The Toronto Argonauts will play their first road game of 2013 in Week 2 as they travel to Vancouver to take on the BC Lions.
In addition to starting the season with a 2-0 record for the first time since 1997, Toronto will be looking for redemption when they hit the field at BC Place considering that the Lions were the only team that the Argos were unable to beat last season.
Video preview by Daniele Franceschi
Toronto Argonauts (1-0)
The Argos are coming off a thrilling 39-34 home opening victory against the rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats which extended their win streak to six games dating back to last season. Ricky Ray and the offence appeared to pick up right where they left off from their Grey Cup Championship. Ray had arguably his best performance in Double Blue as he picked apart the Ticats defence, completing 24 of 34 pass attempts for 368 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. As a result, Ray leads the league in most offensive categories with one week in the books.
Toronto’s ability to ensure all of their top play makers were involved proved to be effective in the victory. Ray completed passes to five different receivers as well as running back Chad Kackert, making the task of the Hamilton defence to shut down a high powered Argos offence a difficult one. Chad Owens led the team with 95 receiving yards while Jason Barnes, Dontrelle Inman and Spencer Watt combined for four touchdowns.
The dynamic Chad Kackert also made significant contributions out of the backfield in the win as he rushed for 112 yards on just 10 attempts including a 57 yard run to the end zone.
While the offence was firing on all cylinders, the new look defence struggled in the opener however they continued to improve as the game progressed and held Hamilton to only 3 second half points. The abundance of changes in the secondary led to several missed assignments in coverage and big plays for the Ticats offence. Despite the struggles, the unit came up big with the game on the line in the fourth quarter including a crucial pass break up from Jalil Carter on the final play which sealed the victory.
The defensive line also improved as the game wore on as they continued to put pressure on Henry Burris, something they didn’t do in the first half. Despite not recording a sack in the first three quarters, the Argos tallied their first two quarterback take downs of the season to thwart Hamilton’s attempt at a game winning drive.The addition of Khalif Mitchell has paid early dividends and while he did not make much of an impact on the stat sheet-only recording two tackles-he brought much needed energy to the defensive front seven.
BC Lions (0-1)
The Lions started the campaign with a 44-32 loss to the Stampeders in Calgary. BC found themselves in an early hole and trailed 31-6 at the half. While the offence led by quarterback Travis Lulay came to life in the second half, they ultimately were not able to erase their first half deficit. Losing future Hall of Fame slot back Geroy Simon proved to be significant for the Lions as the all time leader in receiving yards was the preferred target of Lulay. The Lions roster underwent many changes from a year ago and they will certainly need time to develop chemistry with one another.
Last year’s top rated defence in the CFL surrendered the most points of any team in the first week of play. The usually stout Lions defence was unable to stop Stamps quarterback Drew Tate as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Arguably the most surprising stat was the fact that the Lions defence could not contain running back Jon Cornish as he recorded an astounding 172 yards and two touchdowns. For a unit that only allowed 76.4 rushing yards per game in 2012, this could be an area of weakness for opponents to attack this year.
The return of linebacker Solomon Elimimian for the Lions should provide the Argos offensive line with their toughest assignment of the season as he thrives in putting pressure on the quarterback.
Argonauts Keys to Victory
Considering the struggles of the Lions run defence in the opener, it will be important for the Argos to get running back Chad Kackert involved early and often. Establishing a successful running game will take some of the pressure off Ricky Ray and the receivers as well as adding another element that the opposition must game plan against.
In order to leave Vancouver with a victory for the first time since 2002, the Boatmen will also need a much more consistent effort from the defence. Their ability to bend but not break by allowing field goal attempts instead of touchdowns must be evident. The longer the Argos offence is out on the field, the higher their chances of winning. This can only be accomplished if the defence forces turnovers, which they were unable to achieve in week one and will be a point of emphasis moving forward.
Week 2 of the CFL season begins Thursday July 4th with the Argos vs. Lions matchup kicking off at 10 pm ET in BC Place.