Anthony Calvillo isn’t particularly big, he can’t run, and he has throwing mechanics that aren’t found in any Football 101 film.
All Calvillo does is win.
It’s difficult to figure out how to stop him because nobody’s ever quite figured out how he does, what he does, to make himself one of the best quarterbacks ever to grace a CFL roster. He is greatness undefined.
The Toronto Argonauts, torched for 100 points in the three meaningful games these teams played this season, have three days to figure it out.
“It’s not about stopping him. It’s about limiting their opportunities to score. We know they’re going to move the ball,” Argonauts’ all-star tackle Kevin Huntley argued Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first practice for Sunday’s East final in Montreal. “It’s like Michael Jordan you can’t stop him from scoring. You can’t stop Adrian Peterson from gaining yards, you can’t stop Peyton Manning. You just try to control and limit them.”
They won’t entirely stop Montreal from scoring. Their offence is tops in passing (319.6 yards per game) and second in total yards (404.8 per game), scoring (30 points per game) and fewest interceptions allowed. One reason is Calvillo’s quick release. Sometimes linemen don’t even have time to get out of their stance and get their hands up.
“Sometimes, I think Anthony would rather this game be two-hand touch he gets rid of the ball so fast,” said Toronto tackle Adriano Belli. “If he can get the front seven out of the game and not hitting him, that’s great. But I think you pass rush as fast as you can; then just run to the ball because if he’s getting it out of there that fast it certainly can’t be deep.
“You just do your best against a guy like that, rush 40 times and you hope the 10 times you beat your defensive lineman those are the times he’s holding on to the ball. The only thing you can do is keep coming after him.”
Curious thing about the Argos. They may be more than 10-point underdogs, but not only do they believe they can stop Montreal from winning — they profess to know it. There are no public guarantees of victory but quietly, when the cameras go dark and media tape recorders are shut off, the Argos “know” they’re going to the Grey Cup.
They live in the personal knowledge that defeat is no longer an option. It is the reality in which they live, even if nobody else understands why.
“It doesn’t matter to us what other people think,” said coach Jim Barker.
Despite loses of 41-10 and 37-30 against the Als, Toronto also won 37-22 (and 30-4 in a scrub-team season finale) and believe they match up well against Montreal.
“Don’t confuse my bragging on them as being great players with us not kicking their butt on Sunday,” said Belli, “and, you can quote that.”
In fact, he insists on it.
“There’s no pressure on us,” said Huntley. “It’s all on them. We’re the Toronto Argonauts and have no reason to be in the final. They’re the Montreal Alouettes, they’re the Grey Cup champions, they’re playing in their Big O stadium, they’ve got their fans, they’re going to have the excitement and enamor of repeating from last year. There’s nobody even thinking of us.”
The Argos will give Calvillo his due as the catalyst that makes the Als go. The CFL’s outstanding player the past two seasons is fourth overall in passing, tied for second in TD passes (29) and has thrown just seven interceptions in 518 pass attempts. So, he and his favourite target, Ben Cahoon, will do damage. The Argos believe — sorry, they “know” — that damage won’t be enough to beat them.
“The most important thing is we can’t let these guys hurt us with big plays,” said Huntley who, along with offensive tackle Rob Murphy, running back Cory Boyd and kick returner Chad Owens were named to the CFL all-star team Wednesday.
They’ll give up the three-, five- and seven-yard passes but rather than try the impossible of stopping Calvillo, they will target the Als’ running game.
“We want to make them one-dimensional because if Avon Cobourne gets going with the running game, that just makes them a two-headed monster which can’t really be stopped,” said Huntley. “If we can stop the run and eliminate big plays, force checkdowns and medium range passes then we have a good chance.”
In the two Montreal wins, Cobourne had four TDs and 196 yards rushing. In Toronto’s 37-22 win, Calvillo threw for 450 yards but Cobourne was limited to 26 yards. It does appear to be a blueprint for an upset.
All the Argos have to do now is prove it works.