As long as they have a playoff pulse, Argos to keep on fighting
How the Argos respond following their emphatic win in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon will determine a lot on what this franchise does, or does not do, moving forward in the long term.
In the immediate aftermath of Toronto’s 46-17 annihilation of the host Redblacks, the mood around the Argos was predictably upbeat and brimming with optimism as players now get to enjoy the season’s third and final bye week.
When you begin a season by dropping six in a row before recording your first win and then lose to Eastern opponents on back-to-back weeks when leading at intermission, the outlook does not look inspiring.
Toronto’s task remains daunting, but it showed what can be accomplished when mistakes are kept to a minimum and a 60-minute effort is put forth.
In Ottawa, the Argos scored 28 second-half points, including 21 in the game’s final quarter.
The most points the team scored in asny one game this season entering Saturday afternoon was 28 back when Winnipeg came to town on a night and the Argos, by one point, earned their first win of the season.
“We have that mindset of: ‘Hey, we’ve gone through the storm. We’ve come out on the other side of it,’” said head coach Corey Chamblin. “They understand how you have to put in the work and overcome any obstacle that’s thrown your way.
“It’s going to be a fight here on out, each play, each series, each quarter, each game, but I think they are ready for it.”
Perhaps the Argos are ready to make a run and prove all the many disbelievers wrong.
What’s required is nothing short of an epic run, but at least the Argos have momentum on their side based on how well they played in Ottawa against, granted, a pretty inferior Redblacks team that was embarrassed at home.
There are two games remaining against Ottawa, both at BMO Field, a road game in Montreal and then there’s the season finale in Hamilton, four games versus Eastern foes.
The team’s final three games feature home dates versus Calgary and Saskatchewan and a road meeting with the B.C. Lions.
Chamblin was asked about the message he left his players as they embark on a bye week.
“They stood up and said how they have a choice and that’s to have a similar feeling (of victory) and making it a longer-term feeling,’’ said Chamblin.
Running back James Wilder Jr. was one of many to step up in Ottawa, scoring three touchdowns.
“We can come back,’’ he said, knowing full the long odds this group faces. “As long as we have a heartbeat, as long as we have a pulse, we can make it happen.
“All I need is a 1% chance and that’s enough for me and my brothers to have hope and to have that eye to get there.”
It was almost as if the Argos were finally getting to that breaking point after watching leads slip away in back-to-back games.
“I think you get to that point where you’re tired of losing,’’ said Wilder. “You just have to take pride. We’ve been in a lot of games. Our record does not show who we really are. We’ve been in games where we’ve been up, but we just haven’t been able to finish. We put an emphasis on finishing up this game (Saturday) and we did just that.”
What the Argos must now do is finish out a season as strongly and forcefully as they did Saturday’s game.
For obvious reasons, it won’t be easy.
They must be clean, especially at the quarterback position. McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 411 yards, but also two interceptions and fumbled once. What he absolutely must do is secure the ball.
The Argos must also compensate for injuries. Linebacker Micah Awe, who was playing well up until his injury on Labour Day, won’t be back anytime soon. In Ottawa, fellow linebacker Justin Herdman-Reed separated his left shoulder, while defensive back Alden Darby Jr. hurt his hip. As he walked towards the team bus, Herdman-Reed seemed confident when he said he expects to be back in a few weeks.
Darby Jr. was adamant he’d be back as well. We’ll soon see.
What fans saw Saturday was a snapshot of what this team is capable of producing when all three phases are playing well and finish a game strongly.
WOODS HAS BEATEN THE PLAYOFF ODDS BEFORE
No lead is ever safe in the CFL and no team is ever out of the playoff picture until the math says otherwise.
For the Argonauts, there is hope for the latter, even though their won-lost record sits at 2-9.
But they are coming off a win over the Redblacks on Saturday afternoon and they’ll have a bye week to rest and recover before facing the Stampeders at home on Sept. 20.
“I’ve been there,’’ said veteran linebacker Bear Woods, who made his return to the Argos lineup in Ottawa on an afternoon when he recorded eight tackles in a 46-17 drubbing of the Redblacks.
“S.J. (Green, wide receiver) has been here before, Jonathan Crompton (Toronto’s QB coach) has been here before.
“You don’t worry about (records and the naysayers). You go to the next game and you take a mindset every minute, every hour into every practice where you execute whatever the task at hand is at that moment. That’s what you do, you focus on that moment in time and don’t look any further.”
As teammates in Montreal with the Alouettes several years back, Woods, Green and Crompton were part of comeback stories that ended in playoff appearances following terrible starts.
Experienced players such as Woods understand the grind of the CFL season and the many ups and downs associated with an 18-game schedule.
“Anything you write or anyone writes, it is what it is. You don’t look at those things. You form this camaradarie. You share this love for one another and things will get special. But it ain’t going to be easy.”
The Boatmen trail the second-place Als by eight points in the East Division standings. The Argos have seven games remaining, the Alouettes eight.