos defensive staff for making great adjustments at halftime. The team was getting shredded on the ground in the first half. But Jones and his crew stopped the bleeding in the second half. Toronto’s defence shut down Ottawa in the scoring zone and played masterfully against CFL novice Duck Hodges.
It was Toronto’s best coaching effort on the defensive side since the loss of coordinator Glenn Young. The defence saves this grade from being worse than it is.
Grade: B minus
Things haven’t been the same for McLeod Bethel-Thompson since he masterfully threw for 388 yards against Hamilton a few weeks back, and led Toronto to 19 fourth-quarter points and a victory against an excellent Ti-Cats defence on the road.
Coincidentally, the Boatmen officially anointed McLeod after that game, by trading away Nick Arbuckle not too long after Thompson’s stellar performance. McLeod is now 6-2 as the team’s starter but he has been mistake-prone in recent weeks.
On Saturday against Ottawa, it was a mixed bag for McLeod. He did throw for 293 yards and helped lead the team back for another come-from-behind victory. Something he has done all season. But Thompson’s three interceptions, which could’ve been five in total, nearly cost his team. To prove that he is truly a top-level CFL quarterback. McLeod’s Jekyll and Hyde style of quarterbacking has to disappear.
Antonio Pipkin converted all of his third-down attempts on sneaks, but just like the Argos victory, the conversions were a lot more difficult than they needed to be.
Grade: C plus
Vince Magri, the Argos director of scouting, and the tandem of John Murphy and Michael Clemons deserve a lot of credit for the success this team has had at the RB position this season.
Boris Bede was a likely hero on Saturday. But RB AJ Ouellette fell under the unlikely category. The 26-year old Ohio standout was outstanding against Ottawa, coming off the bench due to an unfortunate knee injury to John White, and rushing for 107 yards on 14 carries.
Ouellette was brought up off the Argos practice roster, due to DJ Foster’s foot injury. And he made the most of his opportunity on Saturday.
Argonauts fans saw a glimpse of AJ’s talents late in a forgettable 2019 season. Ironically enough, it was against Ottawa back in 2019, that Ouellette scored his first CFL td and also had the team’s longest run (36 yards) of the season.
The short-term fix that Ouellette was against the Redblacks on Saturday might be a long-term one with White now on the shelf. AJ’s bruising running style could be an asset moving forward as the weather gets worse late in the year.
It’s a shame that John White got injured in the game because he was starting to look like the player he was earlier in the season before missing games due to injury. White will be missed as not only a runner and receiver but also as one of the team’s very best pass blockers.
The Argos have missed Eric Rogers greatly since he went down several weeks ago. Finally, in week 14, DaVaris Daniels was leaned upon heavily to assume the void Rogers has left. Daniels was targeted 13 times against Ottawa and delivered 9 receptions for 84 yards and a key two-point conversion.
Kurleigh Gittens continues to contribute on a weekly basis. He recorded five receptions for 58 yards and a major against the Redblacks.
Juwan Brescasin got his feet wet in his return with two receptions for 11 yards. But his physicality in the pass and run game will be needed moving forward.
A mixed bag for Dres Anderson on Saturday, who has been featured prominently in the Boatmen’s passing attack in recent weeks. Anderson was targeted ten times against Ottawa, snagging 4 catches for 80 yards, including a huge 31-yard reception on a second and 22 conversion. But one of his misplays on the ball led to an interception early in the game. Dres is a very raw player, the talent is evident but his lack of experience shows.
Ricky Collins Jr. has been one of the Argos best playmakers with the ball in his hands all season long. But the YAC was missing from Collins’s game on Saturday. He had six catches but for only 44 yards against the Redblacks.
Chandler Worthy has been a godsend on returns but his absence from the passing game is puzzling. The Boatmen are missing the boat with their 4.2 speedster by not utilizing his speed on offence. He barely played against Ottawa and wasn’t targeted in the passing game.
Grade: B minus
The Argos were missing two of their best offensive linemen against Ottawa and it showed. RT Jamal Campbell and rookie sensation C Peter Nicastro were greatly missed in Week 14. Especially in pass protection.
Philip Blake, who has done a great job battling through injuries, is best suited at guard. He can play centre but his responsibilities at the position prohibit him from the freedom he has at left guard. Blake struggled in pass protection against Ottawa. It wasn’t one of his better games.
Line stunts and inside pass rush have hindered Toronto’s passing attack greatly in recent weeks. It’s hurt Bethel-Thompson’s ability to set his feet and throw from the pocket.
The new wrinkle in the run-game increased production and Theren Churchill did a nice job as an added blocker in the scheme. Dariusz Bladek was fantastic as per usual in this game creating run lanes.
With so many of the Argos high-profile players, either injured or underperforming. Toronto needed one of their star players to come through in the clutch on Saturday. And that’s exactly what veteran DE Cordarro Law did against Ottawa with five tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
Toronto only had 3 sacks on Saturday but they constantly harrassed Duck Hodges and forced him off his spot in the pocket. DE Shane Ray didn’t have a huge stat line, only two tackles, but he had several pressures throughout the game. The same was true of Shawn Oakman.
The Argos d-line also held up very well against the run in the second half. It’s been a long time since you could say that. Toronto’s d-line needs to play at a high level for the team to make a serious push moving forward.
Grade: B plus
Henoc Muamba was fantastic on Saturday (5 tackles, 1 sack) but the rest of Toronto’s ragtag replacement crew at linebacker struggled. Justin Tuggle had a bad game starting in place of an elite player in Dexter McCoil. Tuggle was out of place and out of position in the first half on several plays.
Compounding matters was the injury to Chris Edwards at the Sam spot. Cam Judge was active but only had one tackle. He’s still a step slow in his recovery and it showed.
The unit played better in the second half but there’s a desperate need for Cameron Judge to recapture his form and the potential debut of Nate Holley couldn’t come at a better time with McCoil and potentially Chris Edwards on the shelf.
Grade: C plus
Perhaps you can attribute this to the opponent. Especially considering that the Redblacks started a CFL novice at the pivot in Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges. And the fact that Ottawa has a quality receiving stable but no major standouts. But this was the Argos secondary’s best overall performance of the entire season.
Not only did Toronto limit Duck Hodges and Ottawa to a 36% completion percentage and a mere 90 yards passing. But the secondary had five pass breakups in total. The coverage was so good that Hodges had nowhere to go with the football.
Since Joshua Bell’s departure, this was the best the Argos DB’s have looked. Jeff Richards, Jalen Collins, Crezdon Butler, and Shaq Richardson had phenomenal coverage all game long. The stat line isn’t filled with tackles or interceptions for this group but that’s because there were very few completed passes due to the blanket treatment of Ottawa receivers.
The unit can’t rest on its laurels because they are moving way up in class with their next opponent, the Tiger-Cats.
Grade: A plus
Toronto Argonauts Special Teams
There are still two weeks left in the regular season. But you’d be hard-pressed to not consider naming Boris Bede as the team’s most outstanding player. Bede has been a savior for the Argos all year.
Bede has been 10-10 on field goals in the last two weeks. Toronto doesn’t win without him in the last two games. It’s that simple. Bede is the ultimate roster saver because he kicks off, punts, and kicks field goals. And it’s a shame that the Frenchman is not considered a Canadian at this point. Otherwise, Bede would also save the team in the ratio as well.
I am not convinced that NFL teams shouldn’t be calling for Bede when the CFL season ends. Despite his age (31), he has earned a look south of the border. At the bare minimum, a CFL All-Star label is back in the cards for Bede after he did it in 2015 and it can be argued that he is the best special teams player in the CFL this year.
The person who can challenge Bede for that honor is Devonte Dedmon, who tied the aptly named Gizmo Williams for most touchdown returns in the fewest CFL games on Saturday. Teams foolishly make the mistake of kicking to him and Toronto paid the price for it on Saturday before adjusting later in the game.
The Argos were fortunate in this game that Lewis Ward didn’t kick like Lewis Ward. He uncharacteristically missed three field goals. That’s practically a season’s worth of misses for him.
Mark Nelson’s units have played better in recent weeks but the faux pas of kicking to Dedmon brings the overall grade down. Even though, Boris Bede and Chandler Worthy (191 return yards) have elevated the Boatmen’s special teams significantly.
Toronto Argonauts Overall Grade: C plus
I am not sure why people expected the Argos to blow the doors off of the Redblacks on Saturday. Considering how the team has played recently and the number of key players, they are missing.
No one came off the game impressed with Toronto’s three-point victory over Ottawa and rightfully so. But the Argos win was symbolic of their season so far. It’s something that I predicted in my game preview on Friday.
From a glass half full perspective. The Argos defence played a hell of a game. And when the chips were down, the Argos offence found a way late to mount two clutch scoring drives to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The bottom line, however, is that the Argonauts will not beat or even compete with the Tiger-Cats or Alouettes in a playoff setting if they play as they have recently.
Does Toronto have one more by any means necessary victory left in them for the regular season at home against Hamilton? Or are the Boatmen running out of steam? We are going to find out Friday at BMO Field.
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