- Reeve Batstone
The Argos saved their best game of the season, so far, for Sunday's East final. MBT had his finest hour(s) as an Argonaut Sunday. He was magnificent both on and off the field. He will need to do it again if they hope to dethrone the reigning champions in the Grey Cup next week. When Andrew Harris was hurt earlier this season, he was both the identity of their offence and the team's most valuable player. In his return Sunday he was the icing on the cake. For the first time this season the Argo offence clearly outshone the defence.
The Argo play-calling and O-line was sensational. They gave up no sacks while the defence sacked Trevor Harris three times. Andrew Harris averaged 4.7 yards per carry and Ouellette, a sparkling 6.3. Harris chipped in a 30-yard pass reception. MBT threw 2 TDs with no INTs. Kelly had one TD pass. Together they combined for a season high 149 passer rating! Kurleigh Gittens caught all nine passes thrown his way. It was Toronto's best offensive performance of the season.
Henoc Muamba was fantastic against the run, leading the team with 7 tackles. Minus Stanback's one long run the Alouettes were unable to establish the running game - a great tune up for Winnipeg in the Grey Cup. They will need to stuff the run again if they hope to upset the Bombers in the championship game. Brady Oliviera ran for 130 yards on 20 carries v the Lions. The Argos front seven will have their work cut out for them. The running game makes the Bomber's wheels turn. If the Argos can limit the run, they can beat the Bombers. They have done it before and match up better than most against the Blue Bombers.
The Argo special teams were good, completely shutting down Chandler Worthy.
Excellent play calling on offence, utilizing both Oullette and Andrew Harris effectively. The coaching staff showed good judgement in not relenting to MBT and challenging Bank's incompletion.
Crazy catch by Banks off his feet. It made the Argos look like a team of destiny.
The Argonauts only took 3 penalties!!
Kudos to MLSE for bringing in singer Roy Woods to perform at halftime (lets see them one up Amar Doman and the CFL and bring in Toronto megastars The Weeknd or Drake for the season opener next year). Keep dreamin.
Wynton McManis got injured. John Haggerty struggled in his punting.
The Argos qualifying for the Grey Cup probably rescued TSN and the CFL from falling below 2 million viewers for the Grey Cup this year. With Toronto making the big game anything less than 4 million viewers should be a disappointment. Gone are the days when the game was shown on a free over the air network like CTV or CBC which has a much broader reach than a subscription service like TSN. TSN's subscriber base has been dropping 8-10 % per year since 2012 when the Argos and Calgary drew an audience of 5.5 million, in English. TSN's subscriber base was down to 6.8 million in August 2020 which had fallen 9 percent from the previous year. With continued cord cutting it is now under 5.9 million subscribers. It’s almost impossible for the CFL's viewership (numerator) not to continue to shrink with TSN's subscriber (denominator) declining so fast. Having TSN as its sole source broadcaster is a form of self-imposed blackout for the League. The CFL's year over year audience is diminishing no matter what they do. The CFL must get its games on to mainstream networks like every major league sport does, if they want to halt the steep slide in viewership. We saw the impact of this in the ratings of the divisional semi -finals which were down by a whopping 27% from 2021. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time the CFL signed this TV deal but its a different world now. The current broadcast deal is a road to obscurity, if not oblivion.
You may have heard MBT's impassioned plea to the League in his post game interview on TSN. He is right, the League needs to up its game and show the same passion and intensity in its promotion that the players do on the field. When your top players take the trouble to interject an exhortation like this in the midst of a celebratory moment you really know what the players think. The League needs to get its act together.
Finally, some of you may be old enough to remember the days when the Grey Cup's outstanding players won cars or trucks. This ended, with league wide austerity, in the mid 80s. It added a great discussion point as the game wore on and was something that was unique in the professional sports world. It’s unlikely to occur again soon as one of the CFL's sponsors is Canada Drives, a used car platform.
It did lead to some interesting choices over the years. When the Argos nearly beat the Stampeders in 1971, the names of the outstanding players had to be submitted to the TV networks with 7 minutes left in the game. The league dodged a major embarrassment when the Argos fumbled twice in the last two minutes which meant the Commissioner did not need to find a way to hand the keys to Dick Thornton, when Wayne Harris had already been chosen as Grey Cup MVP. After that close call the league delayed the timing of its selection but this did not end controversial choices.
One of these was the 1976 Grey Cup when Tom Clements was chosen outstanding player and Tony Gabriel outstanding Canadian. Clements had a poor game throwing 3 INTs to one TD and only completing 11 passes and a 31% completion rate. Gabriel caught 7 of his 11 completions for 140 yards and the winning TD. He was almost their entire offence. On the other side the Rider's Ron Lancaster threw 2 TDS, completed 60% of his passes with no INTs. Gabriel's outstanding post-corner made him the outstanding player and York University product, Bill Hatanaka, who returned a punt for a TD for Ottawa, was arguably top Canadian. Cleveland Vann of the Riders won the car for outstanding defensive player. It would be interesting to know how many players on losing teams kept their cars. Sonny Wade of the Alouettes won more cars (3) than any player in Grey Cup history. Former Argo QB Damon Allen also won MVP of the Grey Cup three times but by his time the awarding of cars had been discontinued. This included his victory over the Argos in the 1987 Grey Cup, the last time the Argos appeared in a Grey Cup they did not win. Since then, the Argos have won six in a row. Will next Sunday make for lucky seven? Stop their running game and it might. The last time the Argos met the Blue Bombers in the big game was 72 years ago, when the Argos came away with the Lord Grey's mug in the infamous Mud Bowl.