CALGARY - Some how, some way, the Argos defence has been put on the backburner, reduced to the role of subordinate when so much talk has surrounded the team’s offence.
The fact remains, Toronto’s defence, regardless of whatever numbers are used or measuring sticks are applied, is as good as it gets in three-down football, a unit that stole the show Saturday night.
Offensively, the Argos did just enough, but clearly need to do more inside the score zone before they’re considered Grey Cup worthy, but this defence is championship quality and in the end it’s defences that win.
Take away a few big plays down field, some moments of poor tackling and the occasional missed call and what unfolded was a defensive clinic masterminded, as fate would have it, by Chris Jones, the one-time co-ordinator for the Stamps who was making his return to Calgary for the first time since a move to Toronto in the off-season.
Offensively, the Stamps left a lot for the imagination, but credit the Argos for basically taking Calgary out of anything it wanted to establish.
Calgary’s lone touchdown was produced with 12 seconds remaining in regulation and the game reduced to a mere formality.
The night was capped by Jordan Younger’s third interception of the season on a tipped ball that pretty much sealed the deal, sending the Argos to their 22-14 win, a victory that improves Toronto’s record to 4-3.
Younger’s interception led to Swayze Waters’ fifth field goal of the night, which pretty much speaks to Toronto’s offensive inefficiency.
The Argos and Als share first in the East, but for now Toronto has the tiebreaker having beaten the them in Montreal.
The Argos’ woes on offence were summed up in one sequence, one possession inside the red zone that should have, had they executed better, resulted in a touchdown and not a chip-shot field goal.
On one down, Chad Kackert would line up in the wrong spot, a mental mistake that forced the Argos to take a time count.
On the next, the Argos somehow got confused in their personnel package, yet another mental error that led to a time count violation when no time out was available.
Inexcusable would aptly describe this strange series of events, magnified by Ricky Ray’s obvious show of frustration.
And who could blame Ray, the beneficiary of decent protection in the pocket who used his legs efficiently when flushed out and when no receiver came open.
Overall, the first half was a battle of defence and field position, a 30-minute stretch that featured very little big plays.
In fact, some of the biggest were produced by the game’s smallest, Toronto’s Chad Owens and Jeff Johnson and Calgary’s Johnny Forzani, who got behind coverage with Pacino Horne getting beat.
The Stamps would copy a page from the Argos’ self-implosion playbook when Nik Lewis, inexplicably and out of character, allowed himself to get baited by Brandon Isaac, Toronto’s linebacker/defensive back whose mouth moves almost as fast as his feet when dropping into coverage.
Instead of scrimmaging in a first-and-goal scenario, Lewis’ objectionable conduct call would cost the Stamps 10 yards, a penalty that would ultimately force the home side to settle for a field goal.
In two quarters, five field goals would be produced, the Argos would take a 9-6 lead into halftime, but far too many points were left on the field.
Granted, both defences did play well, bending but not breaking at times, but when mental mistakes are being committed it’s not surprising that no touchdown would be featured.
While much has been made of Kackert replacing Cory Boyd in the backfield, very little attention was paid to the changing of the guard on Toronto’s offensive line.
For the first time this season, the Argos did not feature an all-Canadian line, trying to address a protection issue by starting import and former Stamps left tackle Tony Washington and moving Wayne Smith inside to guard.
The Stamps did get some hits on Ray, but there was time to look down field.
What the Argos could not do was run the ball, going with a screen to Kackert that generated yards and once again featuring crossing routes to Owens.
Johnson broke tackles when Calgary failed to execute the most fundamental element of wrapping up to produce a 52-yard gain, a big play the Argos could not parlay into a touchdown when execution issues inside the score zone once again resurfaced.
Vintage offensive football it was not as the teams combined for 19 first downs in the opening half, a combined total of 73 rushing yards, including 26 by the visitors, but no turnovers.
For those keeping score, the Argos haven’t scored a touchdown in eight straight quarters, a period of futility that dates back to the first half of their road win against Montreal last month.
The streak would have been nine quarters had Ray and Andre Durie not hooked up on a scoring play on the final play of the third quarter, aided by a Stamps pass interference call.
Earlier in the 10-play drive, Durie dropped an easy ball in the flat when he looked up, an area to Durie’s game he has to clean up.
On the 26-yard major, the Argos ran a well-conceived play that featured Durie matched up in single coverage, which is a sure formula for success when Ray is given time.
The touchdown gave the Argos a 19-6 lead.
Toronto had an opportunity to deliver a knock-out blow in the fourth quarter, but an Owens fumble on a run play deprived the Argos points.
The turnover was the first of the game by either team and was brought to the attention of the officials when the Stamps threw a challenge flag, which was the prudent move given the play unfolded right in front of Calgary’s bench.