TORONTO - For 55 minutes Thursday night, there was little question about which was the worst team in the Canadian Football League.
And then the Saskatchewan Roughriders made it a game. Just not enough of a game to steal a victory, making an Argos win almost feel like a defeat.
It is now official if not slightly dubious: The Toronto Argonauts are no longer worst in the CFL. They were in command Thursday night for three quarters plus and ended up an almost miracle catch away from losing to the rather pathetic Roughriders.
This car wreck of a victory for the Double Blue came not because they dominated the Roughriders in any conceivable way.
It came because the Riders beat themselves up, playing about as horrible a three quarters as any team could play.
And you have to wonder, if this is what the Roughriders are made of, how much longer can they go with Greg Marshall as their head coach.
Or Doug Berry as their offensive co-ordinator.
And when does Andy Fantuz get back?
Give the Argos credit for at least not doing the Saskatchewan thing. They didnít implode. They didnít undo most of their strong plays with ridiculous and unnecessary penalties.
The Roughies played a hot final five minutes and were almost able to win, which reveals why the Argos have just two wins in eight games and the Riders are stuck at one.
Week to week, itís hard to know what to make of the Argos. They didnít light up anything offensively against Saskatchewan, scoring just two touchdowns, one of them coming after a pass interference call gave them the ball on the one-yard line. Orlando Steinauerís defence played so well for 50 or so minutes, then seemed unable to stop Saskatchewan.
The game basically ended when Riders quarterback Damian Durant forced a pass into double coverage on a third and 20 play, after Durant not so smartly got flagged for grounding the football.
Chris Getzlaf, who had an excellent game for the Riders, almost made a jumping, challenging catch which would have given Saskatchewan the win. But he couldnít hold on.
Circumstance going the Argos way.
How bad were the Riders?
So, where do we begin? Just about everything the Roughriders did was self-destructive. Quarterback Durant fumbled the first offensive play of the game for Saskatchewan. The Roughies followed that up with a pass interference call in the end zone that led to Torontoís first touchdown. Before the first quarter was over, the Riders had been called for illegal blocking, objectionable conduct and a time count violation. And to think, after their workout Wednesday at St. Michaelís College, coach Marshall was thrilled by what he saw of his team, calling them loose and ready to play. If thatís how they play when theyíre loose, maybe coach Marshall should be winding them up somewhat ... Saskatchewan offensive co-ordinator Berry has to be in trouble of losing his job. The Riders didnít score a point in the first half, and really didnít come close ... You had to feel sorry for Saskatchewan DB Tristan Jackson. He had a long punt return called back on a holding call and had an interception called back on his teammateís pass interference, the second such call in the half. They had eight penalties for 70 yards in the first half ... Early in the second half, Durant threw a successful long bomb to Getzlaf, that would have put the Riders inside the 10-yard line but offensive lineman Dan Goodspeed was called for holding on the play ... Add to the list, a first and 10 play from the Argos 18-yard line. Durant fumbled the snap from centre. Two plays letter, Chris Milo missed a 27-yard field goal ... And that was before a facemask violation led to the Cory Boydís second short touchdown run of the night. Had Milo hit either of the two field goals he missed, he would have had the opportunity late to tie the game and send it to overtime. Because he missed two makeable kicks, the Argos win.
Hits and misses
What a renaissance night for the Argos cornerback Byron Parker. The defensive back formally known for the big play, made a bunch of different kind of big plays Thursday night. Early on, Parker made two big hits that seemed to inspire the entire Argos defence. He actually set the tone early that later brought the best out of Ricky Foley who was dominant at times as was linebacker, Anthony Cannon. Parker made another big stick in the second half, just before he intercepted a pass from Durant. Parker no doubt will be considered for defensive player of the week in the CFL ... Credit the Argos with having the sense to open the roof at the Rogers Centre Thursday night. The original plan was to keep the roof closed because of the coming rain. The Dome was steamy with the roof open: Had it been closed, it would have been a steam bath ... The more I watch the CFL the more I wonder: What exactly is pass interference? ... Foley made the big first-half stop on a Saskatchewan third and one gamble. The Riders ran a slow developing play with running back Brandon West, but Foley shot through a gap and stopped West cold. Saskatchewanís Marshall challenged the officialís spot on the play, but if anything, the refs had been generous with their ball placement. Marshall came on the wrong side of the call, which was par for the course in a horrible first half for the Roughriders ... Player of the week Brandon Rideau dropped the first pass thrown his way. It was a bad drop, as Argos were close to touchdown territory had he held on.