McLeod Bethel-Thompson proved that it’s not only at the Rogers Centre that balls fly in Toronto.
The veteran quarterback had completions of 55 and 37 yards on a couple of beautiful deep passes as the Toronto Argonauts beat the B.C. Lions 23-20 at BMO Field on Saturday.
The 11,089 fans in attendance were rewarded by a late come-from-behind win on the same day that playoff baseball was played in the city.
“This team has a big heart,” said the signal-caller. “We fought back, showed a lot of maturity. It was great to see.”
Bethel-Thompson – who called BMO Field the greatest stadium in the league – completed 27 of 40 passes for 352 yards and one touchdown for the Argos (9-6).
He also had a fumble in the fourth quarter that changed the momentum for a time but took it all back on a late drive that sealed the score.
“The CFL is about making big plays at the right time,” said the quarterback. “Defence played lights out, it was a big time win in a big-time situation.”
Toronto’s top wide receiver duo shined as Markeith Ambles had eight receptions for 121 yards and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. caught six passes for 84 yards. But it was second-year pass catcher Tommy Nield – one catch, 37 yards – who caught the game-winning touchdown.
Defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis dominated for most of the afternoon, finishing with a couple sacks on Vernon Adams Jr. to go alongside two deflections on screen passes, showing his full array of skills.
“Being able to adjust and adapt on the fly is something I really hang my hat on,” said the versatile defensive lineman about the challenges of facing a mobile quarterback like Adams Jr.
The veteran signal caller – who was traded from Montreal to B.C. after starter Nathan Rourke went down – finished 21 of 32 for 258 yards and two touchdowns as the Lions (10-5) dropped just their fifth game of the season.
Running back James Butler had 82 rushing yards on nine carries and added another 32 yards through the air for B.C.
Ryan Dinwiddie is proud of the way his Double Blue team battled after a disappointing 29-2 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
“It gets the taste out of our mouths from last week’s game,” said the head coach. “It was a big moment for us, especially at home, we lost too many home games this year”.
Dinwiddie was also pleased with the fans who showed up on a night when there was fierce competition for sports attention.
“We appreciate our fans, they bring their energy every week, they are die-hard fans, that’s why they are here.
“They make it a tough place to play.”
The Argonauts dominated for most of the first half.
Defesive back Robert Priester forced a fumble on Butler late in the first quarter that gave the Argonauts great field position – aided by a couple of crucial offside penalties by the Lions – to make it 10-0 Argos with a one-yard run by backup quarterback Chad Kelly.
Bethel-Thompson took his team on a 74-yard drive midway through the second quarter that stalled the 11, and ended on another field goal by kicker Boris Bede that gave the Argos a 13-0 lead.
The best drive by the visitors in the first two quarters came with a little over three minutes left on the clock, a 78-yard campaign capped by a beautiful 33-yard rainbow pass from Adams to a well-covered Alexander Hollins in the endzone to cut the lead to 13-7.
Toronto finished the first half with three sacks, including two by Davis.
Bethel-Thompson threw a deep bomb in the third, a 55-yarder to Cam Phillips to set up Bede’s third field goal of the afternoon and extend the lead to nine points in favor of the home team.
Linebacker Ben Hladik had a strip sack to open the fourth quarter that changed the momentum in the game as the Lions capitalized with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Adams Jr. to Keon Hatcher to put the visitors ahead for the first time in the game, 17-16.
When all seemed lost for Toronto, the Argos veteran quarterback launched another long strike – this time a 37-yard pass to Tommy Nield – that put his team ahead 23-20.
A 41-yard game-tying attempt by kicker Sean Whyte hit the uprights with 1:30 left and sealed the score for the home team.
It is the fourth straight game between the two teams decided by three points or less.
The Argos travel to Edmonton to face the Elks next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, same day as the Lions host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 10 p.m. ET.
NOTES: This was the 100th game between the two teams, with the Lions holding a 59-39-2 record against the Argos after the loss … Lions’ wide receiver Lucky Whitehead missed the game with an ankle injury suffered last week against the Ottawa Redblacks.