Last week I said the Argos would lose to the Ticats but I actually thought the Argos had some good individual performances given the circumstances. Despite a staggering number of injuries this was a winnable game although in the end they didn't earn it. They lost starters all over the place. The delaying the game penalty on the opening kickoff was the first indication that things were not going to go well on Friday. That was a first. Was Boris Bede on Bladek's phone?
The o-line got a push in the run game. Harris averaged over 6 yards per carry before he got hurt. Ouellet averaged an admirable 4.7 yards on only 10 carries in relief. He was obviously playing hurt as well.
I like the play calling with Chad Kelly coming in on short yardage. It was clear that they could not run inside v Dylan Wynn and Micah Johnson in these situations so they had Kelly slide down the line. That was a good coaching adjustment. Johnson was defeating double teams to stop the inside short yardage run game and Wynn was a man on a mission again. The Argos have Harris in the backfield and a big QB in MBT in short yardage. They aren't the problem; the lack of push inside is the problem. Going away from these dominant DTs is a good coaching decision. Kelly has the right skill set for it (unless you expect Speedy B to toss MBT past the first down marker!).
MBT did not throw an INT for the third consecutive game despite enormous pressure again and being pile driven into the ground by Wynn. As I have said previously, he is the toughest and most resilient QB in the league. He proves it every week. His passer rating was over 97 again and was not the reason the Argos beat themselves.
Tommy Nield looked solid again before his freak injury on the sidelines. McManis led the team in tackles again with seven and had a QB sack. DaVaris Daniels was strong again.
Dejon Allen started for Shane Richards at right tackle but they still gave up three sacks. Despite some decent yardage, Harris and Ouellete only had 13 combined carries, however, both were hurt.
Speedy B was targeted eight times but only caught two passes. He struggled to get any separation from Ciante Evans and was unable to bring in contested balls. MBT was also slow getting the ball out on more than one occasion on Friday which allowed the Hamilton DBs to close on initially open receivers. Evans was all over Banks all night long. With Harris out of the game the attempts to get the ball to Banks was logical. Evans was outstanding in taking Speedy B out of the game.
Conversely, Argos DB DaShaun Amos had a very rough night. Last week I predicted that Hamilton would attack the Argos secondary with deep passes. Amos was victimized on two of these that led to two TiCat touchdowns. The first following his own interference call which nullified an Argo interception; the second on a long pass that he simply lost track of and looked disoriented. Otherwise, the Argo coverage was decent considering their makeshift lineup.
The Argo defence gave up a lot of rushing yards (149) against a makeshift Hamilton offensive line and inexperienced quarterbacks. They had to be expecting run first play-calling. The defensive line only had one sack. Last week I said they would need to get better pressure on the Ticats QB as they would throw deep again. The defensive front disappointed as a group and were decidedly outplayed by Hamilton.
As an aside, if you saw the Lions v Stamps slugfest on Saturday night you will know that Nathan Rourke’s sensational season is not entirely of his own making. Going into this game the Lions had allowed the league’s fewest sacks. Lions receivers are also getting excellent separation and they are catching every conceivable contested ball. Meanwhile, there have been some great individual performances from Argo recievers this year, and notwithstanding that Rogers and Brescasin have hardly played in the last two seasons, as a group they are really struggling to do the same. Great players make great coaches. Great protection and great receivers make great quarterbacks.
The turning point on Friday came with the Argos leading 24-17 and facing a third and less than one; they decided to punt much to MBT's dismay. You could see him arguing with one of the coordinators on the sideline. Who could blame him!? It was a poor decision and the ensuing punt was returned for a TD by Woods. Only a holding penalty to Johnson saved the coaching staff from complete humiliation although Hamilton turned that possession into the tying touchdown anyway. On a night when Woods had 222 yards in punt and kick returns, going for it on third down should have been the default option. The Argos punt and kick coverage was awful. If the reductionist in me had to pin the tail to the proverbial donkey on why the Argos lost the game it was abysmal kick coverage. It should not have been affected by the plethora of injuries they suffered and their depleted starting lineup. Together with nine penalties for a staggering 132 yards this was clearly their undoing.
Speaking of penalties, the officials probably had a worse night than either team. The call on Hamilton for pyramiding was atrocious. The league must have been relieved that the Ticats won the game and saved them the embarrassment of it being rehashed by the media as a deciding factor. It was an inexcusable mistake which extended an Argo TD drive.
TSN is repeating old mistakes again. They failed to explain an official's call early in the game and Rod Smith erroneously stated more than once, in the last minute, that the Argos last possession was 'academic," which it clearly was not. A quick TD would have allowed the Argos to attempt a short kickoff and then attempt a FG to tie. Failing that the point differential was still meaningful in the event of tie in the standings at season's end. You would think that the CFL's boutique, sole source, broadcaster would want its viewers to remain engaged to the end of the game. Rod is engaging and has a great voice for play-by-play, however, this is the second time he has made this mistake this season. He did the same thing in an Argos game earlier this year and was bailed out by Duane Forde. Matt Dunigan chose not to correct him Friday. Had he not made this mistake before I might have concluded that he had already factored in the likelihood of Boris Bede properly executing a short kick off.
The Argos play Calgary next week. Given their rash of injuries, coach Dinwiddie, and his staff will need to pull a rabbit out of their hat to find a way to beat an angry Stamps team that just squandered a big lead over the Lions and gave up 20 points in the 4th quarter to lose.
All hands on deck, storm clouds on the horizon.