MISSISSAUGA — Most of the players on the Toronto Argonauts wore sunglasses on Wednesday despite facing overcast skies during their final on-field preparation for Thursday’s game against the Montreal Alouettes.
“It’s just a little switch up,” said safety Willie Pile, the captain of Toronto’s defence. “The guys put it on the [Blackberry] BBM chat group, they said, ‘We’re wearing shades on Wednesday.’
“Any little thing to change it up is good so we can get off the losing streak we’ve been on. It seems like misfortune has been following us. We’re trying to still have fun.”
One thing that will not change drastically this week against the defending Grey Cup champions is the defensive game plan. Toronto lost 40-17 in Montreal on July 15, but most defensive players were happy with their strategy in that game.
The Argos trailed Montreal by just six points after three quarters. The game got out of hand because of two fourth-quarter fumbles that led to two touchdowns by the Alouettes.
“What we did was smart,” Pile said. “We frustrated them and definitely did not give up too many big plays, which is a key when it comes to playing in the CFL. We need to force them to be patient.”
The major problem was the Argos defence did not execute properly. Specifically, too many tackles were broken or missed altogether.
“Fundamentally sound football is what will put us over the top,” Pile said. “We got to get off the field in a timely fashion. We got to make three-yard gains be three-yard gains.”
The Argos did not want Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo to get in a groove three weeks ago — “Once they get into a rhythm then they’re unstoppable. We’ve seen it before,” Pile said — so they showed him a variety of looks.
“I believe if you have a strong front four you can do a lot of things,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said. “But with A.C. you can’t sit there with a four-man front no matter how good they are. You have to mix it up, give them some three-man, give them some six- and seven-man pressure, give them some two-man pressure maybe. You have to mix up the looks with A.C.”
The different formations allowed defensive end Ricky Foley pick off a pass after dropping back into coverage. But Calvillo often was able to neutralize the Argos defence by dumping the ball off to tailback Brandon Whitaker, who had 11 catches for 94 yards. He also gained 120 yards on the ground.
Linebacker Anthony Cannon led the Argos with 11 tackles against the Alouettes in a performance that helped him leapfrog veteran Kevin Eiben on the depth chart. But Cannon is out with a quad/groin problem, which means other players will need to step up.
Kevin Huntley, who did not face the Alouettes in July because of Achilles tendinitis, will finally get his chance for revenge. The defensive tackle has accused Alouettes receiver Jamel Richardson of knocking him down with a “cheap” block near the end of last year’s East Division final.
“To be on the sideline when I felt like I could make a difference, it hurt my heart,” Huntley said. “No fan or coach or player will ever understand how hard it was for me to sit out that game.”
Huntley’s presence should help the Argos generate more pressure on Calvillo.
“If you can hit him, you can make him nervous,” Huntley said. “He’s the head of that clock. He’s what makes it tick so if you can throw a wrench in his game it permeates through the whole team not just the offence.
“It’s easy for their defence to go out there and pin their ears back when they got a lead, but if you get to Calvillo and the receivers start dropping passes because he’s rushing throws … pressure busts pipes. That’s our game plan. Last year when we played them here and beat them it was because the D-line was all over them.”
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