TORONTO — Although Boris Bede missed a routine convert that would have tied the game and forced overtime, his Toronto Argonauts teammates blamed themselves for their heartbreaking loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
"A whole lot more points were missed than just on missed kicks," Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson said Monday night after his team slipped to 1-2 in the standings.
With 25 seconds left in regulation, Bede missed a convert attempt that would have tied the game as the Argos fell to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-22 at BMO Field.
But the Argos pivot pointed to his two interceptions and some other turnovers that led to 17 of Winnipeg's 23 points.
"It drives us crazy," Bethel-Thompson said. "It's been three weeks now and we haven't seen the real Argos."
The unbeaten Blue Bombers are the first team in the CFL to reach four wins this season.
"We did enough," Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea said. "That's what matters."
Bethel-Thompson overcame a disastrous first half for the Argos to throw for 314 yards. He completed 27 of 37 passing attempts and had two interceptions.
Argos running back Andrew Harris was playing in his first game against the team he helped win consecutive Grey Cups in 2019 and 2021. He was Toronto's leading rusher with 111 yards on 22 carries.
"When it mattered, we came together," Harris said. "That's the best team in the league, unfortunately we lost, but we got some positives once we started playing."
Winnipeg’s defence opened the scoring on Toronto’s first possession after the game.
While deep in their own territory, Bethel-Thompson’s intended pass to Brandon Banks was picked off by Winnipeg’s Winston Rose for a 46-yard touchdown interception return. Kicker Marc Liegghio converted the extra point that gave Winnipeg a 7-0 lead.
Bethel-Thompson was picked off for a second time in the opening quarter after a bobbled snap led to a rushed throw. That set Winnipeg up with short field position. On the ensuing possession, Winnipeg pivot Zach Collaros connected with Drew Wolitarsky on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Liegghio’s convert put the Bombers up 14-0.
Toronto’s pivot managed just 18 yards of offence in the first quarter.
Winnipeg opened the second quarter with a 15-yard field goal that put the Bombers up 17-0.
Toronto appeared set to get their first points of the game after moving the ball down to Winnipeg’s 29-yard line. They found themselves in a third-and-one situation and decided to go for it but turned the ball over on downs. Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie challenged the spot of the ball after his team’s failed attempt but the spot was upheld by the CFL's command centre.
The Argos recorded their first points of the game late in the first half. Bede connected on a 52-yard field goal that cut Winnipeg’s lead to 17-3.
Collaros was effective for Winnipeg in the opening half, completing 15 of 17 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown. He also had an interception, but it came in a desperate attempt to add points as time was winding down.
Toronto got off to a much better start in the second half and had a bit of luck to go with it. Bethel-Thompson’s pass in the end zone appeared set to be his third interception of the game. The ball went right to the hands of defensive back Demerio Houston. But Banks managed to strip the ball from Houston’s hands while in the end zone for Toronto’s first touchdown of the game. Bede’s convert trimmed Winnipeg’s lead to 17-10 in the third quarter.
Late in the third, Toronto was on the Winnipeg 10-yard line with a chance to tie the game, but Bethel-Thompson's completed pass to Banks was fumbled. Malcolm Thompson picked up the ball and lateralled the ball to Nick Taylor who ran the ball up to midfield.
Liegghio connected on a 20-yard field goal on the ensuing possession and put Winnipeg up 20-10 in the fourth quarter.
After the change of possession, tensions began to rise on the Argos sidelines. Banks and offensive lineman Trevon Tate had to be separated by teammates. Toronto general manager Pinball Clemons, who wasn’t on the sidelines to start the game, went down to the field to play peacemaker. Clemons returned to his seat after issues on the sidelines appeared to be under control.
"I’ve got to sit down and talk to those guys, we’ve got to get more disciplined and grow up and be men and find ways to fight through the frustration," Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. "We can’t act like that. It looks like Junior College."
Bede hit his second field goal of the game on Toronto’s next possession to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 20-13. Later in the fourth, Bede connected on a 39-yard field goal to bring Toronto to within four points, 20-16.
Liegghio responded with another field goal to put Winnipeg ahead 23-16 with 1:38 to go in regulation time.
On the ensuing possession for Toronto, Bethel-Thompson engineered one of his better drives of the game. He found Markeith Ambles for a four-yard TD pass to cut Winnipeg's lead to 23-22, but Bede missed on the point-after attempt to spoil the comeback.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2022
David Alter, The Canadian Press