The Argos went on an unlikely run towards the Grey Cup in an unprecedented CFL season. Only to fall one step short of potentially winning it all. Toronto overcame a lot of adversity all season long. Even in the days leading into the Eastern Final.
The Boatmen endured turbulent waves throughout the season. Overcoming injuries and multiple changes to their team in midstream. But on Sunday against their bitter rivals at BMO Field. Toronto’s championship voyage came to an end. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats weathered an early storm and raced back from 12 points down to earn a trip to compete for the Grey Cup at home.
The finality of a playoff game can have a funny way of washing an entire season away with just one loss. A cold, brutal defeat in the playoffs can precipitate significant changes, no matter how successful a one-year campaign was.
Before looking forward, let’s take one look back at yesterday’s 27-19 Eastern Final loss to the Ticats.
The Argos Eastern Final Loss To Hamilton
The Argos were ready to play yesterday. The team came out with a strong game plan on both sides of the ball, and the momentum was clearly on their side in the early going.
The Ticats were on the ropes, but Toronto failed to deliver the knockout blow. And when Hamilton countered, the Argos were left reeling and couldn’t overcome.
In relief, the Tiger-Cats outfoxed Toronto by bringing Dane Evans off the bench. Chris Jones and the Argos defence had no answers for Evans, who had a perfect performance on Sunday.
Jeff Reinebold’s special teams helped swing the tide away from the Boatmen in a game they could’ve won despite the offence’s struggles scoring.
In any game, particularly games that have high stakes attached to them. There are typically four or five plays that determine the outcome.
The Eastern Final on Sunday was no exception. There were several key moments in the Argos’ defeat to Hamilton that you can’t go back and do over.
- Ryan Dinwiddie’s decision to kick two chipshot field goals deep near the goal line.
- McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s poorly underthrown ball to a streaking DJ Foster in a twenty yard end zone that JaGared Davis broke up.
- Shaq Richardson’s fumble deep in Hamilton territory, with Toronto up 12-0 and looking to add more before the first half ended.
- Trailing 20-13 in the 4th quarter, a fumbled snap on second down, that led to the Argos settling for a field goal.
- Two misfires with Juwan Brescasin’s on deep balls from McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Let’s get the misfires with Juwan Brescasin in the second half out of the way. Both Kureligh Gittens and Eric Rogers battled through injuries early on, and Brescasin was called upon to help shoulder the load in their place. He did a good job and had his best output of the season. But two potential game-changing hook-ups didn’t go Toronto’s way yesterday.
The first in the tail-end of the first half. With the Argos up 9-0 at Hamilton’s 24, Juwan Brescasin appeared to have been interfered with on a pass into the end zone. But Ryan Dinwiddie’s challenge for PI failed, and Toronto settled for one of Boris Bede’s six field goals.
The second misfire with Brescasin came in the second half, with the game now tied at 12. The game’s momentum was completely on Hamilton’s side at this point, and the Argos were desperate to change the tide.
Toronto finally got things going offensively. McLeod Bethel-Thompson connected with Kurleigh Gittens for 36 yards. Two plays later, MBT would throw a beautiful deep ball into Juwan Brescasin’s hands, but he could not corral the pass. Instead of going up by a touchdown. One play later, Boris Bede would have a rare missed field goal. Toronto would score a single on the kick and temporarily retake the lead at 13-12 but the chance to reclaim the game washed away during this sequence.
The Argos had another chance late to swing the game back in their favor. But a botched snap from Centre on second down deep in Ticats territory was symbolic of Toronto’s inability to swim instead of sinking.
You can wrap up all the Argos issues in the red zone into one section.
In the first half, Toronto had two legit chances in first and goal situations. And failed to get into the end zone. The first concession field goal score was understandable and settling for a ten-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. But Ryan Dinwiddie’s decision to kick an 11-yard field goal on their next possession was a poor call by the rookie head coach. The cliches like no guts, no glory, and no risk, no reward were apropos in the Six on Sunday.
If Ryan Dinwiddie had to do it all over again. He would. But it should have never come down to a second field goal to settle for going up 6-0. The Argos got the matchup they wanted in the scoring area. DJ Foster on defensive linemen JaGared Davis. All Bethel-Thompson had to do was lead Foster deeper into the end zone. But his poor throw gave Davis space to break the play up.
There was one sequence in Sunday’s game, above all, that foreshadowed the Argos loss. You just knew that Toronto would not seize the day after this play occurred. It came right before the end of the first half.
With the Argonauts up 12-0, Jamal Peters would strip Steven Dunbar of the football. Henoc Muamba picked up the loose ball and flipped it to Shaq Richardson, who returned it 50 yards down the sidelines. But with Richardson carelessly carrying the football, Dane Evans made a game-saving and changing strip and takeaway of the football.
The Ticats snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and the Argos did the opposite. Instead of going up by 15 or more at the break. Hamilton lived to fight another play and will now battle for the Grey Cup instead of Toronto.
The bottom line is that championship teams take advantage of their opportunities to win. Toronto didn’t in the Eastern Final, and Hamilton did. The Argos were good enough to be in a position to compete for a Grey Cup. But in the clutch, they failed to come through.
The Aftermath Of The Argos Loss
The feeling from the Argos faithful a day after losing in front of their biggest crowd of the season is a bittersweet one. Toronto had an excellent season. There’s no denying that, but in sports, you don’t get to pick up the next year, right where you left off.
Presumably, Toronto and the rest of the CFL will be back in play earlier in the new calendar year. Pending the results of new CBA talks. Things should and hopefully will go back to normal during an ever-evolving pandemic.
The 2022 offseason will be a quicker turnaround for CFL teams, which is music to CFL fans’ ears after waiting nearly two years for a season to occur in 2021.
Will the 2022 Argos be the same in 2021?
The team has its head coach in Ryan Dinwiddie to build with but will the support staff remain?
The Argonauts brought in hired guns Chris Jones and Rich Stubler to aid with the defence. Will the two veteran coaches run it back with the Boatmen? You have to figure that Jones could have opportunities elsewhere to take on a more significant role next season.
Mark Nelson’s special teams improved during the year, but the East Final leaves a poor mark. Could Toronto go in a different direction in this area?
McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s future and the Argos roster
As for the Argos roster and who will be on the pivot next season for them, based on his performance in 2021, it seems obvious that MBT should be back under centre next year. But there might be opportunities south of the border emerging.
CFL fans have heard this tune before. But Bethel-Thompson didn’t resign with Toronto after 2019 because he wanted to explore opportunities in America. He played in the Spring League in 2020. And with the USFL playing in April of 2022 and the XFL returning to draft and sign players in the summer of 2022. Bethel-Thompson could have multiple options with 16 pro teams setting up shop in America.
Thompson might want to stay in Toronto if he is assured of being the face of the Argos franchise in 2022. But at 33 years of age, the Boatmen will be looking for a QB of the future regardless.
Toronto in 2021 had an all-in approach with their roster. Adding several key veterans and completely revamping a four-win 2019 squad. Very few sailors from the 2019 team remained on the Boatmen’s ship this year. Even though the Argos won nine games in a shortened season, changes are inevitable.
The good thing about 2021 is that Toronto was able to see great progress from their recent draft classes. And the team added several excellent first-year contributors to the team from America. But several veterans who are longer in the tooth might not be back in 2022.
The bottom line is that the Argos could have a significantly different team than the one that took the field at BMO in the Eastern Final.
2021 was a great year for the Argonauts franchise to regain popularity and rebuild one of the greatest longtime brands in all of sports. Toronto could be on its way back to embracing the Argos again, the way they always should have.
Sunday’s loss left the Argos feeling blue in more ways than one. It comes with the territory because the franchise is back to playing games that matter again. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come in the very near future.
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December 6, 2021 at 6:19 pm
Thank you, Mike Mitchell, for the great coverage this season. You and CFL News Hub have become my go to source for Argos football.
December 6, 2021 at 6:25 pm
Thank you so much John.
December 6, 2021 at 7:36 pm
Very succinct summary right on point! regarding the Argos regaining popularity, I am afraid that there are many barriers that hinder this, not the least of which is the stupid CBA standard year contracts that allow high player turnover. Fans lose track of players because they become free agents at the end of every season. This has to stop because if fans can’t relate to players they lose interest. I know that my 30-year old son has even after having come to all games with me since he was six years old! over the last five years he lost track of the team because of the high turnover. He is part of the same demographic that the CFL needs to attract. this rule must go at all cost. free agency cant occur until 5 years of service.. even if it means a a radical idea like joint ownership with the CFLPA or a lockout .