Argos come up short, again

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo throws a pass against the Toronto Argonauts during...

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo throws a pass against the Toronto Argonauts during the first half of their CFL football game in Toronto October 14, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

TORONTO - Ricky Ray had better get healthy, sooner rather than later at a time of the season when Toronto’s margin for error grows thinner by each passing week.

Any hopes of playing host to the East final have basically been eroded, any hope for even getting to the stage with a shot of the playing on the CFL’s biggest stage clearly rests on Ray’s shoulders.

The Jarious Jackson story was nice for one game, but he simply lacks the accuracy, touch and presence only a player of Ray’s ilk brings to an offence.

And in a quarterback league such as the CFL, a team is only as good as its quarterback and right now the Argos simply aren’t good.

In a year where both Hamilton and Winnipeg have been pathetic, the Argos will end up in second and are likely to play host to the East semifinal. By then, Ray will be back and only a healthy Ray will give Toronto its only chance of post-season success.

On Sunday afternoon against visiting Montreal with first place on the line, Toronto’s defence played well enough to win, though two crucial deep throws in man coverage that led to 10 points did prove costly. The most costly play came in the fourth quarter when Shea Emry intercepted Jackson for a pick six to effectively seal the deal as the Als improved to 9-6, while the Argos dropped to 7-8.

The final score was 24-12 in Montreal’s favour, but it was more of a one-possession game, a game the Argos could have seized had they played cleaner football.

Neither team got much from its quarterback, but the Als simply made enough plays to win and, in the end, they did not beat themselves, no matter how ugly it looked at times.

Curiously, the Argos decided to attempt a fake punt from their own 49-yard line. Noel Prefontaine, who dropped a snap in the first quarter, but used his poise and athleticism to get off the punt, tried to hook up with Jordan Younger. Even if Younger had held on to the football, it’s doubtful he had the necessary yards.

As it was, the turnover in downs provided excellent field position for the Als, who would take a 10-9 lead, the first lead the Als have fashioned in three games.

It wouldn’t last long, but the disadvantage would then turn into an advantage when Jamel Richardson burned Pat Watkins on a 75-yard touchdown reception.

In the opening half, the Argos pretty much did what they had to do given the pieces. With both the starting quarterback and tailback unable to play, the Argos couldn’t afford to turn the ball over on any down, had to complete passes to move the chains and take shots when opportunities presented themselves.

What held the Argos back was a season-long theme that has yet to be addressed, one that may ultimately doom the Boatmen — penalties and pass protection. Had the Argos been able to play a cleaner half, they could have, in theory, blown out an Als team that looked completely dispirited and disinterested.

All that was at stake was first place, which made Montreal’s mind-set that much more puzzling.

By the break, the Argos were leading 9-7, the only touchdown produced by Andre Durie, who took a screen pass, cut back inside and eluded would-be tacklers who were fundamentally poor in their execution.

When the Argos forced turnovers, they were negated when lack of discipline yet again surfaced. On one interception, the Als threw a challenge flag and it was overturned, allowing an extra set of downs late in the half.

Montreal then produced its only significant play by taking advantage of man coverage. T.J. Williams failed to pick up the ball and when he didn’t the Als had completed a 47-yard pass to Eric Deslauriers, a completion that led to a field goal on what would be the final play of the half.

Whether it was a combination of Montreal’s lack of speed at the receiver spot, play calling and Anthony Calvillo’s errant passes, the Als offence looked completely out of sync.

The Argos set the tone by forcing a two and out on the opening series, but much of Montreal’s woes were self-inflicted.

Jackson did throw the ball much better than he did in last week’s loss to Saskatchewan, but his lack of touch was evident far too often, two throws in particular that should have resulted in routine first downs.

Chad Owens, for one, has suffered in Ray’s absence. Owens is the kind of receiver who flourishes in crossing routes, but he needs a quarterback with Ray’s touch and precision.


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