The inevitable questions began to get raised the moment the Argos took to the field with a new-look offence.
It was far from revolutionary and nothing completely dramatic that sees a team go from a pass-happy attack to one that pounds the ball.
But for weeks, one of the riddles to this season of unanswered questions and mounting losses was why Chad Kackert was not in the same backfield with Cory Boyd.
The rule of thumb in any professional sport is to line up with your best, a move that doesn’t guarantee a win, but in theory it gives a team its best shot.
Add in the fact that the Argos have had absolutely no passing game to speak of and it made the decision not to play Kackert with Boyd all the more bizarre.
While the Argos have some nice Canadian depth in the likes of Jeff Johnson and Andre Durie, Kackert was playing too well when he did fill in for an injured Boyd not to get another chance.
Two months later, Kackert was back in kickoff returns for an injured Durie, lining up in the backfield in a formation that would see Boyd go in motion as a receiving threat and would even make tackles on special teams.
Suddenly, the Argos had a run game and were suddenly playing like a team desperate for a win with so few games remaining in a lost season.
It doesn’t really matter what the Argos do from now until the Nov. 3 season finale against Hamilton, despite what the team wants one to believe.
And regardless of who lines up where, the look of the Argos for next season’s all-important year when the franchise plays host to the 100th Grey Cup must be completed at training camp.
But establishing a run game is a start, an element to the Argos that kick-started Friday’s meeting against the Calgary Stampeders, a team that staggered into Rogers Centre.
When making downfield connections with any receiver became an exercise in futility, the Argos had no choice but to run the ball.
With the game in the balance, it was the run game, and some costly Calgary penalties, that would lead to Noel Prefontaine’s game-winning field goal from 18 yards at the buzzer.
A 31-29 win all but forgives the Argos for three second-half points and four Steven Jyles interceptions.
Faced with a short week, the Argos defence help when it was absolutely needed and Jyles led the offence on a game-winning drive.
“We just knew our defence would make a stand and it did,’’ Jyles said of a unit that looked vulnerable in the second half until it forced Calgary into a punt. “As an offence, we knew we didn’t score any points in the second half, but we had one last chance and we believed.
“It was great win for us, especially at the end when we made plays on both sides of the ball.”
Boyd would rush for more than 100 yards by half-time, when the Argos were leading 28-9 by rendering Henry Burris to the ranks of bystander.
The Argos even ran a quarterback draw, which works even better when the opposing defence is forced to clear linebackers to account for backs going in motion.
With two Canadians starting at wideout and head coach Jim Barker clearly getting more involved in the play calling, the Argos offence that lined up against Calgary was different and its run-first approach was the prudent way to operate.
Barker has often spoke of establishing a one-two backfield punch in the Pinball Clemons/Robert Drummond model of the Doug Flutie days.
While Boyd runs downhill like Drummond, there is no Clemons, but it was good to see the Argos nonetheless try something new when it’s been painfully obvious, for quite some time it must be stated, that their previous approach wasn’t working.
By running the ball more, Jyles is asked to do less when chains are being moved and points produced.
Boyd’s first-quarter touchdown, a score that followed a Stamps turnover, would represent Toronto’s first offensive major in 11 quarters.
On Kackert’s first run in two months, 25 yards were produced.
The only times the Argos struggled arrived when Jyles had to attempt a throw.
For most of the first half and into the third quarter, Jyles was not good, intercepted twice and either underthrowing receivers, forcing throws or losing yards when getting rid of the ball should have been exercised.
The way Burris struggled, quarterback play was not exactly at a high level.
It makes one wonder why the Argos are even contemplating an extension for Jyles when he hasn’t done much to warrant any commitment.
As good as the Argos looked in the opening half, they looked just as bad in the third quarter, a period that saw Calgary outscore its hosts 10-0.
Drew Tate relieved an ineffective Burris, who threw a pick six to Byron Parker, and the move clearly ignited Calgary.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Stamps made it a 28-26 game and took the lead with 3:48 left following a 24-yard field by Rene Paredes.
It’s often been said that mom knows best and Byron Parker has saved his best for when his mother is sitting in the stands.
With Parker on the cusp of joining an exclusive CFL club, his mom, Annette Moss-Parker, made the flight from Atlanta in hopes of being witness to history.
Turns out the Parker matriarch didn’t have to watch very long to see her son return an interception for a touchdown, the eighth time Parker has managed the feat in his career.
Dick Thornton, Malcolm Frank and current Edmonton defensive back Jason Goss are the only players in CFL to produce eight pick sixes.
If the football-playing Parker has his way, more plays of playmaking awaits, as long as his mom is in the stands.
“All of the picks, except for one, were done with my mom in attendance,’’ the Argos defensive back said. “My sister may not like it, but I may have to get my mom back for next week’s game. Or maybe I have to get two air tickets to make sure she’s here.”
After Parker returned a Henry Burris interception 32 yards in the second quarter, he ran to his mom and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“I never aimed for this record,’’ Parker said. “It just happened.”
Considering Parker never played high school football, his accomplishment is remarkable, a testament to his athletic abilities and his knack for being around the football.
“This really is a symbol for all the guys who took me under my wing when I came to Canada,’’ Parker added. “I’m very humbled.”
Airing it out
With the Argos intent on establishing the run, the passing game would become an afterthought during Friday night’s win over Calary. All told, the Argos would account for 236 rushing yards, led by Cory Boyd’s game-high 148 yards. Passing wise, no receiver had more than 50 yards and veteran Jeremaine Copeland did not catch a single ball for the second time this season. Here’s a breakdown of the passing game.