Edmonton visits Toronto in clash of defensive-minded clubs
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Last season the Toronto Argonauts had to wait until the middle of October to record their fourth win, but already this time around the team has four victories in seven opportunities as it faces off against the Edmonton Eskimos at Rogers Centre on Monday evening.
The 2011 version of the Argonauts was atrocious, even though the group won three of its final four games of the campaign. Prior to that minor run, the team was a mere 3-11, with those three victories coming by a combined nine points. This year the story is much different for Toronto as it sits atop the Eastern Division in a tie with Montreal as it sports one of the top defenses in the league.
Last weekend, the Argos held on to defeat Calgary on the road, 22-14, marking the team's third win in the last four outings. The effort on the defensive side of the ball for Toronto was a welcomed change from the first time the two teams tangled this year back in early July when Toronto had to hang on for a 39-36 win at home.
This time around, kicker Swayze Waters was the deciding factor for the Argos as he knocked through all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 16 of the team's 22 points. Quarterback Ricky Ray hit on 21-of-33 passes for 316 yards and a score, while running back Chad Kackert delivered with a game-high 94 rushing yards on 14 carries, and also added another five receptions for 41 yards. Andre Durie finished with just two receptions for the visitors, but one of those was a 26-yard TD in the third quarter to account for the lone major for the visitors.
As for the Eskimos, they too had trouble getting their offense into gear, particularly in the first half against Montreal as they fell behind by four touchdowns before even making a sound. Due to the sluggish start on both sides of the ball, Edmonton suffered a 38-25 loss to the Alouettes at home which means the squad has now dropped two of its last three outings overall and is second in the Western Division standings behind the British Columbia Lions, who have the top record in the league at 5-2.
Even before they knew what hit them, the Eskimos watched as Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo registered three passing scores and more than 200 yards through the air in less than 30 minutes. Edmonton's defense surrendered 452 yards of offense to the Als and managed to make things interesting late when Donovan Alexander returned a blocked punt five yards for a major. However, a two-point conversion attempt failed when a pass from Steven Jyles to Greg Carr fell incomplete.
Jyles had a tough time of it as he completed 15-of-28 passes for 173 yards and a score, throwing one interception while being sacked five times. Backup Kerry Joseph stepped in to convert half of his 10 pass attempts for 45 yards, but in addition to scoring on a one-yard run in the first half, he also tossed a pair of picks in the meeting.
Fred Stamps recorded four catches for a team-high 73 yards, but he took a number of big hits and, as a result, was limited to his involvement in practice earlier this week. A slotback who has been in the league for six years, Stamps has put up three straight seasons with at least 80 receptions and 1,150 yards, but this year he has experienced the highs and the lows as he logged fewer than 50 yards in each of his first four games of the campaign. As someone who is certainly familiar with finding the end zone during his career, Stamps has landed there only once thus far.
Watching Ray move from the Eskimos to Toronto has certainly had an impact on Stamps even though he is still the top receiver on the team with 28 catches for 356 yards, his yardage total placing him in a tie for 14th in the league at this stage. The passing attack for Edmonton is last in the league in yardage (1,698), TDs (seven) and completion percentage (.581), which is why the notion of benching Jyles is still a topic of conversation even though the team is a game over .500 right now.
Ray has had some trouble settling in with the Argos in the early going as well, his TD total (nine) only slightly better than his INTs (seven), yet he is still first in the league among regular starters with a completion percentage of .690 and is third with 2,073 yards.
Edmonton won the first meeting of the season in the opener back on June 30 by a score of 19-15 at home, thanks mostly to kicker Grant Shaw who nailed all four of his field goal attempts for the hosts. Hugh Charles scored the only major for Edmonton on a four-yard run in the second quarter.
Facing his former team for the first time, Ray threw for 298 yards and a score, but still wound up on the short end in the bout at Commonwealth Stadium, which means the all-time series now numbers 44-38-1 in favor of Edmonton dating back to 1949 and only taking into consideration regular-season matchups. The Esks have captured four in a row and six of the last seven meetings with Toronto.