A bunch of copycats

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

TORONTO -- When they step on to the gridiron at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon, the Argonauts will attempt to replicate a page out of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats playbook.

Well, in a sense.

The Ticats swept the season series from the Argos, beating their arch-rivals all three times they faced each other, and the Argos will have a chance to do the same versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Two of Toronto's seven wins this season have been against the Bombers, the only team the Boatmen have beaten twice in 2010.

A win would ensure that the Argos make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Toronto is 7-8, the Bombers 4-11 and still not eliminated from the possibility of crossing over into the West Division and claiming a playoff berth.

The Argos are glad that close doesn't count in the world of professional sports. Winnipeg has lost seven games by four points or fewer, and eight of its losses have come by seven points. Both hair-greying statistics have tied league records.

What might be encouraging for the Argos is that in both of their victories against Winnipeg, the Bombers didn't have much of an answer for Toronto's running game.

Back on July 9, the Argos won their first game of the season when they blew a 16-0 lead at Canad Inns but recovered with a 12-point fourth quarter and won 36-34.

Cory Boyd, who has said he will play this weekend despite a tender ankle, had his first 100-yard game in the Canadian Football League that night, rushing for 109 yards on 19 carries.

But on Sept. 19 at the Rogers Centre, Boyd was out with a concussion.

Still, the Argos were successful in rushing-by-committee, as four of them, led by Jeff Johnson with a team-best 62 yards, had at least 31 yards on the ground.

Undoubtedly, Bombers defensive co-ordinator Kavis Reed will spend much of this week devising a plan to stop Boyd cold. The Ticats did it by putting an extra defender in the box, so Boyd had nowhere to go. Interestingly, Winnipeg is one of the better CFL teams against the run.

Buck Pierce lit up the Argos defence for 336 yards passing and 103 yards rushing back in July, but the veteran quarterback remains sidelined with an elbow injury.

Had Pierce not missed all but five games of the season, it's probable that the Argos, not the Bombers, would be scrambling to make the playoffs through the West. It's safe to assume Pierce would have turned several of those close setbacks into wins.

And speaking of quarterbacks, it might be best not to mention that Cleo Lemon's worst game this season was against Winnipeg last month, when he passed for just 90 yards. Whoops. An 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chad Owens was one of two majors the Argos scored.

The Argos' defence gave up some big yardage to individuals during that game, as Fred Reid had 100 yards rushing and Terrence Edwards made four catches for 140 yards.

But other than one touchdown by Edwards, the Bombers managed only a couple of field goals by Justin Palardy.

As a unit, the Argos' defenders will have to stay on its toes. If nothing else, the Bombers have proven to be a statistical anomaly through 15 games. They keep losing close ones, but of their four victories, three were by at least 20 points, and the fourth was a stirring overtime triumph against the B.C. Lions two weeks ago, a result that led to Casey Printers' release by the Lions.

The Bombers have three fewer wins than the Argos but have scored 125 more points while allowing 14 more.

Still, Argos head coach Jim Barker, whose players return to practice on Tuesday, might find his biggest challenge this week comes in motivating his team.

As pros, the Argos shouldn't need it, especially after what happened last week against the Tiger-Cats. But nothing, as they have demonstrated, can be taken for granted.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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