If a game can be decided by an handful of plays, then perhaps a season may be defined in the same way.
At 11:04 of the 3rd quarter of this afternoon’s football game, the Toronto Argonauts scrimmaged the ball at Hamilton’s 5 yard line. Over the previous six plays, the offence had methodically marched 86 yards down the field. It was a statement drive over a bitter arch rival. A win over Hamilton virtually assures Toronto an home playoff game. The team was already up 20 – 9 and was threatening to add another major on their first possession of the second half.
Ricky Ray took the snap and looked towards Chad Owens. Hamilton’s Dee Webb picked off the pass instead. On their subsequent possession, the Ti-Cat offence gobbled up 104 yards over 4 plays en route to a touchdown of their own. Instead of an 18 point Argo lead, Hamilton clawed back to within 3.
“No one said anything on the sideline,” said Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich. “No one felt it was necessary because we’ve all been there before.” Instead of panicking, the Argonauts responded with their own drive. Over 5 plays, Toronto moved the ball 62 yards to Hamilton’s 1. Jarious Jackson took it over for the score at 5:18 of the 3rd quarter to go up 27-17. Hamilton’s back was broken.
“That’s how formidable teams respond to adversity,” said Milanovich. More than a post game statement, his words represented something much bigger for the team.
To date, the Toronto Argonauts have had all the pieces necessary to be a good team, but they’ve lacked identity. They’ve failed to show a killer instinct this season. They’ve failed to personify themselves as ‘formidable’.
On Saturday, September 8, at 5:18 of the third quarter, the Toronto Argonauts crossed a threshold. They went on to hang 45 points and over 500 yards of offence on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It was the second straight win in back-to-back games (a statistical rarity) and it set Toronto up for the rest of the season.
The Toronto Argonauts now stand among the CFL’s elite teams. A win next week in Vancouver will cement that reputation.