Running in high gear

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

There were questions and a few curious comments when the Argos announced a starting backfield of Ricky Williams and John Avery.

No one, not even the Argos, knew for certain how two players accustomed to the spotlight would react, how two players used to getting plenty of touches would co-exist.

For one game, Williams and Avery answered any lingering doubts, spearheading an offence that looked dominant at times and ensuring the Argos another post-season berth.

"To see J. A. and R. W. lining up together in the same backfield was exciting," Arland Bruce said after the Argos had beaten the visiting Edmonton Eskimos 28-23.

"That was something special. It's going to be hard right now to stop No. 20 (Avery) and No. 27 (Williams). It's going to be a nice one-two punch."

With Williams lining up at fullback, the punishing runner was able to use his down-hill style to gain yards and first downs.

Avery is known as a cut-back runner and slasher who lined up in different formations and who ran the clock out after the Argos defence forced a turnover on downs in the game's final minute.

"It's easy to complement each other when there's no animosity," Avery said. "We pull for each other. The purpose is to win."

Neither Avery nor Williams is exactly healthy, either. Avery continues to battle a banged-up ankle, an injury he said he felt throughout the game.

Williams aggravated an Achilles tendon last week, but knows how to play through pain this late in a season.

"No one is going to be healthy at this time," Williams said. "Sometimes you play better because you focus more when you're banged up."

For the game, Williams rushed seven times for 71 yards while Avery had 11 carries for 66 yards.

More importantly, the tandem forced the Eskimos to spread their defence, allowing playmakers like Bruce and Tony Miles to run downfield on one-on-one matchups.

Miles eclipsed the 100-yard mark, while Bruce hauled in two Damon Allen touchdown passes.

The only glitch to the Williams-Avery experiment happened on the game's second offensive play when the Argos were forced to call a timeout after Avery was subbed out.

Williams also missed an easy pass in the flat, but was a load down field running the ball and opening holes.

Except for a few time-consuming drives by the Eskimos, a botched third-down gamble on a Michael Bishop quarterback keeper and unforced penalties, the Argos played one of their best games of the year.

The win improves their record to 9-6 and keeps the Argos tied with Montreal for first in the East. The two teams meet in the season finale at Rogers Centre Oct. 28.

The Eskimos (5-10) play host to the Argos Saturday, facing a do-or-die scenario as they hope to catch Saskatchewan for the third and final playoff spot in the West. Edmonton has made the CFL's post-season the past 34 years.


Videos

Photos