MONTREAL -- Argonauts linebacker Mike O'Shea had any number of reasons to enjoy that cold can of post-game refreshment he was nursing last night at Olympic Stadium.
First up, celebration was in order as the Argos clinched second place in the CFL East standings and a home playoff date following a grinding 16-9 win over the Montreal Alouettes.
A sixth consecutive victory moved them to 9-7 and set up a showdown for first place with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Saturday at the Rogers Centre.
And as the hottest team in the league, the Boatmen have more than served notice they are a legitimate threat to finish a homestand on Grey Cup Sunday in five weeks.
"I think this one built some character," said O'Shea, who had a season-high two sacks and was in the thick of things all through the battle in front of a noisy Big O crowd of 44,510, the second-largest in the league this season.
As the game ended, O'Shea escorted a justifiably overheated teammate Jonathan Brown off the field after the stud defensive end had been chop-blocked by Montreal's Bryan Chiu.
Earlier, he had a talk with fiery nose tackle Adriano Belli, who has been a run-stopping force for the Argos this season, but never gets shy when the going gets nasty.
And in the first half, there was a not-so gentle reminder to receiver Arland Bruce III after an overcooked touchdown celebration on the Alouettes midfield logo.
At age 37, O'Shea surely knows his opportunities at winning another Grey Cup are winding down. And what he sees from a team that is steamrolling at the best possible time has the 15-year veteran fired up.
"This team is built with the type of character that believes it's okay when a teammate says: 'You need to do this,' or 'I need to do that,' " O'Shea said. "If that's going to help us win, that's what we need to do.
"We've got a lot of great guys who understand the game of football."
As it has been for the better part of five seasons now, it was once again the Scullers defence that ruled the day, holding the Als to a pair of field goals and a single. The other two Montreal points came on a safety.
So, even the offensive offering of one touchdown and three Noel Prefontaine field goals was enough.
"We didn't finish well, but at least we finished," said Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons, who will lead the team to the playoffs for the sixth season in a row, the second-longest streak in team history.
Rather than worry about when the offence might come around, the defence is quite pleased to play the role of protective big brother.
While some would rather see touchdowns, linebacker Michael Fletcher's tackle of Jarrett Payton for a loss on third and goal in the third quarter was a thing of football beauty.
"They give us 16 and we feel we should win every time," Brown said. "I'm good with that. I get paid to stop people. We keep doing our job and we'll be all right."
Quarterback Michael Bishop, now 9-1 as the Argos starter, naturally would like to give his defence more of a safety net. But for a team that keeps on winning, no one is complaining.
"Everybody on this team has stuck together," said Bishop, whose highlight yesterday was his 29-yard touchdown toss to Bruce. "Our defence knowing whatever we give them, there's no doubt in my mind they're going to come out and play well."