After eight weeks of the season, there was still plenty to play for. As the playoffs were inching ever closer with each passing week, the drama was on show for all and the games wouldn’t disappoint. We’ve already looked at the best games week to week in the first half of the season, it’s time to look back on weeks nine to 16 in the 2021 Canadian Football League.
Week 9 – Hamilton Tiger-Cats 20 – Montreal Alouettes 23
Now, this was a game! Montreal and Hamilton gave us the first overtime game of the season in a close-run thing at the donut box. Montreal came into the game with a 2-4 record desperate to keep pace in the playoff race and they faced the tall task of trying to be the first away side to win at Tim Hortons Field since the Als won there in week 21 of the 2018 season.
Hamilton, spurred on by the return of Jeremiah Massoli, Brandon Banks and Bralon Addison started the game strongly and were looking comfortable with a 17-3 lead going into the fourth quarter. Montreal made it a game with 10 unanswered points and was marching down the field looking to complete the comeback with just over two minutes left at the Hamilton 26 yard line, but it looked like Hamilton defender Ciante Evans sealed the game with an interception.
A quick two-and-out gave Vernon Adams Jr. and the Als’ offence one last chance, and the quarterback would have arguably the best drive of his season, facing a third and 20, Adams Jr.’s pass found Geno Lewis in traffic for a touchdown with just 29 seconds left, giving Montreal a 20-17 lead. Hamilton came roaring right back and got into field goal range with just two seconds left, and there was just enough on Taylor Bertolet‘s 55-yard effort to send the game to overtime.
Hamilton had the chance to win the game first but blinked when a Sean Thomas-Erlington fumble was recovered by Montreal giving the Als the chance to win. Montreal made no mistakes on a David Côté 36 yard field goal sealing a stunning comeback win for Montreal.
Week 10 – Hamilton Tiger-Cats 23 – Toronto Argonauts 24
Well, at least you can’t accuse the Ti-Cats of being boring. This is the fourth time they’ve been on the losing side in a game of the week, more than any other team through the first 10 weeks but this game really was a classic and perhaps season-defining. The second of a Thanksgiving double bill in the East, Toronto was looking to get their first away win the season and have an edge on Hamilton in any potential playoff tiebreaker. It looked like another away day disappointment for the Argos after Hamilton went up 20-8 with just 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but after two consecutive drives resulting in McLeod Bethel-Thompson touchdown passes, the Argos had stunned the home crowd to go up 21-20.
Jeremiah Massoli lead a long drive down to the Argos red zone, but Hamilton had to settle for a field goal after stalling at the four-yard line, but with just over a minute on the clock, it was 23-21 Ti-Cats. Time for even more drama, once again Bethel-Thompson rallied the offence and got the ball to Hamiltons 44 to set up a game-deciding field goal for Boris Bede who made no mistake from 51 yards out to seal an important win for Toronto.
Week 11 – Edmonton Elks 16 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers 26
With only a three-game slate, week 11 was going to struggle to live up to the drama of previous weeks, but credit to the Edmonton Elks who despite a very challenging season, managed to play the best team in the CFL much harder than many would’ve anticipated after a 30-3 beatdown laid down by the Bombers against Edmonton the previous week.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Elks’ defence had managed to hold the Bombers to just 16 points, even managing to intercept Zach Collaros early in the first quarter and sacking him three times and once more in the fourth. After recently usurping Trevor Harris at the number one QB for the Elks, Taylor Cornelius had managed to pass for a touchdown against a stingy Bombers defence, and his offence had also put up 16 points for Edmonton.
Edmonton would fall short, however, as Winnipeg would pull away thanks to 10 unanswered points, but in a season with little to show for, Edmonton could at least look to this game as a moment where they at least showed some fight against the league’s best.
Week 12 – Calgary Stampeders 17 – Saskatchewan Roughriders 20
Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back at the season, I think we can look back at this fixture as effectively the decider for home advantage in the West Semi-Final these two will contest. The Riders were going into this game desperate to change the narrative, head coach and quarterback tandem Craig Dickinson and Cody Fajardo had failed to beat Calgary in four attempts including two losses to Calgary in their last two games.
With a home playoff game at stake, Saskatchewan was desperate to finish their season trilogy with Calgary with a win at McMahon Stadium. Their defence certainly rose to the occasion. On a night where Bo Levi Mitchell became Calgary’s all-time leader in pass completions, the Riders’ secondary came up with three interceptions.
On the offensive side, Sask held a slender 13-10 lead going into the fourth quarter but had the ball at Calgary’s three-yard line, they could’ve settled for three, but decided to go for it on third and goal, and the gutsy call paid off as Cody Fajardo found Kyran Moore in the endzone.
Late on, Calgary would punch in seven points to make a game of it late on, but a final drive with 10 seconds left came up short as Saskatchewan held on for an important win, enough to keep Calgary at arms reach away from second in the West, paving the way for a home playoff tie at Mosaic Stadium.
Week 13 – Toronto Argonauts 31 – BC Lions 29
Do you ever watch a game and think to yourself, do either of these teams actually want to win? Toronto held on to win a game that easily could’ve gone the other way against a BC side desperately trying to keep their season alive. In a close-run thing, Toronto looked like they would take a 20-14 lead into the fourth quarter, and they even had the ball with the chance to increase that lead late in the third.
Step forward Obum Gwacham, who picked off Bethell-Thompson and ran the ball back to make it 21-20 BC with just a quarter to go. The fourth quarter would then be a story of field goals and clock (mis)management. Toronto struck next with a field goal to make it 23-21, but BC had their own field goal attempt, Jimmy Camacho would miss to the right however but would at least score a rouge to make it a one-point game.
BC again got into field goal range with just a minute left, but this time Camacho comes up short as the Argos blocked the kick and Toronto looked to have sealed the win. All Toronto had to do is run out the clock but instead after two kneel-downs, they are forced to punt from their own nine giving BC one more chance with seven seconds left on Toronto’s 37-yard line.
Camacho would get a third chance at a field goal from Toronto’s 30, but again, he misses, fortunately, he managed to get another rouge forcing the game to overtime. Toronto would strike first, scoring a touchdown on the first possession of overtime and go one further to score a two-point conversion. BC would respond with their own touchdown and had a two-point conversion to tie the game and give their playoff push some life. The conversion effort came up short however as Toronto held on to keep their own push for an East Division title on track.
Week 14 – Ottawa Redblacks 20 – Toronto 23
While it’s been far from a vintage season (to put it lightly) in the nation’s capital, they have had their fair share of close games this season and easily could’ve laid a glove on their East Division rivals in this week 14 matchup. Having initially deferred the opening kick-off, Ottawa was going to get the ball to start the second half with a 9-13 lead and wasted no time increasing that lead.
Kick returner DeVonte Dedmon ran the ball back 100 yards on a touchdown kick-off return and suddenly it was 20-9 to Ottawa. Toronto would bring it back to a score game with a field goal, but two back-to-back plays in the third could’ve changed the whole complexion of this game.
Firstly, a Bethell-Thompson interception was controversially overturned, meaning Toronto could punt the ball instead of Ottawa having possession at midfield. On the ensuing punt, Dedmon again pulled off a big return this time going 86 yards. But instead of being deep in Toronto territory, a penalty pinned the Redblacks back to their own 10, killing the momentum they would’ve had.
Toronto made the most of their good fortune, scoring 11 unanswered points to go up 23-20 with just four minutes left. Devlin ’Duck’ Hodges and the Ottawa offence fail to muster a comeback and after quite a scare, Toronto held on for yet another close and dramatic win.
Week 15 – Saskatchewan Roughriders 29 – Edmonton Elks 24
In Saskatchewan’s final home game of the regular season, the Riders knew a win would guarantee one more home game for Rider nation in the West Semi-Final. Standing in the way were the Edmonton Elks, who had nothing but personal pride and future jobs at stake and they came out fighting.
Elks quarterback Taylor Cornelius continued to make his case to be Edmonton’s starting quarterback in 2022 by putting up three passing touchdowns to give the Elks a surprising 21-20 lead going into the final quarter. Saskatchewan would respond with a Cody Fajardo touchdown, but a failed two-point conversion kept Edmonton within five points of the lead, and they piled the pressure on with a field goal to make it 24-26 Saskatchewan with 3.12 on the clock.
Saskatchewan would respond perfectly to the situation however, they would give themselves some breathing space with another field goal to make it 24-29 and crucially, they left just 30 seconds on the clock for the Elks offence. A game-sealing interception from Jacob Dearborn would bring about the end of the game, and seal a vital win for Saskatchewan guaranteeing them a home advantage against Calgary in the playoffs.
Week 16 – Montreal Alouettes 18 vs Ottawa Redblacks 19
Trevor Harris must have Ottawa Redblack themed bad dreams at night the way this season went, all three of Ottawa’s wins this season have come against sides with Harris on the roster and time will tell how much this result will haunt them going into the Grey Cup Playoffs.
Montreal needed a win to keep their home playoff hopes alive, and then rely on Hamilton to slip up against Saskatchewan to secure home advantage in the East Semi-Final. Montreal had the better of the first half, they dominated on defence and their offence managed to put a field goal and two touchdowns to take an 18-3 lead.
Crucially, however, Montreal failed to convert on a two-point conversion, and a point after attempt also failed to come to fruition after David Côté’s effort went wide. Montreal would have the ball to start the second half though giving them the perfect chance to put the game out of sight.
Step forward Justin Howell, the Redblacks defender forced a fumble from Montreal’s Jeshrun Antwi and after a recovery from the defence, Ottawa had the ball on Montreals 36 yard line. Ottawa capitalized on the turnover and after Caleb Evans connected with R.J. Harris on the two-point conversion, suddenly it was just a one-possession game.
Montreal was holding firm and looked like they had the chance to put the game away having marched the ball to Ottawa’s red zone with just three minutes left. For the second time, however, Antwi fumbled again and again Ottawa had new life having recovered the football. For a team who had struggled for most of the season on offence, suddenly Ottawa we’re marching down the field taking a lot of time off the clock and with just seconds left on the clock, Evans put his head down and rushed forward to Montreal’s endzone for a touchdown to make it 17-18.
With nothing to lose, Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice opted to go for the two-point conversion, and Evans fired a dagger through the heart of Montreal’s season, connecting with R.J Harris again to give Ottawa a one-point lead. There was still enough time for Montreal to turn the ball over again as they fumbled the kickoff sealing the win for the spoiler playing Redblacks. The win meant Montreal was guaranteed to finish third in the East, relinquishing any pressure on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their final fixture. For Ottawa, a season full of growing pains had finally come to an end, but they can at least hold their heads up now and look ahead to 2022 with perhaps a bit more optimism.
A Great Season
If you think we should have picked a different game for a week, feel free to let us what game you think was the best either in the comments below or on Twitter by Tweeting at @13thManSpots! If you happened to miss part one of this series, you can find that here.