TORONTO - Jim Barker said he was speechless after watching his Argonauts beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday afternoon.
Well, not quite.
Following a 17-13 victory for the Argonauts that snapped a three-game losing streak, Barker called out his starting quarterback, verbally expressing what most observers were thinking.
"I think he played "¶ he probably took a couple of steps back," Barker said. "He didn't play well at all. He is bothered by some finger things (on his throwing hand), but that is absolutely no excuse."
Barker made sure to point out that Lemon managed to take the Argos half the distance of the field for a nine-yard touchdown strike to Jeremaine Copeland, a major in the fourth quarter that wound up supplying the margin needed to win.
But even though Lemon was missing running back Cory Boyd, who is nursing a concussion and also might not play next Sunday in Moncton, more was expected of the 31-year-old. The Bombers defence has been tough and was coming off a suffocating performance against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in which it gave up just two points, but Barker and his staff figured they gave Lemon enough to work with.
Instead, before a season-low crowd of 19,662 at the Rogers Centre, Lemon had his worst game of the 11 he has played in the Canadian Football League, passing for just 90 yards, completing 14 of 23 attempts.
The first half of the season is over, and it's time for Lemon to assert himself with more authority. Lemon didn't bristle when he was told of Barker's evaluation.
"No excuses from me," said Lemon, who was booed off the field with the rest of the Argos after they were shut out in the first half. "When you come out and play the way we played, you feel frustrated, but at the same time, when you get the win, I don't think you can feel down on yourself."
It has been said that a team needs at least two of the three facets of the game -- offence, defence and special teams -- to perform well to win. The Argos defence and special teams, thankfully, came to play, and saved Lemon's bacon.
The game's turning point came on an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chad Owens early in the third quarter, one of a few big plays by the special teams that included a 50-yard field goal by Justin Medlock.
Bombers quarterback Steven Jyles made a few long completions but little else, with his lone touchdown pass coming just after the score by Copeland. Jyles hooked up with Terrence Edwards for a 39-yarder, but the Bombers got nothing afterward.
With Toronto holding on to its four-point lead, and with less than two minutes remaining to play, Winnipeg faced a third-and-two at the Argos' 27-yard line. The Bombers went for it, but instead of handing off to Fred Reid, who finished with 100 yards on 18 carries, the ball was given to Andre Sadeghian. Argos defensive end Alex Buzbee got through the line and with the help of Ronald Flemons, tackled Sadeghian, who made no gain.
"I stayed low and had a great get-off," Buzbee said. "I knew it was going to be a quick play. I was expecting a quarterback sneak, and when I got through, (backup quarterback Alex Brink) was handing it off, and I was like, 'Man, I'm through' and I was right there to hit him. It was great."
The Bombers turned the ball over on downs, and though they had a final possession, Jyles' Hail Mary pass was intercepted by Willie Pile as time expired.
A win is a win, but Lemon needs to be better.
"You want to score every time you possess the ball, but it doesn't work that way," Lemon said. "We need to put up more points and we will address that."