Argos had winner 'Pegged

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

It was as close as Michael (Pinball) Clemons can get to being a football fan at this time of year.

So the Argos coach appreciated yesterday's East semi-final for its entertainment value if not the result.

In the end, the Argos got just what they pretty much expected and ultimately the bumpier road to the Grey Cup.

"(Winnipeg was) always the team we thought we would have to go through," Clemons said after yesterday's thriller, a last-second 24-22 win over Montreal.

"In fact, we thought we would be going to their place rather than them coming to ours. I like this format much better."

By playing host to the Bombers Sunday at the Rogers Centre, at least the Argos will have a role in snapping an annoyingly mundane trend in the CFL East.

The Argos and Als had met in the past five East finals as the Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have been little more than space fillers in the four-team loop.

But rather than yet another date with Montreal, a team which limped into the playoffs at 8-10 and without their starting quarterback, Anthony Calvillo, they can expect a stern test from the Bombers.

"With Calvillo out and the circumstances surrounding all that, you knew it was going to be tough for Montreal," Argos defensive end Jonathan Brown said yesterday.

"They rallied and they led for a lot of the game, but with their leader gone, they were stacked against the wall."

While watching with 20 or so teammates at linebacker Kevin Eiben's home, Brown was no doubt paying special attention to Winnipeg running back Charles Roberts.

When he's on, Roberts can be among the most electrifying players in the league. But the man they call Blink had been out of the Bombers lineup the past two games, including the Argos 16-8 win over Winnipeg two weeks ago.

Roberts got stronger by the carry yesterday, running for 107 yards, including 24 big ones on the final drive to leave shaky kicker Troy Westwood with a chip shot to claim the win.

"(Roberts) is the key to their offence and the more carries he got, the better he got," Brown said. "You could see him getting his feet under him later in the game."

On the other side of the ball, the return of defensive tackle Doug Brown was another big boost for the Bombers, especially on two key third-down stops.

The first came in the second quarter when the Als couldn't punch the ball in from the one. The second came with 1:35 remaining, which gave Winnipeg the ball on the Als' 44-yard line to set up the gift drive for Westwood's winner.

MADE HIM CRINGE

"I was cringing when it was going on," Clemons said when asked about Als coach Jim Popp's decision.

Sunday's date with the Bombers will mark a rematch of last year's division semi-final, which was also played here.

That game was the unofficial beginning of the Michael Bishop era as he came on in relief of Damon Allen, throwing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a 31-27 win.

Bishop didn't get the start the following week but earned it early this season, in which he is now 11-1.

The Argos have won two of three meetings with the Bombers but with a berth in the Grey Cup on the line, the stakes just got a whole lot richer.

"They played well every time we played them this year," Clemons said.

"And we fully expect this will be our toughest game of the year.

"The winner goes to the Cup this time."


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