Argos refuse to run and hide

Toronto Argos cornerback Jermaine Mays and the rest of the defence will have to contain the...

Toronto Argos cornerback Jermaine Mays and the rest of the defence will have to contain the Montreal Alouettes running game in the East final if the Argos hope to emerge No. 1 and earn a trip to the Grey Cup game. (Toronto Sun/David Lucas)

ROB LONGLEY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The big eaters on the Argos defence can pretty much guess what will be on the menu Sunday afternoon at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

Sure, the Alouettes may try to add some spice for the East Division final, but if there's anything less than a steady dose of the run as the main course it will be a surprise.

Statistics, recent performances and game footage all tell the same not-so-flattering story.

"Why wouldn't they (run)?" Argos linebacker Mike O'Shea said yesterday following practice at the team's Mississauga headquarters.

"It has been successful for other teams in the past in terms of yardage gained. I wouldn't say it has been successful in terms of wins, though."

The Argos never denied that the three-man defensive front they employ can lead to big numbers for opposing runners. They surrendered a league-high 135 yards per game this season.

The upside is that the Argos generally can contain teams from lighting up the scoreboard, a stance backed up by the league-low 18.5 points per game they surrendered.

Still, Toronto's performance against the run the past two weeks has almost led to disastrous results.

It began in the regular-season finale when Alouettes stud Charles Edwards dinged them for 93 yards, two thirds of those in a fourth-quarter rally leading to a 24-20 Argos loss.

That setback cost the Boatmen a bye and forced them to win a semi-final before hitting the road.

This past Sunday could have been worse when Winnipeg's Charles Roberts was single-handedly about to end the Argos season while rolling to 179 yards on 30 carries.

If it weren't for a fumble late in the fourth quarter, setting up R. Jay Soward's winning touchdown catch, this already would be an off-season discussion.

"We have numbers against the run that aren't necessarily flattering, but the most significant thing we do is limit points," Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons said.

"We don't have a 350-pound lineman that controls the middle. If we did, things would probably change."

Some would suggest it might want to change in a hurry. In the first Argos-Als meeting this season, Edwards had 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-7 Als win.

As well, the two teams aren't that far removed from the 2005 East final when Edwards was injured and Eric Lapointe came in and rumbled for 112 yards and three touchdowns, all in the second half.

This Sunday the attention and tackles will be focused on Edwards, a former 1,000-yard runner in the NFL.

"He's a bruiser," O'Shea said.

"He's obviously got some speed, too, and he led the league in touchdowns. He certainly has the ability to drag a pile and bowl you over if you hit him up top."


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