Argos take a step back 0
Dwight Anderson of the Als pulls away from an Argo tackler on Sunday in Montreal. (QMI Agency)
Instead of bringing their A game, the Argos brought something approaching the deepest depths of the alphabet.
Instead of relishing the moment, they recoiled.
Instead of positioning themselves for first in the East, they should consider themselves fortunate to be playing in a division with the likes of Hamilton and Winnipeg.
No matter how one cares to sum it up or dissect any area of their play, the Argos were simply atrocious, outclassed, outmanned and outcoached by the Als, who seem destined to host the East final when November rolls around, almost by default in some ways.
With the final one-third of the schedule to be played, Montreal (8-4) is now two games clear of the Argos, who have now dropped two straight under defining backdrops to drop to 6-6 in the wake of Sunday’s 31-10 slaughter.
To make matters worse, Ricky Ray was forced to leave the game with an undisclosed left knee injury in the first quarter, replaced by veteran backup Jarious Jackson, who did his best under the absolute worst conditions, but the drop off in quality was pretty obvious for all to see.
Unexplainable given the potential rewards that awaited, inexplicable at how events would quickly turn, the Argos find themselves back to square one, the one mystery involving Ray’s status for next week’s visit to Winnipeg.
Mediocrity in the East may very well lead to a berth in the divisonal final, but no way can it propel the Argos to the Grey Cup, which is the one and only goal the franchise has identified.
It would have been one thing had the team taken a step back against the Als, but there were so many missteps that it’s virtually impossible to identify just one.
Special teams would yield an Als record 129-yard touchdown return on a missed field when Trent Guy torched the Argos.
Offensively, the Argos were woeful, while the defence played like it had its head in the sand.
At least the Argos didn’t have to worry about their red zone offence.
Afterall, when a team is unable to penetrate the red zone there is no need to fret.
For the first time all season, the Argos looked completely disjointed.
For the first time all season, the game would turn into a one-sided affair against an opponent the Argos may well see again on a bigger stage.
Sunday was a big deal for the Argos, who could have taken control of the East, but everything went out of control, almost from the get-go when a penalty was committed.
In one of those moves you could see coming, the Argos decided to start halfback Ahmad Carroll, who, as it would turn out, didn’t even accompany the team to Montreal.
Carroll has come up big times by making some timely interceptions, but he’s also been vulnerable in man coverage and he’s one of the culprits on the penalty prone Argos.
In his place, T.J. Williams would start, a longer, younger version of Carroll minus the experience.
For most of the first half, the Argos’ secondary produced plays, but at the same time plays were being surrendered.
Toronto’s back end wasn’t the reason why the visitors trailed at halftime, 17-6, as a litany of factors came into play on an afternoon when the Argos needed to be at their best.
From the moment Montreal ran its first offensive series, you knew the Argos were in trouble, getting flagged for yet another careless penalty in the backfield with a loss was recorded.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of flag football that unfolded last week in Vancouver, but it did set the tone, allowing the Als to march down the field in a methodical way to jump out to an early 7-0 lead.
When containment on Anthony Calvillo was needed, the Argos allowed the veteran quarterback to escape pressure and use his legs to move the chains.
When a fumble was forced, the Argos couldn’t recover the loose pigskin, even as three defenders were in the area.
Football is known for shoestring tackles, but Mike Bradwell provided a first when he brought down Guy by pulling on Guy’s hair, which at first drew a flag, but it was quickly overturned.
When the Argos had a chance to pin the Als deep, they couldn’t, one of many moments the Argos failed to seize.
Lack of execution on a field goal attempt, some predictable play calling on offence, unable to force more two and outs, there was a lot for the Argos to address at intermission.
Much like last week’s visit to Vancouver, the Argos were able to hang around, despite their deficiencies.
With Jackson at quarterback, the Als weren’t as aggressive in applying pressure, preferring to play a soft coverage that led to underneath stuff but no over-the-top throws, which is what any defence would embrace given the circumstances.
But unlike last week, there would be no second-half push back.
And as it stands, the Argos are back to the drawing board.