Toronto (CFL.ca) Chad Owens ignited the Toronto Argonauts with an 80-yard punt return in the third quarter and their defence made a key stop on a third-down gamble in the dying minutes to secure a 17-13 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday afternoon.
Former ASU QB Cleo Lemon was 14 of 23 for 90 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. On the ground, he had three carries for 31 yards.
Nursing a four-point lead, the Boatmen stuffed to a 10-play, 48-yard drive on third-and-one on their own 26 when fullback Andre Sadeghian was dropped for a one-yard loss with 1:42 on the clock.
The Argos (6-5) were able to hold on from there before a crowd of 19,662, ending a three-game losing streak and keeping pace with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-5), who rallied for a 35-31 win at B.C. on Saturday night, for second in the East Division.
They also picked up the tiebreaker against the Blue Bombers (3-8), while putting a serious dent in the playoff hopes of their last-place rivals.
Jeremain Copeland, back after missing three games with an elbow injury, caught a TD pass from Cleo Lemon while Justin Medlock added a 50-yard field goal for the Argos. Medlock and defensive end Ricky Foley, who collected a sack, were both signed in midweek and provided a boost.
Terrence Edwards caught a TD from Steven Jyles while Justin Palardy kicked two field goals for the Blue Bombers, who failed to build on their stunning 31-2 win over Saskatchewan last week that ended a five-game losing streak.
The Argos took control of the tight defensive struggle in the third quarter thanks to their special teams.
Their first big play of the contest came on their first touch of the second half, when Owens fielded a punt at the Toronto 30, broke through a tackle and sped down the sidelines into the end zone at 1:38. His third return touchdown of the season put the Argos up 7-6.
Blue Bombers defensive back Deon Beasley ended the next two Toronto possessions with a fumble recovery and interception, but the Argos special teams soon struck again.
Setting up to punt from their own 38 on 3rd and 16, Argos running back Bryan Crawford fielded the snap instead, broke an attempted tackle by Winnipeg receiver Scott McHenry and ran for 30 yards. The offence did nothing with the extra possession but Medlock booted a 50-yard field goal to make it a 10-6 contest.
Medlock was wide right on a 56-yard try early in the fourth quarter but the miss, brought out of the end zone to the Winnipeg 15 by defensive back Jovon Johnson, helped lead to the strong field position that led to Copeland's TD on Toronto's next possession.
Starting at the Winnipeg 50, the Argos needed four plays before Lemon found Copeland in the end zone with a loft pass from nine yards out for a 17-6 lead.
But the Blue Bombers responded on their next possession, as Fred Reid broke loose for a 38-yard run before Jyles found a wide open Edwards to once again make it a four-point game, but could get no closer.
The Blue Bombers led 6-0 after a sloppy first half in which the teams combined for more penalties (10) than points.
Palardy opened the scoring 4:19 into the game when he connected from 34 yards out. An 81-yard pass from Jyles to Terrence Edwards from the Winnipeg five set the kick up, a play after an Argos penalty negated a single.
Foley recorded his first sack as an Argo on second and 10 to stuff the drive.
Palardy made his second kick from 41 yards out 16 seconds into the second quarter to cap a 12-play, 53-yard drive.
The Argos offence crossed midfield only twice in the opening two quarters, never getting further than the Winnipeg 52.