Beating the Toronto Argonauts only tells us so much about the Calgary Stampeders.
The Stamps (3-2) should beat this year’s winless Argos (0-5) team, and on Thursday night, they did exactly that.
A strong Stampeders defensive effort forced seven turnovers, giving a struggling offence the field position it needed to get to the endzone and secure a 26-16 CFL victory.
What does it mean?
Well … the most important thing for the Stampeders was getting the win. They face a challenging schedule over the next six weeks that will see them play four games against the two teams ahead of them in the West Division standings — three against the Edmonton Eskimos, and one against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
As strange as it sounds, that made beating the Argos more important than your average mid-July CFL game against a non-divisional opponent.
And look, the Stampeders got the job done.
There were plenty of positives, too, although they were mostly on special teams and the defensive side of the ball.
“Tough game, but I’ll take a 10-point win any day,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “It was in doubt, certainly a lot of plays made (by) our defence — ball hawks getting the ball out, doing a great job … I thought we improved on our cover teams — that was something there.
“We took a step back on offence. We’ve got to look at how we’re coaching these guys and how we’re trying to get better, so obviously that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job on that.”
To focus on the positives first, the defence was genuinely terrific against the Argos.
Brandon Smith, Raheem Wilson, Robertson Daniel and Cory Greenwood all came down with interceptions, and the Stamps scored touchdowns on the drives that came directly the picks by Smith and Wilson.
Fellow defensive back Tre Roberson added a touchdown himself when he scooped up an Armanti Edwards fumble and ran it back 93 yards for a touchdown.
It should be noted that Greenwood forced the fumble and later recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter, meaning the Stamps linebacker was involved directly in three Argos turnovers.
“I filled up the stat-board a little bit,” Greenwood said. “I wanted a sack, too, but you can’t be too greedy.”
Ultimately, it was those turnovers that were the difference in Thursday’s game.
Of the Stamps’ 26 points, 22 came either on turnovers or on the ensuing drives. There may have been some concerns about the defence earlier in the season, but the group appears to be coming together nicely, and it gave Argos QB MacLeod Bethel-Thompson lots of trouble. He completed 32-of-42 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns, while also throwing four interceptions.
“You can’t just say you want to keep the ball away from me, because everybody in the secondary can play defence,” Roberson said. “Everyone can cover. Everyone can get interceptions.”
On the offensive side of the ball, things were less encouraging.
That’s not necessarily a surprise, given that the Stampeders were playing their third-straight game with backup QB Nick Arbuckle as their starter in place of the injured Bo Levi Mitchell, and were also without starting centre Ucambre Williams and starting running back Don Jackson.
While receiver Juwan Brescacin returned to the lineup and scored two touchdowns — one in the first quarter, and one in the third — the offence never really seemed to fully click against the Argos.
“We haven’t really been able to find that big play or a guy who steps up and takes the game over,” Dickenson said. “Obviously teams have been playing us tough, but we’ve been killing ourselves.
“We take sacks, we take a million penalties on offence, we can’t overcome a bad play and our ball security, even though we didn’t fumble. We had a couple picks in crucial moments this game. All those are bad things. We’re lucky our defence and special teams played so well.
“We win and lose as a team. Our offence is working hard, but work ethic doesn’t mean anything to me as far as execution. You have to be perfect as an offence —12 of you need to be on the same page, and obviously, we weren’t.”
The run game was better than it was five days ago when the Stamps fell to the host Hamiton Tiger-Cats, and Ka’Deem Carey certainly looked like he belongs, finishing with 12 carries for 65 yards on the ground and adding four receptions for 30 yards through the air in the win.
Arbuckle, meanwhile, was not as effective as he’d been in previous starts. It’s probably inevitable that he’d regress somewhat now that opponents have some film of him, and he still finished having completed 20-of-30 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns, although he did toss two interceptions
Ultimately, it was enough, and the Stampeders can begin to prepare for next week’s challenging trip to the Nation’s Capital to play the host Ottawa Redblacks with the confidence that a win brings.
Beating the Argos doesn’t make you Grey Cup favourites, but you can only beat the opponent that’s in front of you. On Thursday, the Stamps did what needed to be done.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019