By Drew Edwards
When Sunday’s game began, I was very sure that this Grey Cup would be defined by a Pizza Pizza ad that offered free tickets as part of a pretty good combo deal, a perfect symbol of an inherently flawed event. Instead, 2016 will go down as one of the greatest championship games in Canadian Football League history.
The Ottawa Redblacks improbable, thrilling 39-33 overtime victory over the previously unstoppable Calgary Stampeders juggernaut doesn’t wash all of the stink off what’s been a pretty lousy week in Toronto.
There were poorly-attended team parties – the vaunted Riderville was a sad, empty ballroom for extended stretches – and decided lack of buzz for what is, in most other Canadian cities, a significant and overwhelmingly fun event.
But game day was nothing short of spectacular, a well-produced event that played well on giant screens across the country. The atmosphere boosted significantly by presence of a large continent of Redblacks fans. It felt, finally, like a real Grey Cup.
It also demonstrated the potential of BMO Field as a home for the Toronto Argonauts, a place where coming to a game could be fun and exciting. Not every contest will be like this – clearly – but the Grey Cup proved this place is a real football stadium.
For me, who covers all elements of the league, this Grey Cup week will always be a mixed bag. For most fans, however, 2017 will be about a game that will go down in history as one of the best of all-time.
By Justin Dunk
It was a classic Canadian Football League game with the Grey Cup on the line, but what everyone will remember is a second-and-goal call with Calgary at the two-yard line. The Stampeders decided to take the ball out of the CFL MOP’s hands and the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian’s belly. Bo Levi Mitchell and Jerome Messam watched from the sideline as rookie QB Andrew Buckley took the snap with an empty backfield and rolled right, but Abdul Kanneh got enough to get him to the ground.
In a somber locker room after the game Mitchell said the ball should’ve been in his or his 260-pound running back’s hands.
“We made a comeback to win the Grey Cup and had it won. So it [expletive] hurts,” said Mitchell.
Veteran receiver Marquay McDaniel replied with “no comment” when asked about the second-and-goal play call. And followed that with an agreement of Mitchell’s assessment of the decision.
First-year head coach Dave Dickenson admitted he regretted the second-and-goal call.
Calgary stampeded through the CFL during the regular season, piled up CFL awards and set the standard for all teams in the regular season. However, the upset loss to Ottawa flushes all that dominance away with one second-and-goal call that changed the complexion of an entire year for Calgary.
By Steve Milton
This will be a minority opinion, but stuffing BMO Field with freebies and cheapies was the right thing to do.
As the Grey Cup shifts back to locales over the next few years where ticket sales won’t be an issue, most of us won’t remember that if you bit into a pizza during the last week of November 2016 you were likely to find a complimentary ticket.
But if the stadium had been just over half-full, we would have remembered it forever. And so would the CFL’s worst media critics, and it’s unlikely they’d ever STFU about it. Neither Grey Cup supporters, nor rippers, would have retained anything about a good game.
The signpost of this was the halftime show featuring One Republic – the concern over their nationalities is a debate for another day – and they were terrific. The visuals, with those synchronized lights all over the stadium, made for good, gusting up to excellent, TV and were even better if you were there. That doesn’t work, at all, if there is too much space between people in the stands.
There can be no disputing, and there isn’t, that the CFL and the Argonauts’ organizing committee blew big parts of this national festival. You cannot take over a struggling franchise two months into the off-season, with only 3,000 season’s tickets, move into a new stadium, and try to have a Cup in a questionable Grey Cup market, all in the same calendar year. Too much, too soon, for too few.
But what you can do is throw paper at some of the problems and try to get people into the stadium so that you don’t lose the other things that always seem to rescue the last game of the CFL year: the Grey Cup spirit, the noise and, in BMO’s case, the intimacy.
You don’t ever want to be in a position to have to give tickets away to a showcase event, but it won’t happen often because it’s not coming back to Toronto for quite a while. So there will be no let’s-wait-and-see-if-there’s-freebies in Grey Cups on the near horizon. Try that in Ottawa next year, and you’re not going to the game.
By Joel Gasson
Are you not entertained?
Grey Cup 104 will forever be remembered as one of the best games ever played in the CFL. Sure, we could complain about a few calls by the officials or the number of reviews, especially in the first three quarters. But, in the end, none of that mattered. As the CFL always does, in the end, it came through, coming up with something worth remembering on the biggest stage. Boy, was it ever needed too. There was a lot of negativity about the CFL this year but the year went out on the highest note possible and that is great for the league. There will be plenty of time to discuss ways the league can get even better, but for now, let’s enjoy this game for what it was, a classic.
As for the game itself, how did the Redblacks do it? From my vantage point, they won it with the big boys up front on both sides of the ball. The Redblacks were able to do what few teams did all year and that was put pressure on Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. Mitchell hardly broke a sweat all season but the Redblacks got in his kitchen sacking him three times and forcing the league’s MOP into some bad throws leading to a big lead that they needed to withstand the Calgary push. Perhaps Mitchell is like the Patriots Tom Brady. You can beat him if you can get to him, it’s just easier said than done. Offensively, Henry Burris was kept clean and we all saw the job he did all game long.
By Ian Busby
Anything can happen in the CFL, and most times the unexpected does.
It’s why we love this league and this game.
So the Ottawa RedBlacks beating the heavily favoured Stampeders shouldn’t shock anyone.
The 2016 Grey Cup will go down as one of the greatest ever played, but not because the Stampeders played well.
All year long the Stamps played clean and smooth.
On Sunday night at BMO Field they made lots of mistakes. Bo Levi Mitchell played poorly to say the least.
He threw up a lot of prayers and they weren’t answered. He didn’t look like himself. Losing Marquay McDaniel early in the game didn’t help.
On defence, the Stamps were picked apart by Henry Burris. He was on point all night, despite a second-half interception.
Burris can safely retire now because he’s done everything he can do. He probably won’t, and that’s fine.
Mitchell and the Stamps will be fine too. If they thought this would be easy they were mistaken.
There will be some questions about the decisions Dave Dickenson made trying to run rookie Andrew Buckley on the goal-line instead of using his horse Jerome Messam. They had a chance to complete a crazy comeback. It didn’t work.
Now it’s going to be a long off-season in Calgary.
By Josh Smith
The old adage is that the best teams win in the CFL because of their Canadian talent and in the biggest game of the year, Canadians came up big for both teams. Of the nine of touchdowns scored in the 104th Grey Cup, five were by Canadians. Calgary’s Andrew Buckley, Jerome Messam and Lamar Durant, as well as Ottawa’s Patrick Lavoie and Brad Sinopoli all found the end zone in the thrilling 39-33 Redblacks win. It is great to see Canadian players get shine on the biggest stage and a few shone brightly on Sunday night in Toronto.
Dave Dickenson’s decision to not run the ball with Jerome Messam on second-and-goal from the Ottawa two-yard line will be the call that defines this game. With a chance to win the game, Dickenson opted for a run-pass option from third-string quarterback Andrew Buckley as opposed to running it up the gut with his bell cow back.
Much like Pete Carroll a couple years ago in the Super Bowl, it was a questionable decision from an otherwise smart head coach. Carroll, you will remember, had a chance to win the Super Bowl simply by giving his bruising running back, Marshawn Lynch, the ball on the one-yard line. He didn’t, and his Seattle Seahawks lost the game to the New England Patriots. Dickenson made the same gaffe in the Grey Cup and his team also lost the game. Let this be a lesson to everyone out there: when you have a 260-pound. running back, use him at the goal line.
By Joey Alfieri
WOW! What a game! I still don’t understand how people can watch a game like that and not fall in love with the CFL.
This game had everything the CFL is about. Big leads, lots of points, incredible comebacks, crucial interceptions, gutsy decisions and onside kicks.
Ottawa jumped out to a big lead at half time and they scored, again, early in the third quarter, but the Lemar Durant touchdown changed everything. Calgary started building momentum and it felt like they couldn’t be stopped.
I have to be honest, when the Stamps were down by 10 and Redblacks’ defensive back Forrest Hightower came up with that interception, I thought the game was over.
But thanks to some stout defensive play and some incredibly gutsy calls on offence, Calgary was able to get back into the game.
Once the Stamps recovered the onside kick, I thought they’d win (boy was I wrong a lot tonight).
Everyone will be talking about the play on second and goal with less than a minute remaining. Sure, giving it to Jerome Messam is never a bad idea, but I didn’t like the fact that Dave Dickenson took the ball out of Bo Levi Mitchell’s hands. It might not have been his best game of the year, but he’s the MOP for a reason.
Finally, I have to show some respect to Henry Burris. His knee locked up before the game, but he battled through it and turned in an MVP performance. Things could have spiralled out of control after his crucial interception in the second half, but instead, Burris led his team on a touchdown drive the very next time they had the ball.
What an awesome Grey Cup!
Is it June yet?