Continuing with the CFL Talking Points series, Last Word On Sports CFL writer Thomas Gunther goes solo with the latest game breakdown. The Toronto Argonauts entered their rematch game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats looking to even the score after a shoot-out loss last week. Despite missing their starting quarterback the Argos defence enforced their will on the Ticats and came away with the win.
Thomas will address the big questions raised by the game as well as give his overall impressions of each team. If you missed last week’s recap with Kelly Bale on the Labour Day Classic between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, you can check it out here. Let’s start with the key takeaways in the CFL Week 12 Talking Points.
CFL Week 12 Talking Points
1) Despite some early hiccups, Dan LeFevour looked good as the Argos signal caller. Break down the former Tiger-Cat’s performance against his old team.
Thomas Gunther: Going into halftime there was a real worry that the Ticats had figured out what Dan LeFevour and the Argos were doing on offence. In a first half that relied heavily on dump offs and option plays the Argos moved the ball well but were relying heavily on catching Hamilton off guard. When the Ticats defence adjusted and picked off LeFevour twice going into the second half, it looked like the game was already over.
Impressively, LeFevour changed his play style and proceeded to take shots down the field and to the sidelines while keeping running back Brandon Whitaker closely involved. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but LeFevour showed that he could move move the ball when called upon against a stellar defence.
2) Hamilton struggled on offence at times after steamrolling the Argos last week. What did the Argos do differently on defence this time around?
TG: Pressure, pressure, and more pressure. Argos defensive coordinator Rich Stubler sent the house on seemingly every play and battered, bruised, and pummeled Zach Collaros. Knowing that the big men up front could get to Collaros, the Argos secondary played close coverage on the Ticats receivers, forcing Collaros to fit balls into tight windows. TJ Heath in particular took advantage of Collaros’ pressured throws to notch two interceptions.
3) Can a case be made that Toronto looked better tonight without Ricky Ray?
TG: It’s too early to discount all that future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray can still bring to the Argos offence as well the team as a whole, but the question isn’t without merit. The Argos looked far more dynamic, especially in the run game, with a quarterback who had the mobility to move outside the pocket and get first downs with his legs.
Part of this is the return of Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliot to the lineup (both had missed most of Ray’s games) who both draw coverage away from the line of scrimmage. But it was no mystery that Ray would never run the ball himself. Ray is going on 37 and won’t play forever, so it’s never too soon to start looking for the future at the position.
4) Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong for the Ticats in the second half. What can the Tabbies do to improve going into next week?
TG: The Tiger-Cats need to run the ball early and often to provide their offence with some balance. For the second straight week, CJ Gable looked fantastic when given carries, but was promptly cut off after several impressive runs. It may not be head coach Kent Austin’s favorite thing to do, but watching Collaros get smashed without the defensive line having to worry about the threat of a draw should be more than enough incentive to switch gears.
5) How does the result of this game affect the East Division going forward?
TG: For one thing it keeps the Argos closely in the hunt for a playoff berth, and possibly first overall. With Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa all tied with five wins, every victory in the division is worth its weight in gold. If the Argos can get quality play at the quarterback position over the next four to six weeks, the team will likely still be in the thick of it when Ray returns to the lineup. Hamilton, on the other hand, is in no danger of falling out of the division race but can’t feel good about how easily the Argos shut down their vaunted offence. Compared to the nearly decided West Division there is still plenty of exciting drama to be found in the East.
Hamilton: Receiver Terrence Toliver takes home the Top Performer award after a gutsy showing. The Ticats’ top receiving threat had a down night (by his standards) with 111 yards and a touchdown but still made plays against an aggressive Toronto secondary. Whenever Toliver was on the field the Cats were able to make up ground on the Argos and keep the game close. Ticats fans will have to hope Toliver is ready to roll next week after tweaking his leg and taking several hard shots throughout the game.
Argonauts: LeFevour, Heath, and Whitaker all certainly made their cases for the honor of Top Performer, but it was the Argos defensive line that cemented this victory. Their non-stop pressure and savage hits clearly rattled Collaros early and stymied the aerial attack that ran wild on Toronto last week. With no time to set his feet or hand off to his running back Collaros was pressed into tossing two killer interceptions and couldn’t move the ball when it counted.