TORONTO - Adversity, if a team can handle it properly, can be used as a motivating factor.
The Argonauts donít have any choice but to attempt to use a shocking loss against the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night, somehow, to their advantage.
But despite losing a game that they were leading by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, the Argos might not have to look too deep to realize there are some good things to take out of it.
Importantly, unlike a year ago when the Alouettes concluded the regular season by waxing the Argos by 25 points using mostly their backups, the Als got off the train at Union Station on Thursday with a bone to pick, mostly with themselves. Licking their wounds after they were humiliated a week earlier by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Alouettes knew they would be putting their full roster on the field against the Argos and werenít using the game simply as a warmup for the East final, which they will play host to on Nov. 21 at Olympic Stadium.
No, the Alouettes wanted to win as badly as they would have had they not had a playoff spot sewn up.
But the walk in the park that many figured would transpire didnít happen. The Argos didnít lie down, and had Cleo Lemon not thrown two interceptions at crucial moments in the latter stages, the Argos probably would have won.
As hard as it was to swallow Lemonís miscues, the Argos would have had a lot more to answer for had they been blown out.
Figure on head coach Jim Barker stressing some positives ó recovering from a 14-0 deficit and outscoring Montreal 27-6 in the second and third quarters combined ó when the Argos return to practice in Erindale at Mississauga on Tuesday.
One has to wonder, though, whether Barkerís private thoughts regarding Lemon mesh with those he puts forth publicly. Barker has stood by Lemon through thick and thin (mostly thin), but even Barker knew the loss against the Alouettes mostly was on Lemonís shoulders. Itís part of being a quarterback in professional football. Teams go, for the most part, as their quarterbacks do. Buck Pierce of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for example, was off to a good start before he was hurt. If Pierce stayed healthy for the balance of the season, the Bombers almost assuredly would have been a playoff team. Instead, they seemed to lose every week by less than a field goal and their post-season hopes were toast.
Statistic usually donít concern Barker but one that he has to consider is that Lemon has thrown for only 14 touchdowns but has been intercepted 19 times. No matter how it is painted, that doesnít scream Grey Cup appearance in less than a month.
Minutes after it happened, Lemon was hoping that some good could be gleaned from the loss to Montreal.
ďYou want to build positive energy for the playoffs, and you donít want it to set you back, you know?Ē Lemon said. ďYou make the necessary corrections and hopefully you can get something out of this.Ē
(And while Lemon has taken shots in the media, he gets full marks for answering questions after every game. Not once has he or his teammates ducked reporters, an approach that some higher-paid athletes in Toronto might want to think about trying).
Barker knows progression each week is paramount and could have pointed to more had Lemon not thrown the game away.
ďItís all about (whether) we are better next week than we were this weekend, and progress to a point where we can compete with Hamilton (in the East semifinal),Ē Barker said. ďAnd then go back to Montreal (for the division final) and beat them.Ē