Defence does it, again

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

If you were part of the season-high crowd of 40,116 at the Rogers Centre yesterday, look on the bright side.

Sure, you sat through a dreadful afternoon of football, but the Argos still won.

And if you have tickets to a Boatmen playoff game or the Grey Cup, the entertainment value -- and the performance of the offence for that matter -- has only one way to go.

Barely taking advantage of the injury-ravaged Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Argos overcame their own languishing attack for a 16-8 victory.

Pushing their win streak to six, the Argos leapfrogged the Bombers for first in the CFL East and can clinch a bye and home-field for the division final next week.

Either a Toronto win on Saturday in Regina or a Winnipeg loss to Montreal on Friday night would do it, setting up the East final on Nov. 18, a week before the Grey Cup touches down at the dome.

"It's better to be an ugly first place than a pretty second place," said Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons.

Make no mistake though, this one was ugly.

Argos quarterback Michael Bishop, who is now 10-1 as a starter, may have had his worst game of the season as the offence continued to sputter. Until two late completions, he had hit less than a third of his attempts. He completed just 10 of 29 for 145 yards, often overthrowing receivers and seemingly misreading plays.

"I played terrible. I didn't come through," said Bishop, who also had an interception and lost a fumble before his 17-yard touchdown pass to Arland Bruce late in the fourth quarter put things away.

"I let the defence down. I let special teams down. The key thing is we won, but I've got to play better if we are going to win the championship."

Clemons wasn't about to disagree after watching Bishop founder against a Bombers defence ripe for a pounding.

"If we can win three more games with him this way, we can, in the off-season, see if we can get a little better (on offence)," Clemons said. "I feel we're going to need the offence in the playoffs to win. When the offence plays average, we're battling for our lives."

Rarely is that battle lost, however, thanks to what is a truly dominant defence.

For the second consecutive week, it kept its opponent out of the end zone despite the ejection of its big man in the middle, Adriano Belli, for rough play late in the first half.

Both Argos touchdowns had little to do with offence. The first, a one-yard touchdown run by John Avery, came after special-teamer Ray Fontaine was unblocked and batted down a Pat Fleming punt, then recovered it.

Bruce's score was set up when Fontaine punched the ball loose from Winnipeg punt returner Keith Stokes.

The two remaining Argonauts points came on singles from Noel Prefontaine, who was 0-for-3 in field goal attempts.

"We haven't had a scoring offence here in a while," said Argos defensive end Ron Flemons. "They gave us enough points to win and that's all we can ask for.

"Put some points down and we'll work with it."


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