High risks, big rewards for Argos D

Arogs linebackers Jason Pottinger (left) and Ejiro Kuale gang up on Bombers running back Fred Reid...

Arogs linebackers Jason Pottinger (left) and Ejiro Kuale gang up on Bombers running back Fred Reid during Saturday's 25-24 Toronto upset. (Dave Thomas, Toronto Sun)

Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:47 PM ET

There was pressure up front, containment from the linebacking unit, plays being made in the secondary and a touchdown produced by the defence in as wild a game as one will ever see, even by CFL standards.

If the Argos are able to make a frantic late-season push for the playoffs, a glimpse of the blueprint was provided amid the craziness from Saturday night’s 25-24 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the Rogers Centre.

And if veteran linebacker Jordan Younger is able to return from his shoulder injury, which may be as early as this Saturday night’s home date against the Ticats, it will only add depth and an experienced hand at a time when it’s all hands on deck, and winning by any means, no matter how pretty or how ugly, is all that matters.

From the moment Orlondo Steinauer was promoted from secondary coach to defensive co-ordinator, the message was to make plays, a high-risk, high-reward defensive philosophy that pays no attention to any individual stat.

The way Steinauer was weaned as a player, all that mattered was ending the game with more points than the opposition.

Virtually every player who lined up on defence against the first-place Bombers was making plays and it was spearheaded by the defensive line, the anchor of the unit which has been recently challenged to step up by head coach Jim Barker.

The return of Jason Pottinger can’t be overstated because this guy is so in tune with defensive principles that he’s seldom out of position. By lining up back at his familiar middle linebacker position, Pottinger’s presence has allowed Ejiro Kuale to move outside to weak-side linebacker, where he doesn’t have to worry about fending off multiple bodies.

Willie Pile was stellar, Jeremy Unertl made a play that was so remarkable it got completely overlooked in the bedlam of Saturday night.

All told, there were three forced fumbles by the Argos, two interceptions, four quarterback sacks and a win that was reminiscent of last season’s improbable run to the Eastern final.

It’s obvious the Argos offence cannot — and will not — reach a level where it can win a game on its own, at least not this year with so many issues that need addressing in the off-season. When a quarterback has no training camp under his belt, when an offensive line is so banged-up and lacking in experience, it comes down to simply limiting turnovers and being able to make a play when a game is up for grabs.

The game was, indeed, hanging in the balance on Saturday when the Argos began to hang their hat on their best player, running back Cory Boyd.

Toronto all but abandoned the run when the Blue Bombers began to load the box and basically dared the home side to air it out, a natural halftime adjustment by the visitors, given how few yards the Argos were producing through their passing game.

But when push came to shove, it was the Argos’ ability to run the ball that would lead to the winning point, which came on a missed field goal in the final minute.

On this night, though, the ending would neatly sum up the entire affair.

“We just know as a defence, that if we’re able to score, it provides our offence with confidence,’’ Unertl said. “And it doesn’t matter if we win by a point or by 20 points. To be honest, it’s been frustrating this season, but winning re-iterates why you come to practice each day. It just re-iterates why you play this game because it’s such a team/family experience.

“You just hope these kinds of wins can carry over and help you move forward.”

IT DIDN’T ADD UP

Saturday night’s theatre of the bizarre won’t be soon forgotten, a game for the ages that had all the good and bad that the CFL has to offer. Here are some of the lowlights and highlights from a stats perspective:

109 — Rushing yards by Cory Boyd, including 19 tough ones, when everyone knew the Argos would be running the football, that set up the winning point on a missed field goal.

7 — Number of Bombers starters who got hurt and didn’t return, including QB Buck Pierce, RB Fred Reid, OL Brendon Labatte and DL Doug Brown and DL Rodney Fritz.

16 — Toronto’s passing yards in the second half, which is mind-boggling. Argos would finish game with 249 net yards on offence, which included 180 along the ground, and 12 first downs.

8 — Combined number of turnovers, which featured a defensive touchdown by each team, including a pick six by Winnipeg on Toronto’s first play, and a lateral by the Argos after a forced fumble.


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