Argos need a killer instinct

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

TORONTO — Like a mixed martial arts fighter who has been cleared to scrap in Ontario, the Argonauts want to develop a killer instinct.

They put some meat into that process when they defeated the defending Grey Cup champions on Saturday night, allowing the visiting Montreal Alouettes a meagre point in the fourth quarter of a 37-22 victory.

Right attitude

All great teams are able to shut the opposition down when crunch time arrives. But it’s not something that is learned in a couple of games, which head coach Jim Barker and his players realize. It’s not something that Barker drew up after he was hired in February and put in the playbook. It comes from the right attitude and the belief that nothing can come between the team and a win when the outcome is not solidified.

A week earlier, the Argos burped up a 12-point half-time lead in Edmonton against the Eskimos and had to roar back from a 28-19 deficit late in the fourth quarter to win.

“(The Montreal) game was good for that, because we had a lead against Edmonton, and we weren’t able to continue piling on in terms of the pressure and the intensity,” Barker said. “This week, we were able to maintain that intensity.”

The next step in the development of the Argos, and really, their identity as a whole, will come on Friday night when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats arrive at the Rogers Centre for the clubs’ final game before the bye week.

“Friday is a great test for our guys … can they get focused, can they spend the extra time they need to spend so that when they come out they are able to play with a lot of energy?” Barker said.

“That is the whole key. Can you play the game with energy for 60 minutes? I thought against Montreal, we did that.”

When the Argos beat the Alouettes, it was the first of their five wins this season in which they had the lead after three quarters. What was paramount was that the Argos didn’t dry up against a Montreal team that would have shocked no one had it rebounded and emerged on the right side of the scoreboard.

Instead, the Argos, in another sign that they are for real, became the first team this season to record victories against both Montreal and Calgary, which is 6-1 and off to its best start in a decade.

The defence has carried the Argos in the past, but now there are indications the offence is going to produce with consistency. And it’s easy to forget that special teams coach Mike O’Shea has not coached previously considering how well the special teams are performing.

‘Few more chances’

“With (quarterback) Cleo (Lemon) putting back-to-back games together, that is huge for the defence, because once the offence starts clicking, it allows us to take a few more chances,” cornerback Byron Parker said. “That is when you start to develop a killer instinct, when you have a great confidence in your quarterback and what the offence is going to do. That boils over to defence and special teams.”

And to put the heel on the throat of an opponent is a lot more difficult when the team is Montreal. It’s one thing to help contribute to the six losses sustained by the B.C. Lions and the Eskimos, as the Argos have done; it’s another to handily beat a team that owned you for nearly three years.

“It was a beautiful thing to play from the front, and dictate how they are going to come out,” safety Willie Pile said. “We forced them to throw the ball a little bit more, and we had good coverage in the secondary.

“It was really about us finding our identity. The comforting thing is we had not figured it out yet, and we knew that they had that already. They know what they are about. How can we establish our identity?

“I think we are building toward that.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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