The Toronto Argonauts have reclaimed their throne atop the CFL mountain after an exhilarating 24-23 109th Grey Cup victory over the two-time defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The winningest franchise in CFL history is bringing home the iconic trophy to Toronto for the 18th time.
The Toronto Argonauts Deny A Dynasty
The 109th Grey Cup had one of the craziest final quarters and ending sequences in the game’s glorious history.
After Janorian Grant returned a John Haggerty punt a record 102 yards for a touchdown to kick off the final frame and give the Blue Bombers a 23-14 edge over Toronto. Even with Winnipeg’s Marc Liegghio missing the extra point afterward. It appeared that destiny was calling for the CFL’s newest dynasty.
The Boatmen, led by McLeod Bethel-Thompson, would battle back to cut the Bombers’ lead to six after Boris Bede (who had an adventurous evening) connected on his third field goal of the game. However, Bethel-Thompson dislocated his thumb on his throwing hand during that scoring drive.
Toronto would get the ball back almost immediately, thanks to a Shaq Richardson interception off Dakota Prukop at the Argonauts’ twenty-yard line. But with their leader out, the Argos Grey Cup hopes would rest squarely on the shoulders, arms, and, as fate would have it, the legs of CFL rookie QB Chad Kelly.
An Unlikely Hero Emerges
‘Swag’ Kelly would drive Toronto to midfield, but the Argos would be forced to punt the ball back to Winnipeg. The combination of Corey Mace’s defence which kept the Bombers’ passing game in check throughout, and a 44-yard punt return by Javon Leake would give Kelly another opportunity to prove, as one longtime Chad Kelly enthusiast dating back to his college days described to me, that ‘Swaggything’ is possible.
After a bizarre sequence of events that involved a failed challenge on a missed scoring play on an end zone pass by Chad Kelly, coupled with a conduct penalty against Brandon Banks for chastizing an official for not calling pass interference. The Argos were eventually faced with a second and fifteen from Winnipeg’s 36-yard line with just under six minutes left in the Grey Cup.
Chad Kelly would somehow convert by breaking free of the pocket and rushing for 20 yards. Three players later, the Argos would take the lead 24-23 on a five-yard A.J. Ouellette touchdown run.
Winnipeg would try to respond to Toronto’s go-ahead score. But the CFL’s headiest defender and eventual Grey Cup MVP, Henoc Muamba, would bait Zach Collaros into what appeared to be a potential game-sealing interception in Bombers’ territory.
However, facing a third and two at Winnipeg’s 35-yard line with just over two minutes left. Ryan Dinwiddie would pass on trying to convert and send out his kicker Boris Bede to extend the Argos’ lead to four. But the decision would backfire as the kick was blocked.
It appeared that heartbreak was headed the Boatmen’s way. Especially when, moments later, the Argos would stop Winnipeg on downs to seal the game after two consecutive sacks by Robbie Smith. But Smith would be called for unintentionally grabbing Zach Collaros’s facemask.
The accidental faux-pas by Robbie Smith would set the stage for Winnipeg to win the game on the legs of the aptly named Marc Liegghio. But Robbie Smith would redeem himself by blocking the 47-yard attempt to help the Argos win a championship. To deny a champion, Smith overcame adversity to become one. And by doing so, the Toronto Argonauts are once again champions of the CFL.
Toronto Argonauts Grey Cup Report Card
Typically after each Argos game, this column would have a detailed breakdown of each aspect of the team. But in a game such as Sunday’s Grey Cup. The Argonauts achieved the ultimate team accomplishment. And in that case, there are no bad grades. (well, maybe there were some special teams gaffes)
The team synonymous with one letter has earned a universal A+ for what they achieved in Saskatchewan.
It took a total team effort for Toronto to hoist the trophy. From the backup quarterback to the backup running back to a legend who became a star this season. The Argos, all season long, pulled together to get to and eventually win a championship.
Whether it was Phillip Blake playing out of position at left tackle for the good of the team or players like Chris Edwards playing every role possible in the lineup.
Toronto’s resiliency and overall quality of depth showed up when it counted the most in the 109th Grey Cup. Despite losing their starting QB, and nearly being dealt knockout blows on two key special teams plays. The Argos found a way to overcome and win in the end.
The resourcefulness of the Argos’ is a testament to the players, the coaches, and Toronto’s brilliant front office. Ryan Dinwiddie and Corey Mace deserve a ton of credit for standing toe to toe with the game’s greatest, Mike O’Shea, and his staff on Sunday. Argos’ assistants, like defensive backs coach Will Fields, did a masterful job all season long mixing and matching different players. And the quality coaching from that unit was on display Sunday night.
Michael Pinball Clemons helped reshape a Toronto organization that was in the dumps in 2019. He got a great assist from John Murphy in the early stages and from two of the CFL’s best young football minds, Vince Magri and Alex Russell. The returning Jim Barker helped solidify the entire football ops team. Just like the players and coaches. This was a total team effort.
There will be some changes with players moving on or hanging up their cleats in the coming days. But those are topics for another time. For now, the Boatmen can bask in the glory of winning the ultimate prize. And in reclaiming their throne atop the CFL mountain.