Once again, the Grey Cup delivered.
It’s been a turnaround couple of years for the CFL after a tough first season back after the COVID-19 pandemic. The league really feels back and this Grey Cup was another example of just how wild, chaotic, and fun Canadian football can be.
We saw a little bit of everything.
So, thank you to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes. This was a Grey Cup to remember, which is all you can ask for if you’re not a fan of either team in the game.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of Montreal’s 28-24 Grey Cup victory in Hamilton.
As mentioned, this game had it all. No matter what style of football you like, there was something for you.
In total, the teams combined for over 600 yards of total offence, which wasn’t expected considering how defence-heavy both teams were. Alouettes’ quarterback Cody Fajardo, who faced a ton of scrutiny over the last three years, shut up his critics in a big way. He not only played well but considerably outplayed Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros.
Fajardo finished the night 21-for-26 for 290 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Perhaps most impressive was his huge 13-yard scramble on second-and-eighteen in the game’s final minute to give his team a chance on third down.
Sometimes, the winning quarterback gets the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player award by default. That was not the case for Fajardo. He earned it.
Personally, I’m thrilled for Fajardo. Things ended poorly in Saskatchewan and both sides needed to move on, but it’s hard not to like Fajardo. He’s legitimately a good person who deserves the success he enjoyed on Sunday.
If you read this space throughout the year, you know that I dislike talking about officiating. Bad calls happen. They’re a part of the game.
Sometimes, though, the topic cannot be ignored.
This wasn’t a banner night for the officials or the command centre, especially in the first half.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that Winnipeg benefited from some questionable calls in the first thirty minutes of the game, helping them put 14 points on the scoreboard.
In the first quarter, Montreal stopped the Blue Bombers in the red zone, seemingly forcing them to a field goal. Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson was called for a weak unnecessary roughness call that kept the drive going, leading to a touchdown.
Later, Alouettes’ head coach Jason Maas challenged what appeared to be no yards on a fumbled punt return recovered by Winnipeg. The no-call on the field stood, leading to a Winnipeg touchdown.
Then, just before the half, Winnipeg appeared to have lined up offside on a third-down stop at the goal line, keeping Montreal out of the end zone.
The stripes got lucky later when Als receiver Austin Mack made a big one-handed catch when he was clearly being interfered with but no flag came out.
In the end, the officials didn’t affect the outcome — they never do — as there are so many variables during a game. However, it wasn’t the kind of night you want to see from the refs on the league’s biggest stage.
The game itself was so good that nothing too outrageous happened. I’ll forgive both teams because the game was an instant classic.
So, the dumb goes out to 3DownNation contributor Santino Filoso.
Coming into this week, our Redblacks correspondent was tied with the esteemed John Hodge atop our weekly straight-up picks standings. Filoso had already wrapped up the spread title but had the rare opportunity to claim both titles.
Instead, Filoso opted to pick the Blue Bombers, whom Hodge had picked on the 3DownNation Podcast earlier in the week.
Despite pressure from some of us — including yours truly — to take the Alouettes, Filoso didn’t change his mind. He played not to lose, rather than to win. Naturally, the Als won, costing him the chance to win both crowns.
The moral of the story? Always play to win.