It was a win that could prove as dominant as it was costly for the Toronto Argonauts.
Argos quarterback Ricky Ray was nearly perfect in a 35-19 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday.
Ray, who missed only one of his 20 pass attempts all night as he threw for 286 yards, left mid-way through the third quarter after being tackled. The extent of his injury isn’t known.
Toronto also lost key receiver Chad Kackert, who suffered a possible knee injury in the fourth quarter.
“We’re hopeful Ricky’s (injury) is not as serious,” said coach Scott Milanovich. “Chad’s never gone through any kind of knee injury so he’s not sure how it feels.”
Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce and defensive back Johnny Sears were also injured.
Coach Tim Burke said Pierce suffered an abdominal injury that happened in the first half.
“He was able to keep playing and at half time we looked at him and thought he would be able to continue to play in the second half,” said Burke.
“When he got out there and started warming up he decided he wouldn’t be able to go.”
With Sears, who was playing in his first game since being injured late last season, it’s his foot.
Both Burke and Milanovich said an interception Pierce threw in the first half was a turning point in the game. It led to Toronto’s first touchdown.
But they also said Ray’s performance was huge.
“He was unbelievable and he’s played that way all year,” said Milanovich.
The Argos (2-2) jumped into a 21-6 lead by halftime on touchdowns by Chad Owens, Spencer Watt and Zach Collaros. Ray added one of his own in the second half.
Noel Prefontaine had two field goals and a point on one he missed.
As predicted, Pierce was more mobile. But his offence wasn’t a lot more effective than it has been so far this season.
Winnipeg’s only points came on three field goals and a safety, until Chad Simpson carried the ball over for a touchdown with less than a minute left and the Bombers (1-3) picked up a two-point convert as well.
Pierce completed 10-of-14 attempts for 139 yards before backup Justin Goltz took over in the second half when Pierce couldn’t continue.
The win broke the 1-2 logjam that saw all four teams in the East tied after three games.
Owens said the whole team is worried when players like Ray and Kackert go down.
“Those are leaders on the team, those are important pieces to the team,” he said.
“As hard as it is it’s part of the game and it sucks but we’ve just got to stick together and like I said, pray that it’s not too serious.”
Winnipeg’s defence, which has been something Burke could rely on so far this season, was largely ineffectual against Ray’s passing prowess.
“You’ve got to give credit to Toronto’s offence,” he said.
“Ricky Ray’s a great quarterback. Scott Milanovich and (defensive co-ordinator) Marcus Brady are really good football coaches.”
But he also said the Bomber defence made mistakes.
“We didn’t get a very good pass rush. It started in the middle of the defensive line,” he said.
“We didn’t get any pressure on Ricky Ray, which allowed him to pick us apart.”
Cornerback Jovon Johnson said the players have to take responsibility for not playing as they should and they plan on facing it head on.
“We’re going to come in on day one and meet as a team without the coaches and we’re going to go from there,” he said.
“Different situations call for different things and guys want to get some things off their chest.”
Notes: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was in the stands for the win and was all smiles as he did a halftime walk across the field and shook a few hands. ... Toronto also had to play without defensive back Jalil Carter, who was injured making a tackle late in the game. ... The banged up Bombers were minus three of their best receivers — Cory Watson, Chris Matthews and Terrence Edwards.