Eskimos can't hold lead in loss to surging Argonauts
EDMONTON — The Toronto Argonauts may be taking their role as comeback kids a little too seriously.
Chad Kackert scored a pair of touchdowns as the Toronto Argonauts won their fourth in a row on the road with a wild 34-22 come-from-behind victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.
The Argos scored 33 unanswered points in the second half, the fourth consecutive game they have come back to win when trailing at the mid-mark.
Edmonton, which had led 22-1 early in the third, allowed the Argos to get back into the game, seeing their lead erode to 22-20.
Toronto then surged ahead with three minutes remaining in the fourth after Pat Watkins absolutely crushed Eskimos backup quarterback Kerry Joseph for a sack, causing him to cough up the ball and the Argos recovered on the Edmonton five. That led to an unusual touchdown as Argos quarterback Zach Collaros fumbled the ball into the end zone where Kackert was able to jump on it to put Toronto up 27-22.
The Eskimos had one more shot but Joseph threw it right into the hands of Marcus Ball, who ran it 57 yards for the touchdown with 40 seconds left to put the game away.
“It just shows that our guys will never quit,” said Argos coach Scott Milanovich. “They have a lot of belief in each other. I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to get our offence going in the first half, but our defence really played an outstanding game. It was a total team effort.
“Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for them, once the momentum starts swinging one way it is difficult to get it to stop and I felt that’s what happened tonight.”
Watkins, who had a monster night on defence with a huge sack and fumble recovery and two interceptions, said his team has shown some real resilience of late.
“It just goes to show the kind of character we have on this team,” he said. “Nobody here believes a game is over until there are zeros on the clock. That’s the way our coach has been teaching us, to keep playing no matter what. This shows our ability to react when we are down and that we can keep composed and keep playing.”
The Argos (9-4) solidified their hold on first place in the East Division while also becoming the first team in CFL history to win all four games of a four-game road trip. Only three other teams (Calgary in 1967, B.C. in 2001 and Winnipeg in 2012) have ever had a four-game stint away from their home field, and none was able to sweep on the trip.
The Eskimos (3-10) saw a two-game winning streak come to an end, jeopardizing their hopes of earning a cross-over playoff spot.
“It was our execution, but Toronto did a good job of taking advantage of our mistakes,” said Eskimos coach Kavis Reed. “That’s an exceptional team and we’re not at the point where we can make the mistakes that we made. And they were good enough to capitalize on them.”
The bad news was compounded as quarterback Mike Reilly left the game with a suspected concussion at the end of the first quarter and did not return.
Edmonton gained a punt single from its first possession after a drive-killing dropped pass by running back John White when he was in the clear.
The Eskimos got the ball back, but Reilly was promptly picked off by Watkins at the Edmonton 52. The shift in field position would only gain the Argos a single on a missed 43-yard Swayze Waters field goal attempt two series later, however.
Edmonton continued to catch breaks leading up to a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the first quarter. A face-mask penalty negated an interception by Jermaine Gabriel and then two more penalties put Edmonton in the red zone where Reilly was able to find Shawawd Chambers for a 17-yard TD pass and an 8-1 lead after the opening quarter.
Toronto returner Trent Guy took the ensuing kick 65 yards to the Edmonton 27, however Waters missed another field goal attempt from 28 yards, hitting the ribbon at the top of the uprights and failing to get a point from it.
Reilly left the game with a head injury, but Joseph looked competent in his place, leading the team on a long drive that culminated in a six-yard pass into the end zone to Fred Stamps and a 15-1 Edmonton lead midway through the second.
Edmonton kicker Hugh O’Neill missed a late field goal attempt of his own from 45 yards, keeping the Eskimos 14-point lead intact at the half.
The Eskimos built on their lead six minutes into the third frame as a 35-yard pass to Stamps set up a three-yard keeper by Joseph to make it 22-1.
After his two earlier misses, Waters finally hit a three-pointer from 50 yards out for a 22-4 score with five minutes left in the third.
The Argos got themselves back in the game in a hurry late in the third quarter as Watkins had his fourth interception in the last two games and a long return, setting up a 48-yard touchdown run by Kackert to make it 22-11 heading into the fourth.
“He changed the game with that big run after the turnover,” Reed said. “His big run gave them momentum back and we weren’t able to grab it back.”