Argos off the panic button

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Is it time for the Argos to start panicking?

If you're on the outside looking in, the answer may be yes. But if you're on the inside, the answer is no.

With three losses in their past five games and tied with Montreal for first in the East after leading the Als by four points in late August, the Argos are going through some challenges. Turnovers and penalties have been mounting with increasing regularity since they began their string of inconsistency with a 33-30 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Labour Day.

There are enough signs the Argos have lost their mid-season edge, when they boasted a 6-3 record and looked like legitimate defending Grey Cup champions.

When asked yesterday about the current situation with his team, Argos quarterback Damon Allen said: "I don't think we're stressing out yet. We ain't got to that point yet."

With a laugh, Allen added: "Maybe after this game we'll see."

The Argos play in Winnipeg on Sunday against a team that still is mathematically alive in the race to make the playoffs with five wins in 15 games.

However, the Blue Bombers need to close out the season by winning all three games and hoping for some breaks.

The Argos, conversely, are headed for the playoffs with four games to go, barring a major catastrophe.

While every game is important, clearly the one in Montreal on Oct. 22 will have significant impact. The teams have split the two games they've played this season, with each squad winning in the other's stadium.

"Winnipeg will be our focus from here until Sunday and we'll have to put all of our desire and will and imagination towards getting a win," head coach Pinball Clemons said.

The Bombers beat the B.C. Lions 44-23 on Monday and can't be dismissed playing at home with a hunger to make the playoffs.

Three hours before the Argos and Blue Bombers game, the Als will play host to the slumping Lions, who won their first 11 games but have lost their past three.

The Als are one of the hottest teams in the league, having made a series of personnel moves on defence and adjusting their scheme from pressure to power. Offensively, quarterback Anthony Calvillo has adjusted to a rebuilt receiving corps, and rookie tailback Robert Edwards has given the Als their best running back in several seasons.

The Argos are in the midst of four games in 17 days, and it's Allen's belief that part of the Argos' problems have been directly related to gaps in the schedule that have hurt the team's rhythm.

"We're playing every week, so hopefully we can hit our stride of playing consistently week in, week out," Allen said.

Clemons said there is a solution to the Argos' woes.

"You have to make the plays when they present themselves, it's that simple," Clemons said.

"You can talk about modifications and all of that, but regardless of what you do, you've got to make the plays."

While the Argos made a significant personnel addition in August by adding power fullback Sean Millington to bolster their running game, Clemons said no major player changes are expected for the balance of the season.

Injuries, however, could always change that.

It is worth remembering that the Argos went through a series of struggles last season before clinching a playoff berth in the penultimate game of the season and peaking in the post-season.

But there is almost a feeling the Argos may have peaked too soon, perhaps in the same way B.C. did.

"We can overstate a lot of things and over-evaluate a lot of things, but we've got a chance to be in the playoffs, and when we get in the playoffs we've got a chance to beat anybody we play," Clemons said.


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