It was an eventful day for the Toronto Argonauts who became the first team to clinch a spot in the 2023 CFL playoffs with a 39-10 win over the Montréal Alouettes.
The victory at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon also improved Toronto to 10-1 while matching a franchise record set in 1996 for best start to a season.
Ask just about anyone on this Argos team what they attribute their record-tying success to and they’ll probably give you the same answer – trusting their preparation.
“Our mentality this whole year has been let’s go 1-0 each week,” said wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. following the win. “At the end of the day, we’re winners…we know what we have to do to get there and we’re in love with the process.”
“That process is going 1-0 each and every week.”
Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie echoed Gittens Jr.’s sentiment as he reflected on the challenges heading into this matchup after just five days of rest following a 41-28 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“We were beat up going in, so we barely practiced,” said Dinwiddie following the Argos’ fourth consecutive victory. “As a coach that’s not a comfortable feeling, but we told them [the team] they have to be mentally tough this week.”
“When you’re mentally tough, being physically tough comes with it. It was a tough week, and we found a way to overcome it.”
It appeared the coach’s message was received loud and clear as the Boatmen looked poised on both sides of the ball. Toronto dominated defensively, forcing three fumbles, and a total of five turnovers, while also taking care of business on offence as well.
Star quarterback Chad Kelly finished the game 21 of 28 through the air for 278 yards, and despite snapping his nine-game streak of throwing a passing touchdown, he rushed for two TDs.
After the game, the former Ole Miss QB – similar to Gittens Jr. and Dinwiddie – praised the team’s commitment to their process.
“Everybody’s hungry each and every day they come in to work,” Kelly said. “I just think it was a good team effort today…at the end of the day we’re physical each and every snap and that’s what it takes.”
“It takes a mentality to out-will the other team and that’s what happened.”
Kelly wasn’t the only one to drive in a pair of touchdowns for Toronto, as his partner in the backfield, A.J. Oullette, did the same.
The Argos halfback had his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season and after the game, he was quick to give all the praise to his offensive line.
“It was easy running out there,” said Oullette after he finished with 105 yards on 19 carries. “They’re the best in the league and they don’t get enough praise.”
Dinwiddie took it a step further, says it was probably the best he’s seen from his offensive line this season.
To put things into perspective, the front five have now allowed zero sacks for five straight games and have surrendered just 10 all season – every other team in the league has given up 20 or more.
With seven games remaining in the regular season for the Argos and a post-season spot secured, the idea of boredom with the rest of the regular season could be a genuine concern. However, avoiding the notion of complacency appears to be simple according to Dinwiddie, so long as the team continues to trust the process.
“What works for us is 1-0,” Dinwiddie said. “Let’s continue to take that approach…the guys buy into it. Don’t look at the schedule, let’s just handle each day and each rep and just win the day.”
Toronto will return to action on Sept. 15 to complete a home-and-home set against Montréal. If the Argos go 1-0 next week, they will officially clinch the top spot in the East.
With 14,415 in attendance at BMO Field, the Argonauts improved to 5-0 at home and 6-0 against opponents in their division this season.