Jarious Jackson played the hero's role Saturday.The Argonauts' name has rarely seemed as appropriate as it did Saturday, but it was Jarious, not Jason, leading them on a seemingly-impossible quest into hostile territory. Jarious Jackson didn't exactly impress following Ricky Ray's fall in battle the previous week, but he did what was needed Saturday and helped his band of heroes to a victory. Of course, he got a lot of help; the defence had an outstanding night, running back Chad Kackert collected 86 yards on the ground (even if it took him 20 carries), returner/receiver Chad Owens was effective as usual in the return game and became the first professional football player to record 3,000 yards in three different seasons and the Bombers themselves chipped in with a ridiculous seven turnovers that made the quarterback's job much easier. Still, Jackson ably filled in for Ray and led the Argonauts to an important victory in a tough situation; it's a regular-season win, so not quite the Golden Fleece yet, but it does have significant playoff implications and could give this team something to build on.
Jackson didn't post a tremendous day in the passing game, only throwing for 155 yards and a touchdown, but he was effective; he completed 17 of his 28 passing attempts (60.7 per cent) and didn't throw an interception. He also made plays with his legs, rushing seven times for 51 yards and a touchdown. This wasn't a showing that will make anyone forget about Ray (which might be about as difficult as a similar-sounding task), but it was a more-than-capable performance from a 35-year-old backup quarterback many of us had doubted. This team's still a lot better when they've got Ray under centre and are putting up massive aerial yards, but in a hostile environment against a desperate team, they looked better with Jackson than most expected. Don't write them off regardless of who's taking the snaps.
Of course, the even bigger quarterbacking story in this one might be on the other side. Buck Pierce's return last week was crucial to the Bombers snapping a four-game losing skid with a 34-12 beatdown of Hamilton, and Pierce was expected to play a key part in their chances here. He was actually pretty effective overall despite some early struggles, completing 61.5 per cent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception. However, he only threw eight completions for 120 yards before being knocked out of the game with what looked like a hit to the head. It's brutally tough to see Pierce hurt again, as injuries have been such a key factor in his career, and it must be particularly bad for Winnipeg fans. Replacements Joey Elliott and Alex Brink haven't been effective overall so far this season, and Elliott was anything but good Saturday, throwing for 173 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns in relief of Pierce. Pierce's triumphant return last week suggested that the Bombers might finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately for them, that light turned out to be an oncoming train.
Where does this leave the Argos and Bombers? In very different situations. The victory improves Toronto's record to 7-6, solidifying their hold on second place in the East (they're two games clear of 5-8 Hamilton) and perhaps even giving them hopes of challenging the 8-5 Montreal Alouettes (who are one game up in first). Meanwhile, the Bombers have fallen to 3-9. They're still not completely out of the playoff picture yet, as the Tiger-Cats are only two games up on them in the East's third and final spot (barring a crossover), but with just five games left to play and Winnipeg's remaining schedule of 8-5 Montreal (twice), 8-5 Calgary, the 7-6 Argonauts again and the 5-8 Tiger-Cats, it's not going to be easy to make up that deficit. The biggest concern is going to be what happens at quarterback if Pierce is out for a while, though. The Argos showed Saturday their oft-questioned backup can occasionally step up to fill the hero's role; we'll see if the same can be said about the Bombers.