TORONTO - Inconsistent performances by his players was not something Scott Milanovich, during his four years as offensive co-ordinator of the Montreal Alouettes, had to endure much.
And though he now controls a Toronto Argonauts roster that has several Canadian Football League rookies, Milanovich is not about to stand for it in his first job as a head coach.
"I don't want to give us or our players that out," Milanovich said on Thursday, a day after the Argos were all over the map in a 25-22 victory against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the Rogers Centre. "They have to understand that every play is important. One mistake here or a penalty there, and the next thing you know, it is first-and-20 and it can be difficult to move the sticks."
"(The win against Winnipeg) was two (different) halves for our defence and two (different) halves for our offence."
The Argos had 18 points by halftime but a game-winning touchdown catch by Jason Barnes with just over two minutes remaining represented all of their scoring in the final 30 minutes. The defence held the Bombers to three field goals in the second half, but had to consider itself lucky it was facing green quarterback Alex Brink. He completed just nine of 34 passes in place of the injured Buck Pierce, a performance that stopped head coach Paul LaPolice from automatically naming Brink his starter next week against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Running back Chad Simpson gained a total of 91 yards on the ground, but the Argos made some adjustments at the half and held Simpson to 23 yards afterward.
One phase that stood out for the Argos was special teams, as the Bombers weren't able to gain a lot of traction off punts and kickoffs. The Argos had been taking heat after allowing returner Chris Williams of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to run wild against them a week earlier, but there was big Chris Van Zeyl bringing down Jovon Johnson in the end zone for a single after Swayze Waters missed a field goal late in the first quarter.
"A play like that just pumps everybody up for the next phase of the game," Argos special teams veteran Jeff Johnson said. "It excites guys and gets us momentum."
Said Milanovich: "That was a great play. For a 300-pound man to get down there and make a shoestring tackle in the end zone, that shows everybody they can do it, and leaves no excuses."
Overall, special teams co-ordinator Mike O'Shea had said his group would be better than it had been, and he was true to his word.
Milanovich, naturally, took note.
"I just felt the intensity and urgency and effort to get down there and make a tackle was significantly higher," Milanovich said. "Guys are really beginning to get it and how important it is, and how many big plays can come from returns in this league."
The Argos, who do not play again until next Friday when they visit the Alouettes, got out of the game mostly healthy. Linebacker Jasper Simmons was going to see a doctor on Thursday regarding some pain in his foot, but otherwise it was just the usual bumps and bruises that come with being a professional football player.
As for their game in Montreal, scoring majors when they are in the red zone will continue to be an emphasis. Quarterback Ricky Ray and his receivers remain in learning mode with each other and will for some time.
"I don't think that ever changes," said Milanovich, whose team is 2-2. "You always understand and appreciate the importance of doing well in the red zone, and that will always be a focus for us. But we don't get too carried with it, because we know it's going to go in cycles."