Argos lack killer instinct
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Argos running back Andre Durie runs into the Stampeders defence during Friday night’s game in Calgary. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - A killer instinct for the Argonauts remains a work in progress.
With an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter at McMahon Stadium on Friday night, the Argos appeared to be ready to sail to a victory.
Didn’t happen, though, and only a last-gasp drive ensured that Noel Prefontaine was in field-goal range as the final minute ticked off the clock.
“I think as we went along, we got the lead and then took the foot off the pedal,” quarterback Cleo Lemon said after the 23-21 triumph. “We should have kept it going.”
The Argos won nine games in the regular season in 2010 but didn’t exactly carve out a reputation for putting teams away quickly.
It’s a testament to Lemon that he was able to lead a couple of drives late in the fourth quarter that resulted in two Prefontaine field goals, but there’s nothing wrong with getting the job done long before the minutes become critical.
The Argos won’t properly take the next step until they can win games in which they have been consistent from the opening kickoff to the final gun.
What was the difference for Lemon in the last two drives?
“Urgency,” Lemon said. “We had to have it. We made some calls that got some key guys open. We got the ball in their hands and they made the plays.”
Strangely, Lemon’s stats were nearly identical to those in the season opener last season, when the Argos lost 30-16 in Calgary. On Friday night, Lemon completed 16 of 30 passes for 187 yards, and had one touchdown pass and one interception. Last year? He was 16 of 28 for 192 yards, with one touchdown throw and one interception.
At the half<
Head coach and general manager Jim Barker has to get full marks for failing to give up on defensive tackle Claude Wroten. It didn’t take forever for Wroten to clear up passport issues in the U.S., but it felt that way. Wroten didn’t practise for the first time until June 20, and then was inserted into the starting lineup immediately. The effusive Wroten, who toked his way out of the National Football League a few years ago, had two sacks in his CFL debut. For someone who missed almost all of camp, the start was impressive. What’s more, Wroten told reporters on the day that he arrived in Toronto that he would be an impactful player, and soon. Hollow words those were not ... Toronto’s lone interception was made by former Stamp Tristan Black, who was thrust into the defence when middle linebacker Jason Pottinger suffered a knee injury. Don’t be surprised to see Black get regular time now that it looks like Pottinger will be out for an extended period. The thinking is Pottinger might have suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury ... Barker called Pottinger “the glue” on defence .... Clock management is an area where Barker wants to see Lemon improve. When the Argos had the football in the final minute, the hope was that Lemon would run the clock down to the point that Prefontaine would be kicking the winning field goal as time expired. Instead, Stamps quarterback Henry Burris had 17 seconds with which to work, but couldn’t move the ball. “That is part of the learning process for Cleo, something we will get better at,” Barker said ... What’s not to love about Prefontaine? Before he coolly booted the Argos to victory, he made a crunching tackle on Larry Taylor on a punt return. Taylor was at midfield and out of nowhere, Prefontaine, who will be 38 in December, drilled the speedy Stamp. Leadership does not come much more obvious than that.
Something Barker said after the victory struck us as odd. “It’s the way we had to win,” Barker said. “I think we needed to come from behind.” We get that these kinds of victories build character and everything, but let’s not forget the Argos coughed up a sizable lead. It’s up to Barker and his staff to figure out how his team can keep those leads, not blow them and grind like hell to get it back, because it’s a formula that is not always going to work. That said, one thing you won’t see the Argos do in 2011, and something they did not do last year, is give up ... Veteran slotback Jeremaine Copeland had one ball thrown his way in the first half and ended with 39 yards on only two catches. Copeland was not used enough last year, but if Lemon and the receivers are on the same page as much they’re letting on, Copeland has to be more of a popular target. He’s not getting any younger, but he can still catch the football ... Cory Boyd gained 100 yards on 17 carries. In 2010, he had six games of at least 100 yards rushing ... Chad Owens suffered from a stiff back, which forced him from the game, but he said he expects to be good to go against the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on Friday night.