Ranking the Magnificent Seven Grey Cup Games
This weekend saw the Toronto Argonauts overcome the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to win the CFL championship 24-23 in a great 109th Grey Cup match.
Which got me to thinking. We have been very lucky with the Grey Cup games we have seen since 2015. There have been some really good contests, and some classic encounters. Plus, as we all know, everybody loves a list. So here’s my (completely arbitrary, feel free to disagree), list of which of those games were best.
The Magnificent Seven
Now we have the Magnificent Seven games to rank. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Plenty of people will disagree with this list I am sure. But this is a personal list. Feel free to disagree or put forward your own list.
One thing we can all agree on though is that the CFL has added a really fun level to our enjoyment of American football. And the League’s showpiece game has rarely let us down over the seven championship clashes we have seen.
7th: The 2019 Grey Cup
Nobody can take away from the Winnipeg fans the joy of ending the drought. But this one was never really competitive from the get-go.
Dane Evans first pass for Hamilton was tipped and intercepted. Followed on the next series by a strip sack. And it was obvious early that the Blue Bombers D Line were set to dominate.
Winnipeg were up 17-6 by the second period, and their ball control saw them hold the ball for 35:31 of the game. The final score of 33-12 was a fair reflection of a game Winnipeg dominated.
But that wasn’t one for the neutrals. If your team isn’t playing you are hoping for a close, hotly contested matchup with an exciting finish. The 2019 Grey Cup did not provide that.
6th: The 2018 Grey Cup
Don’t get me wrong. The 2018 game wasn’t a bad game. It just wasn’t the barn-burner some of the others we’ve been privileged to see have been.
The Calgary Stampeders never really lost control in a game they won 27-16 against the Ottawa RedBlacks.
Calgary finally won the CFL title in its third straight appearance. They had dominated the regular season but fallen twice in epic title games (see below). Redemption was the real story in this one.
5th: The 2015 Grey Cup
The first game we saw was a great advert. The 103rd Grey Cup was a see-saw battle between Edmonton and Ottawa REDBLACKS.
Edmonton ultimately won 26-20 but we were witness to an Ottawa team that had gone 2-16 as an expansion club a year earlier jump out to a 13-0 lead. After scoring exchanges Edmonton led 17-16 at the half and it was clear this one was in the balance.
The second half was dominated by the D’s but Edmonton scored the winning TD with 3:22 to go. We had been introduced to Grey Cup football and we liked what we saw!
4th: The 2022 Grey Cup
It is easy to fall into recency bias with a list like this. There can be no doubting that this year’s Grey Cup was a classic. But for context, was it better than the remaining three on our Magnificent Seven list? Perhaps not.
The two time defending champion Blue Bomber were looking for history. The first threepeat in over 40 years.
They came in with the MOP, Most Outstanding Rookie, Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, and coach of the year. All coming off the back of a franchise record setting 15 win season. In their way stood the Toronto Argonauts. A team that had gone 11-7 and taken sat atop their Division for the second year in a row.
There have been some classic Grey Cup contests in Regina. But this may be the best of them. QB Mcleod Bethel-Thompson finally had a team that was his. He led the Boatmen all season and was there in the final quarter only to dislocate his thumb. Up stepped backup QB Chad Kelly who made 4-6 passes for 43 yards and had a critical run that helped set up a touchdown.
Leading 24-23 Toronto looked to pad their advantage to 4 points only to have the attempt blocked. This left the door open for a Winnipeg team chasing the threepeat. Earlier in the game Kicker Marc Liegghio had hit from 45 yards and now he had a chance to win it from 47 out. Only, incredibly, for his kick to be blocked too!
It was the Double Blue celebrating an 18th Grey Cup win then, rather than the Blue & Gold celebraing a Dynastic threepeat.
3rd: The 2021 Grey Cup
On a windy night, which affected the kicking game significantly, the Blue Bombers came through with a 33-25 decision in overtime.
In fact this was only the fourth time the Grey Cup has gone to overtime in its illustrious history. Yet two of those games have come in the seven games we have had the benefit of enjoying!
This Grey Cup got off to a slow start. But came to life later on.
Hamilton starting QB Dane Evans was knocked out of the game, but Jeremiah Masoli came in and led Hamilton to leads of 10-7 at the half, 19-10 after three and a 22-10 lead early in the fourth.
Winnipeg came all the way back to take a 25-22 lead with 1:52 remaining after a fifth field goal by Sergio Castillo and an ensuing kickoff single.
The Ticats, replied with a Michael Domagala game-tying field goal with four seconds remaining.
Winnipeg won by scoring in OT then seeing Hamilton’s reply thwarted. As QB Jeremiah Masoli saw a pass intercepted by Kyrie Wilson after it was first tipped twice beforehand.
2nd: The 2016 Grey Cup
The REDBLACKS were back, this time facing the Stampeders. After a 15-2-1 season the Stamps were heavily favoured, but it was the 8-9-1 team from Ottawa that caused one of the great Grey Cup upsets.
This game was the REDBLACKS first Grey Cup win as a franchise, and the first CFL title in Ottawa for forty years. In only their third season they had gone from 2-16 expansion stragglers to 2 title games and a championship.
This was a championship game for the ages. It featured the underdogs getting out to a big lead, the favourites making a huge comeback, and eventually a huge upset in overtime.
Calgary recovered an onside kick and nearly won it in regulation, but it was Ottawa’s day as they won out 39-33.
How could any game top the crazy back and forth nature of this one? Well…
1st: The 2017 Grey Cup
There was just something in the air that day – snow mostly, but a little magic too. The 13-4-1 Stampeders were back, looking to put the previous years’ upset behind them. Once again they were heavily favoured against the 9-9 Toronto Argonauts. Surely it couldn’t happen again?
Of course we know it did, as the Argos used two of the biggest plays in Grey Cup history as a springboard to a 27-24 upset.
This wasn’t just about the game though. The ‘snow globe game’ was a spectacle from start to finish. It’s the combination of game and spectacle that puts this game at the peak of our famous five.
Ricky Ray brought the Toronto Argos back, and they took the lead for the first time in the game on a 45-yard field goal following a 49-yard seven play drive. That was with 53 ticks left on the game clock.
Calgary, again, almost won it but a Matt Black interception in the endzone capped the win for the Boatmen.
Those big plays? Just a 100 yard touchdown pass and an 109 yard fumble return. Both touchdowns. Both for Toronto.
There was something in the stars under a snowy sky as Ray became the first quarterback in CFL history to win the Grey Cup four times as a starting quarterback and the Argos walked away with their 17th Grey Cup.
My favourite of the Magnificent Seven Grey Cup games shown in the UK. But feel free to disagree! It’s in the opinions and the debates around them that sport can be fun after all.
Banner Image: The Argos hoist the 2022 Grey Cup. Image from 3Downnation.com