TORONTO – The moniker of ‘comeback kids’ is starting to wear off of the Toronto Argonauts. After four straight road victories in which the Boatmen turned second-half deficits into last-minute victories, their formula has been stifled by a Hamilton Tiger-Cats squad that is now breathing down the necks of the defending Grey Cup Champions and current East Division leaders.
Sitting just two points up on Hamilton with three weeks to go in the regular season, head coach Scott Milanovich admits that his team needs to get out a bit quicker if they hope to earn a first-round bye.
“Certainly we would like to play and start games faster”, he said following Monday’s loss. “I am sure it’s not an emotional thing; the locker room was electric before the game, the guys were excited to play in a magnitude game like this and again they just executed better than us and got that touchdown and took momentum early.”
|Looking to stay at home|
The Argos can clinch a home playoff date with a win or Montreal loss this weekend. Have a look at all the CFL Playoff Scenarios here.
The Argonauts can control their execution but what they couldn’t control was a strange sequence of events that played a big part in their inability to keep pace with the Ticats in the first half.
Up by a single (off a missed field goal), Hamilton drove down the field but a forced fumble looked like it would put the Toronto offence back on the field. However, the football was inadvertently kicked through the back of the end-zone by a Toronto defender resulting in a safety.
A short kickoff ensued and the Ticats drove down the field in what would not only end with a 9-point swing but a huge shift in time of possession – not exactly ideal for a team looking to get some rhythm back on offence with their pivot returning.
“We got to a point where it seemed like they had the ball quite a bit because of that safety – that fluke little thing through the end-zone”, Milanovich continued. “So they had the ball for quite a bit and they kind of took the momentum there after we missed the field goal and were not really able to get going back offensively until the very end when we had the turnover and we were able to put it in.”
With the return of Ricky Ray, the Double Blue had high expectations heading into Monday but a determined Hamilton secondary took away the deep ball for most of the contest, forcing Ray to settle for short completions underneath.
Since Milanovich and Ray’s arrival in 2012, the Argos have been identified by their big-play ability in the passing game.
“That’s part of what they do too, that style of defence forces you to string drives together and plays together to try and get down the field”, explained Milanovich. “They are going to try and take away those deep plays. There were plenty of aggressive calls that were made, it’s just that Ricky is a wise quarterback and when they are not there he is going to go through his progressions and check it down.”
Ray had missed six weeks with a shoulder injury and was solid in his return. He completed just under 77 per cent of his attempts and passed for over 300 yards but there were some times where he seemed just a yard or two off with his receivers, especially on timing routes.
“For me tonight it was just getting that first hit out of the way, just feeling like you are a part of the game again”, Ray said after the game. “Just getting out there and getting use to the speed of the game and just getting into that flow and rhythm. It took a little while but I felt more comfortable as the game went on and I just have to find a way to improve a little bit more.”
The Argos open up a home-and-home with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before finishing the regular season against Montreal at home. They can clinch a home playoff berth with a win this Saturday.