Not for the faint of heart, Argos pull out another late win
EDMONTON – It was like everyone knew it was coming at some time, the Argo Rally, the team’s calling card, it’s signature, it’s way of separating itself from the rest of the CFL pack.
This time, it was more dramatic than ever but it was totally in character for the rolling franchise.
Down 22-1 with little over a quarter to go?
All it takes is a little 33-point run, another road win and another step on what looks to be an inevitable return to at least the East Division title game.
This time it was the defence that made it happen, with Pat Watkins separating Kerry Joseph from the football with just over three minutes remaining as Toronto rolled to a 34-22 win over the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.
Watkins, who also had two interceptions on the night, came off the edge to level Joseph and separate him from the ball on the night’s biggest play. Watkins probably should have scored himself but he fumbled at the goal line as the Argos hung to the ball.
“Play of the game,” coach Scott Milanovich called it.
On the next play, Toronto quarterback Zach Collaros fumbled but Chad Kackert recovered it for the go-ahead touchdown and the Argos had recorded their fourth straight come-from-behind win.
“Turnovers is part of it obviously, our offence got going and started making some plays and fortunately for us,” said Milanovich. “Unfortunately for them, when the momentum starts swinging one way, it can be difficult to get it stopped. It felt like that’s what happened tonight.”
The improbable victory clinches a playoff spot for Toronto, it establishes a franchise record for consecutive road wins in a season at six and moves Toronto to 9-4 on the season.
They also become the first team in CFL history to win four consecutive road games in a season; one three other teams have ever had the chance to win weeks in a row on the road in a season and none have pulled it off.
And while the manner in which victory was achieved might be ulcer-inducing to the coaching staff, it does show the continued resolve of a roster still missing it’s starting quarterback in Ricky Ray and the explosive offence of Chad Owens.
“It’s good in one aspect, our guys will never quit, they have a lot of belief in each other,” said Milanovich.
“I’m disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to get our offence going in the first half, our defence really played an outstanding game … total team effort tonight.”
Toronto’s comeback began late in the third quarter with the Argos down 22-1 following a Joseph touchdown.
Swayze Waters booted a 50-yard field goal, his longest of the season, before Kackert rambled 49 yards for a touchdown and Collaros hit Dontrelle Inman with an 11-yard touchdown strike, getting Toronto to within 22-19.
They should have tied it with just under four minutes remaining but Waters, who had missed two makeable field goals in the first half, whiffed on a 25-yard attempt for a single.
It was on the next series that Watkins made the game-breaking play and Toronto held on, icing the win ever more when Marcus Ball returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute to go.
In what’s becoming a very familiar turn of events, the Argos dug themselves into a first half hole with a rather lackluster performance in every facet of the game.
They committed a handful of major penalties – two for rough play after a whistle, a roughing the passer penalty as well – that kept Eskimo scoring drives alive, they could muster no sustained offence and normally reliable Waters botched field goals of 43 and 28 yards.
The 28-yard miss didn’t even yield a single under an obscure CFL soring rule. The kick, reviewed automatically as are all scoring plays, grazed the ribbon at the top of the goal post and under rules that’s the same as hitting the post itself and the ball is automatically dead.
As well, Collaros had a misread and threw an interception in double coverage in the end zone and it was as bad a half as the Argos have played in weeks. They had just 86 yards in passing, committed seven penalties for 85 yards, Collaros was sacked three times and they had just seven first downs.
“I was pretty hot, I don’t remember exactly what I said but we challenged them,” Milanovich said of his halftime mood. “We talked about how we have a great locker room and how we believe and told them we were going to have a great effort in the second half.”
The gaffes allowed the Esks to build a 15-1 halftime lead, scoring on touchdown passes from Mike Reilly to Shamawd Chambers and Joseph to Fred Stamps.
Joseph, the veteran backup who will turn 40 years old this week, took over from Reilly after starter suffered a head injury.