Argos fail to deliver as Stamps prevail in front of a sparse BMO Field crowd
When they needed to be at their best, the Argos reverted to their losing ways.
When they needed to make plays in a desperate bid to keep their season alive, they failed miserably, at times so pathetically that fans showered the team with boos.
Wretched quarterback play, equally questionable coaching, a decided lack of urgency, no plays on offence produced, there was almost nothing the Argos did right on this night.
The visiting Stamps continued their regular-season dominance of Toronto with a 23-16 victory — their 12th in a row over the Double Blue — in front of an announced crowd of 9,819, one of the lowest at BMO Field for an Argos game.
The Boatmen haven’t won a regular-season game against Calgary since 2012, the year they beat the Stamps in the 100th Grey Cup.
The teams also hooked up in 2017 Grey Cup game with the Argos once again emerging as champs.
But the current Argos edition is not championship worthy, far from it, and it’s only a matter of time before this 2-10 squad is mathematically eliminated from the post-season conversation.
They were coming off a bye week and playing a Stamps team limited at the receiver position but, simply put, weren’t good enough and deserved their fate.
There was a second-half change at quarterback for the Argos when James Franklin replaced an ineffective McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Franklin hooked up with Derel Walker for Toronto’s lone offensive major — a 35-yard strike — with two minutes remaining in the game, but when the defence needed to get the ball back to the offence it failed by allowing the Stamps to convert on two second-down sequences, then simply run out the clock.
Franklin, who had not thrown a pass since tearing his hamstring in the Argos’ second game of the season, looked a lot better then Bethel-Thompson. But the move should have been made after the opening quarter, one of many curious calls and non-calls.
“I thought maybe it was a little bit of rust coming off the bye,’’ head coach Corey Chamblin said in explaining his decision not to make a quicker change at quarterback.
“You probably could have made that decision a little bit earlier, but I didn’t have that decision that early.
“It wasn’t a short leash or anything like that. After a while, I felt he (Bethel-Thompson) wasn’t seeing the field. By the time I kind of dug into it and gave him one more series by that time there were three minutes left (in the third quarter).”
Many will point to Chamblin and his coaching when trying to sum up this loss. He’s not exempt from criticism, but the Argos did not get enough, if any, play from Bethel-Thompson.
Toronto also lacked protection — the Stamps posted six sacks — and a pass rush of their own, two of many issues that would plague a team coming off a one-sided win in Ottawa.
But then again the Stamps are not the Redblacks and the Argos needed to be far better.
Opening possession, first play from scrimmage and the Argos decided to air it out by attacking Stamps’ shutdown defensive back Tre Roberson.
Had Bethel-Thompson thrown the kind of ball any good quarterback would heave down the rails the Argos would have scored a touchdown.
Walker did his job by getting behind coverage, but the ball was poorly thrown and the play would lead to an incompletion.
What that single sequence provided was a tone-setter for an opening period that would see the Argos offence struggle to the point of embarrassment.
There were more two-and-outs than passes completed, a one-sided quarterback matchup that clearly favoured Bo Levi Mitchell, who would end the night by throwing two interceptions amid a lot of dropped balls.
Despite that, Mitchell is still clearly the CFL’s best player. There’s a reason why the Argos were willing to throw big bucks at him in free agency. Every throw he makes, it seems, is on target, regardless of the intended receiver.
There was still some rust after his long injury layoff, as illustrated by his his two picks, both on underthrown passes.
Five minutes into the second quarter and the Stamps were leading 17-0.
A horse-collar infraction to Qudarius Ford set up Calgary for its first touchdown, a season-first rushing major produced by Terry Williams.
Calgary’s second major was aided by a brutal throw that Bethel-Thompson should not have even attempted along the sidelines to Rodney Smith.
The game’s first turnover would quickly be parlayed into Calgary’s second touchdown.
As bad as it looked for the Argos, they did flip the field with nine minutes left in the opening half as Calgary scrimmaged inside its 15 yard line.
Kennan Gilchrist, an athletic and versatile Argos defender who can come off the edge or drop into coverage, intercepted Mitchell on Calgary’s first play from scrimmage.
But then came a sack that put the Argos in second and long on a play that underlined Bethel-Thompson’s lack of mobility and awareness when he could have sailed it into the stands as opposed to giving up yards.
A completion to James Wilder Jr. in the flat moved the ball to Calgary’s two yard line.
But rather than gamble on third down by going for a touchdown, the Argos decided to kick a field goal, a decision the sparse crowd at BMO Field did not like as the faithful booed.
The booing would soon turn into bewilderment and indignation when the Argos, who had a chance to go into intermission on a positive note, decided to go for it on third down on their own side of midfield.
It should have been a routine pass-and-catch, but Bethel-Thompson threw inside when he should have thrown to the sideline on a ball Walker makes in his sleep.
Toronto’s second turnover of the half allowed the Stamps to kick a field goal.
Fittingly, the first half ended with Bethel-Thompson getting sacked, Calgary’s fourth on the night.
And the boos rained down once again as the Argos made their way to the locker room staring at a 20-3 hole.
The coaching wasn’t that good, but it was more a case against the quarterbacking, which was brutal.
Bethel-Thompson completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for just 86 yards before being yanked.
On his first series, Franklin led the Argos on a field goal drive. He finished the night going 12-for-16 for 147 yards and the one touchdown strike to Walker.
After three periods, Toronto’s two best offensive players, Walker and S.J. Green, had combined for 23 yards.