The Toronto Argonauts have tied the 1989 Edmonton Football Team for the winningest season in CFL history, defeating the Ottawa Redblacks 27-22 on Saturday night to finish 16-2 this season.
The defending Grey Cup champions achieved the feat without the services of starting quarterback Chad Kelly, as backup Cameron Dukes completed 22-of-34 attempts for 317 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the narrow victory. Rookie defensive back Mason Pierce scored early on a pick-six and the Argos controlled the game throughout, fending off a late surge from Ottawa.
Toronto also set a new franchise wins record, beating the 15-3 mark set by the 1996 and 1997 teams. Quarterbacked by Doug Flutie and coached by the legendary Don Matthews, both of those teams hoisted the Grey Cup.
The 2023 Argos did not lose a game all season with Kelly at the helm for the duration, as he threw for 4,123 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while running for eight more scores. Their Week 9 loss to Calgary came after he exited in the first quarter with an ankle injury and a Week 17 loss to Winnipeg came with Dukes starting after the team had already clinched first place in the East Division. No team in league history has secured a number-one seed faster, as Toronto leveraged a deep roster to produce a 564-374 point differential.
Coached by Joe Faragalli, Edmonton’s 1989 team outscored opponents 634-302 en route to their dominant 16-2 mark, allowing the fewest points ever in an 18-game season. Linebacker Danny Bass was named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player, making 79 tackles, eight sacks, six fumble recoveries and four interceptions. Most Outstanding Player Tracy Ham quarterbacked the high-powered offence, throwing for 4,366 yards, 30 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while rushing for 1,005 yards and 10 majors.
However, that squad failed to capture the Grey Cup title, suffering a 32-21 upset at the hands of the 9-9 Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Final. The Riders would go on to win the second championship in franchise history.
The Argos will look to avoid that fate when they host the East Final at BMO Field on Saturday, November 11 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.