Test vs. best: Argos fail

Ricky Ray of the Toronto Argonauts is tackled by B.C Lions Keron Williams during the first half of...

Ricky Ray of the Toronto Argonauts is tackled by B.C Lions Keron Williams during the first half of their CFL football game in Vancouver, British Columbia, September 15, 2012. REUTERS/Ben Nelms (CANADA)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 PM ET

VANCOUVER - In terms of litmus tests, in terms of measuring oneself against the league’s very best, the Argos would fail on both accounts.

If the Argos truly are committed, and there’s no evidence to suggest the contrary, to winning this year’s Grey Cup, then changes must be initiated.

As well as their defence has played, there simply is too instances when breakdowns are able to unfold, which is tolerable when playing a team such as Hamilton when the Ticats were in their funk.

It’s quite different against a Lions team, the picture not as pretty when an inability to tackle leads to the chains being moved, when a defence is unable to make a play when an opponent is in second and long within the shadow of its end zone.

Ironically, it was Toronto’s defence that scored the game’s opening touchdown Saturday night, one of those freak plays only the CFL can create, a sequence that featured two fumbles, one by each team, before Matt Black ran it into the end zone.

Only when the Argos are able to control the line of scrimmage, when a receiver is able to make plays down the field and when minimizing mistakes, only then can Toronto seriously mount a challenge against the reigning Grey Cup champions.

When they met last month in Toronto, B.C., won a defensive battle, forcing four turnovers and jumping out to an early 10-0 lead en route to an 18-9 win.

In the return game in a city that hasn’t been kind to the visitors, the Argos would yet again end up on the losing end, this time to the tune of 28-23, a score that flattered the visitors.

The Lions should have won going away, but had to wait to the very last minute to preserve their win, in part because they made too many mistakes.

Ricky Ray had no time to look down field, unable to go through his progression when so much was being applied.

Gerald Riggs Jr., who stepped in for an injured Chad Kackert, was effective, but the Argos didn’t get him enough touches, especially in the opening half when so many breaks were going Toronto’s way.

There was lack of discipline, breakdowns in the secondary, some curious play calling when pressure should have been applied to force a quick throw and a missed field goal by Swayze Waters, a rookie who struggled with his punting inside the opened-roof B.C. Place.

In contrast, the Lions were in rhythm, even when moments of self-destruction would surface.

Early on, it looked as though the Lions were primed for an upset, sloppy in their ball security, out of sorts on offence, but it wouldn’t last long, especially with an inept Argos offence having to go up against a very dominant B.C.’s defence.

Ray, who accounted for three turnovers last month, did have the ball hit the ground on one play, but it wasn’t his fault as Mike Bradwell provided some token blitz pick up that left Ray vulnerable.

Ray would fumble the ball, but he recovered it.

What did in the Argos in the opening half was an inability to move the ball on offence and their defence surrendering too many big plays.

When Patrick Watkins needed to wrap up a Lions ball carrier, he missed the tackle, allowing the Lions another set of downs, a missed play that led to a Shawn Gore touchdown.

The Lions had a Tim Brown punt return negated on a penalty, but undaunted they took possession, ultimately featuring a Travis Lulay 39-yard strike to Gore.

For Lulay, it marked his 22nd consecutive game of throwing a touchdown, second most in CFL history behind the legendary Sam (Rifle) Etcheverry, who threw a touchdown in 34 straight games.

For Gore, who played football and rugby at Newtonbrook, it was of two first-half receptions that were very impactful, the other a 48-yard gain with the Lions scrimmaging from their seven-yard line on second down.

The series was capped by an Arland Bruce III touchdown reception with five seconds left in the half when he basically outjumped Carroll in man coverage.

The half ended with the Lions leading 18-7, but it wasn’t that close.

Even when B.C. led 18-13 after three quarters, the score was misleading.

After three quarters, the deepest penetration by the Argos was to B.C.’s 30-yard line, a series that was set up by a Lions fumble and a 45-yard Ray to Spencer Watt completion.

Had B.C. not turned the ball over, the game would never have been in doubt.

The Argos, though, were much better in their defensive execution, tighter in the secondary and more fundamentally sound in their tackling.

Offensively, they took shots down the field, a second big play to Watt would find pay dirt, but an apparent 62-yard score was called back on a Mo Mann holding infraction.

The Argos would settle for a field goal and amazingly trailed by only 21-16.

On the ensuing series by B.C., order was restored as the Lions drove the field, was abetted by some Argos penalties, and cashed in on an eight-play, 75-yard drive when Rolly Lumbala plunged in for a major and a 28-16 advantage with 7:21 remaining.

But credit the Argos for refusing to go away and pity the Lions for taking the win for granted as Waters caught the Leos napping on a punting formation, a mental lapse Ray and Chad Owens would parlay into a 52-yard score.

 


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