Argos going to the Grey Cup
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Chad Kackert of the Argos celebrates his touchdown run in the Boatmen's 27-20 East final victory over the Alouettes at Olympic Stadium on Sunday. (Reuters)
MONTREAL - It’s Grey Cup or bust for the Argos, a time when Toronto’s band-wagging fans have a chance to finally hitch a ride on the backs of a championship-worthy franchise.
If an appearance in the historic 100th Grey Cup does not get the sporting juices flowing in fickle Hogtown, nothing, it seems, will.
The Argos will now play in the CFL’s biggest game of the season, perhaps in the history of three-down football if one is into nostalgia and history.
The biggest party Toronto has ever seen, at least if you listen to event organizers, is now on, now that the Argos have dispatched their old nemesis in the form of the Montreal Alouettes.
Sunday’s East final would be the Chad Show, a show of strength by Toronto’s defence, a show of character by a team that was down early, regrouped at the break and would emerge as the superior team.
Ricky Ray was not at his best, but he did not turn the ball over on a day when Chad Owens and Chad Kackert had the game of their lives.
And Toronto’s defence held the Als to only three second-half points as the Argos left hostile Olympic Stadium with a 27-20 win.
It’s hard to knock a guy when he’s trying to make a play, keep the chains and trying to keep his feet moving.
Andre Durie tried, almost too hard, but a fumble with 2:35 left gave the Als possession at Toronto’s 49-yard line.
For Toronto, it was their fourth turnover of the game, first in the second half.
The Als showed little patience, resorting to a pass play that would see Marcus Ball produce his second interception.
Whatever adversity is thrown at them, even when it’s self-induced, these Argos just have a way to make the right in-game adjustments.
It played out in the third quarter, by far Toronto’s most dominant stretch in all three phases.
The only blight came on a very idiotic penalty committed by Matt Black, who somehow wanted to make a high tackle on a ball carrier who was clearly out of bounds.
Luckily, the selfish act would only lead to an Als field goal.
Montreal did catch the Argos off balanced on a well-executed faked punt.
But it was the big play capability on offence and the Argos forcing a turnover that would give the Argos a 24-17 lead going into the final period.
A Sean Whyte chip shot on the opening play in the fourth quarter made it a 24-20 game.
At the half, the Argos found themselves trailing 17-10, the victims of self-inflicted wounds that were inexcusable and regrettable when the margin for error was so thin.
The first of three first-half turnovers would be produced on Toronto’s second play, a play that featured Montreal’s aggressive defence that came with an all-out blitz right up the middle.
The Argos then produced turnovers on downs, including a mind-numbing series of futility from the one-yard line that had no other option but to run the football.
Amazing how a team can’t convert on short yardage, how a starting quarterback is on the sideline, how little push up front is provided.
Ray should have been under centre to combat the noise, he should have taken the snap and provide some kind of run/pass option.
Instead, Jarious Jackson once again failed to deliver, only this time he got help when Chad Kackert couldn’t punch it in on back-to-back touches.
Ray was not at his best, under pressure and forced to bail when so much heat was being provided.
Still, the Argos were in the game and could have taken a lead had they not shot themselves in the foot and reverted to their offensive inefficiencies when operating in the red zone.
The Als, to their credit, did not beat themselves, a sure sign of a good team.
Offensively, the Als rode the legs of Chris Jennings, who gutted the Argos on cut-backs and by exploiting the middle of Toronto’s defence.
As is the case with Toronto’s defence, the unit makes in-game adjustments and for most of the half the Als weren’t able to do much of anything.
Then came a sequence the Als would use to exploit Toronto’s back end, which did not feature all-star corner Pat Watkins (ankle).
When Montreal got behind Toronto’s secondary, a big play to S.J. Green was produced, a play that would lead to the Als’ second major in the half.
Despite all their deficiencies, and there many, the Argos were in a one-possession game.