As the late Warren Woods, a long-time and much-beloved sports reporter in Regina used to say, are you not entertained?!
For a game that frankly didn’t have a lot of meat on the bone coming into it, the 109th Grey Cup in Regina ended up delivering and then some as the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 at Mosaic Stadium.
The win caps a season that saw Toronto start slow and continue to overcome the odds every step of the way. In a sense, this game was a microcosm of the Argos season.
No matter what might have been said about the double blue coming into this game, everyone in that room can say they are champions and no one can ever take that away.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Argos 18th Grey Cup championship.
On a night when neither team really played their best or had a firm grip on the game, the game itself became the story.
After a first half that was a bit of a dud, the Bombers held a 10-7 lead. The train started to wobble off the tracks in the second half, and everything went off the rails down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
I’ve now covered Grey Cups in various degrees for 10 years, and as far as I can remember, this was by far the most chaotic end to a game I can remember.
And boy, did the league need it in the worst way, the previous four playoff games were fine but certainly nothing to write home about.
This game really took a turn following a record 102-yard punt return touchdown from Winnipeg return specialist Janarion Grant early in the fourth quarter. At that point, you got the sense that the Bombers would run away and hide, but to the Argos’ credit, they hung around and made the blue and gold pay for failing to end it.
Partway through the fourth quarter, Argonauts pivot McLeod Bethel-Thompson was pulled from the game with what we later found out was a dislocated thumb that prevented him from gripping the football.
Game over? The exact opposite.
In came backup quarterback Chad Kelly who did not look out of place at all and then things got out of control.
Following a short Bombers’ possession, the Argos returned a punt deep into Winnipeg territory. That eventually led to a series of events which created perhaps the moment of the game when Kelly had an absolutely wild scramble on second and 15 to keep the drive alive. A few plays later, running back AJ Oulette was in the end zone and the Argos led following the convert.
We’ve seen this script before, the Bombers have a championship pedigree. They’ve pulled games out of the fire. Zach Collaros would get picked off on the first play of the following drive.
Surely, that had to be it? Nope. Winnipeg would block the Argos’ field goal attempt leaving them with a three-point try of their own to win the game. Instead, that Bomber attempt was blocked by the same player — Robbie White — who took a facemask penalty earlier to keep that Bomber drive alive.
“Blocked field goals don’t happen too often, the way it did happen. It was a storybook ending,” said Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie.
What else can you say? This is why we love the sport of football. It produces chaos like no other.
Is it time to have a conversation about Zach Collaros?
He’s unquestionably been one of the best quarterbacks in the CFL since joining the Bombers late in the 2019 season, but his last two playoffs definitely leave a lot to be desired and that trend continued in this Grey Cup.
In last year’s West Final, Grey Cup, and this year’s West Final, Collaros has had roller coaster efforts that didn’t ultimately cost his team the game. Coming into this game, Collaros had thrown six interceptions in his previous three playoff appearances with just four touchdowns.
Collaros added another interception to that record in Regina and failed to add a touchdown. He also didn’t crack more than 200 yards passing in either playoff game this season.
In reality, he probably should have been picked off three more times than he was.
For a guy that is supposed to be the second-best quarterback in the league after Nathan Rourke, that’s just not good enough and it finally caught up to the Bombers.
After the game, both Collaros and head coach Mike O’Shea didn’t want to suggest the quarterback’s injured ankle made any difference in his play against Toronto.
“He’s the best quarterback in the league for a reason, I wouldn’t want anyone else out there,” said O’Shea. “There was nothing in that play-calling sheet that we were limited on.”
It’s a testament to just how good the Bombers are across the board that they haven’t lost any of the previous playoff games.
Football is a quarterback-driven sport and while neither starting pivot really played better than the other, Collaros’ play ended up affecting his team just a little more and at the worst time.
I don’t know if this is an only in the CFL or only in Regina kind of moment, but it was something.
980 CJME Green Zone analyst Darrell Davis reported during the game the vehicle that was holding the Grey Cup outside of the stadium during the game was towed for illegal parking.
Luckily for the league, and probably the by-law officers that made the call, the vehicle was returned and the cup made its appearance on time.
Since the cup showed up when it was supposed to, we can laugh about it. But man oh man, I’m not sure how that happened given that everyone and their dog in the city knew what was going on at the stadium tonight. Surely, someone at parking services could have been like: “Yeah, it’s fine.” Especially funny since metered parking in the city is free and very limited enforcement of other rules takes place.
The Grey Cup trophy has quite the history of hijinx and this is just another chapter in its lore.