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Argos come close to miracle comeback in bizarre loss to Blue Bombers

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It started with an early pick-six.

Another touchdown off another interception made it 14-0 Winnipeg.

And that was just the first quarter. In fact, the quarter wasn’t over, and everyone watching the Argonauts’ eventual 23-22 loss to Winnipeg wondered how disjointed the Argos offence could be.

This was a disastrous start for the Argos and quarterback with McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who is drawing far too much negative attention to himself and his future as the team’s No. 1 quarterback. Bethel-Thompson’s timing couldn’t have been worse on this occasion, with the Argos building hype and momentum for a Blue Bombers’ matchup that featured former Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris facing his old team for the first time since signing with Toronto last December.

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If that wasn’t enough for a troubled Argos team, things turned ugly on the bench after a third-quarter turnover — initially ruled an incomplete pass to wideout Brandon Banks — turn into a completed catch and a fumble after being deflected by Winnipeg’s Malcolm Thompson into the arms of teammate Nick Taylor.

Moments later, Banks and offensive linemen Trevon Tate and Philip Blake appeared to be in a confrontation on the bench, with Bethel-Thompson trying to cool things off. Harris was seen shaking his head in disbelief, while Argos GM Mike Clemons left his private box and was seen on the sidelines, talking to an obviously overheated Banks.

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“I know he’s fiery, I know he throws temper tantrums on the sidelines, but he’s got to be better than that,” Argos coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “Speedy (Banks) apologized to the team afterwards. I know he cares, but he has to be better than that.”

The dagger on the night came in the last seconds. With the Argos defence allowing just six points in the second half, the Argos marched 61 yards on nine plays, over 67 seconds for a touchdown. Bethel-Thompson completed a short pass to Markeith Ambles for a near-miracle comeback that brought Toronto to within a point.

But the normally reliable kicker Boris Bede missed the convert — paving the way for the 23-22 final score, and a bizarre ending to a bizarre game.

“I told him it’s not his fault,” Dinwiddie said.

“There were a lot of plays in the first half (that led to the defeat) … Everyone on the team has to say I had a hand in this, it’s not one guy’s fault.”

When the night was over, things couldn’t have gone much worse for an Argos team that clearly disappointed on a big night for Harris. They also gave far too much evidence that they are a team with an offence in disarray, and some frayed nerves and patience among its star players.

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“We gotta mature as a team, cut that nonsense out,” said Harris, who, prior to the game, received his Grey Cup ring from last season’s Bombers’ championship win.

“We came together in the end there, we had a chance. That’s the best team in the league … not a great football game but some positives out there.”

The Argos defence, after a painful-to-watch loss in British Columbia two weekends ago, put in a solid showing, and were the only reason this game wasn’t worse on the scoreboard. But on top of the letdown for Harris, the Argos, at the very least, gave every indication they are having too much difficulty in effectively working in star newcomers in Harris and Banks.

Behind Bethel-Thompson, that offence laid an egg in the first minutes of an ultra important game. The personable quarterback’s third pass, intended for Banks, floated into the arms of Blue Bombers’ cornerback Wynton Rose, who high stepped it 46 yards for a pick-six before the game was four minutes old.

Three minutes later, another interception led to a 15-yard touchdown strike from Zach Collaros to Drew Wolitarsky. While the Argos would rebound with a Banks touchdown in the second half, the poor start did them in, and sent them to a 1-2 record to begin the season.

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Amazingly, with the CFL’s East Division off to a poor start, the Argos will still retain their first-place perch.

Bethel-Thompson’s status to start the second quarter became a focal point in the half. Dinwiddie told TSN he wasn’t going to make a change at quarterback “right now.”

Bethel-Thompson finished with a very respectable 314 yards on 27 completions and 37 attempts. But the two early interceptions proved too much to overcome.

Banks led all Toronto receivers with five catches for 95 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Harris finished with 111 yards on 22 carries.

The Argos now have two touchdowns in their first three games, while the Bombers have allowed just three touchdowns in four games. With the win Monday, they improved to 4-0.

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