Streaking Argonauts set sights on Eskimos
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - With a four-point lead in the standings, the Toronto Argonauts try to put even more distance between themselves and the other clubs in the Eastern Division as they cross over and take on the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday night at Rogers Centre.
Since losing back-to-back games against British Columbia and Saskatchewan in the second and third weeks of the season, respectively, Toronto has come on strong by scoring no less than 35 points in each of the last three outings. In fact, the Argos have taken care of the action on both sides of the ball during this three-game win streak, outscoring the competition by a combined 111-44 margin.
The Argos have not experienced this level of success over a three-game span in the regular season since posting a trio of victories in succession back in 2007.
Last week the Argonauts took advantage of a weakened Montreal squad, on the road no less, streaking out to a 31-0 lead before settling in for a 38-13 triumph. With the victory the team gave itself a slight cushion in the standings, now four points ahead of both the Alouettes and Hamilton Tiger- Cats.
Returning to action after missing time due to a knee injury, quarterback Ricky Ray connected with John Chiles on a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter, but it wasn't until late in the period that the game really got exciting, as Chad Owens returned a missed field goal 118 yards for a score to give the Argos a 21-0 edge after 15 minutes of action. Ray finished the meeting 15-of-18 passing for 152 yards and three touchdowns, while backup Zach Collaros was also given time under center for the visitors, resulting in another 44 yards through the air and 31 on the ground.
Owens, perhaps the most exciting player in the league for the last several years, was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week as he finished with 247 all-purpose yards in the triumph.
Also earning league recognition was defensive back Alonzo Lawrence, who claimed CFL Defensive Player of the Week honors after forcing a fumble and recovering two more in the onslaught.
While the Argos pretty much had their meeting with Montreal in the bag after just one quarter of action, the Eskimos found themselves fighting right up until the final gun as they bowed to visiting Hamilton by a score of 30-29. Edmonton had a chance to snap what had been a three-game slide, but Grant Shaw's last-second field goal attempt missed the mark, extending the squad's run of defeats to four in a row.
All alone in last place in the Western Division, having won only once in six opportunities, Edmonton controlled the ball for just over 25 minutes and was unable to capitalize on a staggering 12 penalties for 138 yards assessed against the Ticats. Mike Reilly hit on 21-of-32 passing as the starting quarterback, resulting in 311 yards and a score, but that didn't stop Edmonton from also fielding Kerry Joseph and Jonathan Crompton at the position during the outing.
Running back Hugh Charles scored once on the ground for Edmonton, but gained a total of just 40 yards on nine attempts, while wideout Cary Koch was tops among receivers with eight catches for 112 yards.
Despite Reilly trying to carve out some space for himself on the Edmonton offense, the unit continues to have issues. Through six games, the Eskimos are last in the league in scoring with just 21.3 ppg, with much of that being the result of placing last in the CFL in both plays from scrimmage (435) and average time of possession (27:15).
On the defensive side of the ball Edmonton is in the middle of the pack with 28.2 ppg allowed. However, linebacker Damaso Munoz is currently second in the league in tackles with 41.
The Eskimos need Munoz and his teammates to apply as much pressure as they can at the line of scrimmage because trying to slow down Ray, a former Edmonton player himself, is not easy. Ray has completed a staggering 76.4 percent of his passes for 1,355 yards and 11 touchdowns, all without being picked off yet in 2013.
In addition to Ray's near perfection, the Argos also enjoy the exploits of Owens, who is first in the league in receiving with 43 catches for 470 yards and also tops in combined yards (1,154), as he aims to record yet another 3,000 yard campaign.
Since 2004 the teams have earned an even split of their 18 matchups, although Edmonton has had the upper hand in recent years with five straight victories, the latest triumph coming in August of last season when the Esks delivered a 26-17 win on the road. The last win for Toronto was three seasons ago on August 10 when the squad slipped by in a 29-28 final.
With their run of success of late, Edmonton now leads the all-time series, dating back to 1961 and taking into consideration only regular-season matchups, by a 45-38-1 mark.
The teams are also set to face each other in late September when the Argos visit Edmonton.
08/14 16:05:16 ET