Argos' success oh so special

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:32 PM ET

Point out they're last, and the Argonauts will take a pass.

The Argos defence has been lauded for helping the club win football games as the offence finds its identity, and rightfully so.

The Argos carry a 5-3 record into the Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Monday afternoon, but through eight games, are the only team in the Canadian Football League at .500 or better that had not scored at least 200 points.

The defence was last, though, in most of the categories against the pass, but the statistics weren't keeping the players awake at night.

"If you really want to talk about yardage and what teams are throwing and all those things, it goes back to our special teams," defensive captain Willie Pile said after the team practised on Saturday morning at Erindale in Mississauga.

"When (the opposition) is starting inside the 30 or the 20, you have Jamie Boreham booming punts and our coverage team getting down there. Okay, so they might get 30 or 40 yards on us, but they are still punting from the 50. It's a testament to our special teams being so dominant."

The special teams will have to be sharp on Monday against the Tiger-Cats' Marcus Thigpen, one of the more effective returners in the league. If Thigpen can get the Ticats deeper down the field on returns, stopping quarterback Kevin Glenn from leading drives that result in field goals or touchdowns will become a bigger challenge for the Argos.

And Glenn has been a growing factor as the Tiger-Cats have won three in a row, moving into third place among CFL quarterbacks with 2,411 yards. Only Darian Durant of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2,474 yards) and the injured Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes (2,472 yards) have thrown for more.

Despite the efforts by Boreham and the cover teams to ensure that opponents start deep in their end of the field, the Argos want to cut down on the touchdowns they have allowed. When the CFL teams took a rest for their respective bye weeks, the Argos had allowed 22 majors, only two fewer than the 24 given up by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who had allowed the most.

The Argos had allowed 13 TDs in the air (Saskatchewan and Winnipeg had the most with 16, while Montreal was at 14) and nine on the ground (fewer than the 12 surrendered by the Edmonton Eskimos and the 10 by the B.C. Lions).

But the Argos also were tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions, an indication that the defence is capable of making big plays when they are required.

"If we had a losing record, then it would be a big issue, and we understand that," Pile said of the yardage given up. "Coach (Jim) Barker has done a great job of helping us understand what is going on, as far as time, possession, all those things at critical moments.

"Now don't get me wrong, we don't want to give up 100 yards rushing or 300 yards passing. If we are last, so be it, but our record shows that we are a lot better than the yardage we have been giving up."

That tack is the one that Barker takes.

"You can take stats and turn them anyway you want to turn them, and it's true, from a yards standpoint, we are the worst team in the league," Barker said. "But when you look at stats that are the most important to us, we're better than a .500 team and a game out of first place (in the division) and playing a team on Monday for second place."

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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