With the 2022 CFL season completed, we look back at the season that was.
This was the first season where things appeared to be a bit more normal all things considered while still coping with the current COVID – 19 pandemic. It was also the first full season played in its entirety as opposed to the 2021 shortened season of 14 regular season games played rather than the normal 18 regular season games played.
With that said, let’s review the season that was.
The BC Lions opened week 1 vs the Edmonton Elks at home in which we witnessed two teams that wanted to turn around their respective disappointing seasons from 2021.
What we witnessed here was also the first full season of QB Nathan Rourke (minus the injury) as the starting QB for the BC Lions.
And he would not disappoint.
The BC Lions hit the ground running in which the Edmonton Elks had no answer in halting the BC offence. The BC Lions would convincingly defeat the Edmonton Elks with a 59-15 victory. Nathan Rourke had a field day completing 26 out of 29 passes, for 282 yards, 3 touchdown passes, and 0 interceptions. RB James Bulter was impressive in engineering points for the Lions. He would contribute with 4 touchdowns in both receiving and rushing.
The BC Lions could not have started the 2022 season any better. And they did get better as the season continued. The BC Lions displayed a brand of football that was lights out and a high-octane dose to a balanced offense, along with a great defense.
They would complete the regular season with a 12-6 record which was good enough for 2nd place in the West Division. It was a total team effort in which the Lions were the most improved team from the 2021 season.
For Edmonton Elks fans, their approach for the 2022 season was to be very realistic. After an embarrassing 2021 season going 3-11 which was the worse in club history, a 7–8-win season appeared to be very doable for 2022.
Unfortunately, then-starting QB Nick Arbuckle was not able to create any offence. He would eventually be traded to the Ottawa REDBLACKS. Nick Arbuckle was never able to get the Edmonton offence any rhythm. In the 5 starts with Edmonton, he would only toss 2 touchdown passes along with 8 interceptions.
The Edmonton Elks was also a team that had a complete overhaul on their current roster. Most of the roster were together for no more than two years with the club. Add in also a team with the most man games lost due to long injuries, and it was a recipe for disaster.
They would complete the season with another disappointment ending with a 4-14 record.
On the positive side, there were late acquisitions added to the club that saw a much-improved surge in the offence. Most notable were RB Kevin Brown and WR Dillon Mitchell. QB Taylor Cornelius got better as the season would progress.
On the defence that was depleted for much of the 2022 season, DT Jake Ceresna would anchor the defence with 10 QB sacks. LB Adam Konar would contribute with some big plays when it mattered most. DB Scott Hutter looked good in the secondary creating some turnovers with key hits. It was big shoes to fill for Scott Hutter as the absence of Aaron Grymes was noticeable as he was lost for the regular season since training camp.
For the Calgary Stampeders, making the playoffs is just the norm. They have been a benchmark team for a long time now. 2004 was the last season where the Calgary Stampeders did not make the postseason. With that said, high expectations are the norm in Cow Town.
The depth of the Calgary Stampeders was always so present just like any other season. They are a club that adds talent in all phases of the game. GM John Hufnagel is a mastermind in adding to the roster needs.
2nd year WR Malik Henry was explosive for the Calgary offence. he would complete the season with 62 receptions, 1023 receiving yards, along with 8 receiving touchdowns.
Legendary QB and future Hall of Fame-bound Bo Levi Mitchell would struggle in 2022. He would be replaced by QB Jake Maier who would now take the reins in the Calgary Offense.
To say that Bo Levi Michell was not used at all is an understatement. He would still be involved in the offence guiding Jake Maier on the sidelines.
The Calgary Stampeders would complete the season with a 12-6 record tied with the BC Lions. They would finish in 3rd place with the BC Lions winning the head-to-head series.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders appeared to be a football team with a lot of high hopes in 2022. After going 9-5 in 2021, fans of the green and white were optimistic for the 2022 season.
And rightfully so.
As Regina, Saskatchewan was the host for the 2022 Grey Cup, many fans felt that they still had a legitimate chance of maybe causing the upset wins if they met in the playoffs vs Winnipeg and Calgary respectively if they wanted to attend the big dance.
Instead, the 2022 season was a complete disaster.
After going 4-1 entering week 5, the Roughriders would experience the worse tailspin in 2022. They would win only 2 more games from week 5 and complete the season with a 6-12 record.
Being unable to hold onto leads was the norm with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Moreover, turnovers at the wrong time in any game would be costly. And it showed in the overall performance in 2022.
The final nail in the coffin would be more evident than when entering week 18 on Friday, October 7th, 2022. Saskatchewan would fall to Hamilton 18-14 with both clubs fighting for playoff spots. The Riders would have a buy for week 19.
Then the unthinkable happened for Rider fans.
Coach Craig Dickenson announced that he would bench QB Cody Fajardo in favour of QB Mason Fine for the remaining 2 scheduled games.
Although the Riders were in a tailspin, it was without a doubt the worse move Craig Dickenson for the 2022 season. Your best players have to be on the field at any given time.
For you to just throw in the towel was a slap in the face for Saskatchewan fans. Is Cody Fajardo the best QB in the CFL?
He is not the worse either. He still gives you the best opportunity to maybe turn things around and possibly sneak out 2 wins in a back-to-back scheduled game vs Calgary to close out the 2022 season.
In the end, Saskatchewan would complete the 2022 season with a 6-12 record and finish 4th in the West Division.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers entered the 2022 CFL season with the highest expectations among all clubs.
When you’re the back-to-back Grey Cup Champions, you set a standard and expectation to go with it all over again. Not since the Edmonton Eskimos from 1978-1982 has there been a team to have a three-peat or more.
Winnipeg being Winnipeg, began the season strong as expected. The well-oiled machine of the CFL would flex their muscles every week and display its dominance of CFL supremacy. They would open the season going 9-0 and would be defeated by Montreal in overtime in week 10 in a thrilling 20-17 showdown.
In the end, the Blue Bombers would complete 2022 with the best record in the CFL going 15-3. Although they encountered some close encounters, the Bombers were still able to seal up victories when it mattered most. Fans were witnessing a squad that had no fear and no panic under pressure. It was a great site to see how in tune the team as a whole was with the approach of a game from week to week. There would be the most difficult obstacle for any team in the playoffs.
The Ottawa REDBLACKS entered the 2020 CFL season with high expectations. Even though they had a bad season in 2021 with a 3-11 record, they were the most aggressive team when it came to free agency.
Unfortunately for Ottawa, the worse thing occurred with the newly acquired via free agency in QB Jeremiah Masoli. He would be a victim of an illegal hit by then Garrett Marino vs Saskatchewan in week 5 and would be out for the season.
With a combination of both Caleb Evans and Nick Arbuckle splitting duties for the duration of the REDBLACKS season, there was never any consistency with the offence. Nick Arbuckle would continue his sub-average play as he was in Edmonton. Caleb Evans would struggle in the passing game but would be effective with his dual-threat capabilities. He would complete the season with an impressive 16 rushing TDs.
Ottawa would complete the season with a 4-14 record.
On the upside, the Ottawa defence made a lot of games close. There is no doubt that they would be a more improved team had injuries to key players were not present.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats entered the 2022 CFL season with unfished business. With appearing in back-to-back Grey Cup games, Hamilton had every right to play the season with a chip on its shoulders.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, inconsistencies were all too apparent from the beginning of the season. The main thing that was noticeable at the beginning of the season was the offence. It was all too stagnated on many occasions which would be costly for Hamilton. Average play at QB was costly with both Matt Shiltz and Dane Evans up to Labour Day
However, with a late surge in collecting victories after their Labour Day loss vs Toronto, Hamilton would go on a 5-1 down the stretch and complete their season with an 8-10 record.
The Montreal Alouettes 2022 season, is very similar to that of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. They were practically carbon copies.
In a surprise move, then coach Khari Jones fired my GM Danny Maciocia after Montreal would begin 2022 with a 1-3 record. Danny Maciocia would also add on the coaching duties for the remainder of the season.
For Khari Jones, he would find work 2 weeks later joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a football operations consultant.
In another notable move, minority owner Gary Stern stepped away from the club. Although he would retain his minority stake, he would not be part of the day-to-day operations. Gary Stern was the owner the CFL needed. Unfortunately, Sidney Speigel (Co-Owner and son-in-law) passed away before the 2021 season. Both were very passionate owners who were doing whatever they can to promote the CFL, and the Alouettes in Montreal.
Montreal experienced its struggles as did Hamiton. The team would trade Veron Adams Jr to BC in which Trevor Harris would retain his starting position at QB.
Montreal would finish the season on a high note also going on a stretch after a Labour Day loss. They would go on a 5-2 run to complete the season with a 9-9 record.
The Toronto Argonauts entered 2022 with high expectations.
The double blue felt missing pieces were needed to get over the hump in the East Division. The signings of Brandon Banks, Andrew Harris, and Ja’Gared Davis added a lot of depth and experience for the Argonauts.
As the season progressed, it did show that they were being challenged at times. However, they would still stay the course and have a productive season.
There were inconsistencies at times with the play of QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson. But those were short-lived as he faced a lot of adversity and overcame bad play when it mattered most.
Injuries would take their toll on the Argonauts which on both sides of the ball would be effective. The offensive line took a beating during the regular season in which they were not fully healthy, at least on record, for about the last 3 regular season games.
With that, even at a time of unknown depth, players like A.J. Ouellette stood tall in being productive in the running and passing game in the absence of Andrew Harris.
The offensive line looked more intact and in sync not giving up as many sacks as they did in the 1st half of the season. This was more noticeable, especially after Labour Day.
Toronto would claim 1st place in the East Division with an 11-7 record.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats would travel to Montreal for the East Final.
On record, this was a perfect game to see. Both Hamilton and Montreal got hot at the right time down the stretch and would be a good grind-out playoff game to see.
However, even though the scoreboard did not show it, Montreal came to play. The Montreal defence threw everything they could at Hamilton and it showed.
Hamilton was not able to have any consistencies in their offence. The Montreal defence for the majority of the game would cause a lot of confusion for both Dane Evans and Matt Shiltz. This was a credit to the majority of the time with the Montreal secondary causing a lot of coverage sacks. The Montreal defensive front 7 made a lot of impactful plays as they had a lot of time to make the pocket collapse.
In the end, Montreal would beat Hamilton 28-17. Montreal would head southwest on Highway 401 to play the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field.
It was a great day to see the crowd of 35,000 plus pack BC Place Stadium to be Victoria, British Columbia born, and Oakville, Ontario raised QB Nathan Rourke to play in his 1st CFL playoff game.
The crowd was alive and well when the BC Lions would take off the Calgary Stampeders. The BC Lions played some textbook football on both sides of the ball.
Rorke set the tone early and often with the BC Lions’ offence. He would complete the day completing 22 passes on 30 attempts, for 321 passing yards, along with 2 TD passes.
Keon Hatcher was very effective with 162 receiving yards and a TD. But it would not stop there. James Butler would contribute with 95 rushing yards.
However, things got interesting late in the game.
Bo Levi Michell came into the game with 11:11 left in the 4th quarter due to inconsistencies with Jake Maier. BC was leading 20-6.
It was too little too late for Calgary. Although Bo Levi Mitchell made the game interesting, Calgary would fall short. BC would win 30-16 which appeared to be Bo Levi Michell’s last game wearing the red and white of Calgary.
BC would now appear in the West Final vs the powerful Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
On a fidget windy day in Toronto, Canada, the Toronto Argonauts would lock horns with the Montreal Alouettes.
In this game, it really could have been a flip of a coin in predicting a winner. The Toronto Argonauts looked very good in the 2nd half of the regular season along with Montreal.
For the Toronto Argonauts, they would not want to repeat their 2021 collapse as they got shell shocked vs Hamilton on their turf. To add more insult to injury, the Toronto sports scene has been averaging at best with 1st round exits.
The Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Toronto Raptors have made this a habit of not surpassing the 1st round since 2020 (Maple Leafs 6 years in a row since the 2016-2017 season)
Although the Argonauts had control for most of the game, Montreal came to play also. They made it a challenge for Toronto but it still came down to the wire. The 4th quarter in particular had the feeling that it could head to overtime.
In the end, the Toronto Argonauts did not have any meltdown as was the case in 2021. The Argos would beat Montreal 34-27.
Trevor Harris did test the Argonauts’ pass defence in which he had a strong game going 25 out of 30 in pass attempts, with 365 passing yards, and a lone TD pass.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson looked sharp going 19 for 27 in passes completed, for 299 passing yards, and 2 TD passes.
The Argonauts’ offensive line was the stellar part of the game in which they protected Bethel-Thompson at all costs with no sacks allowed.
The BC Lions headed to Winnipeg to Take on the mighty Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the always-loud IG Field.
It was a game where it was the new kids on the block in the BC Lions vs the Winnipeg Blue Bombers team that was without a doubt, the best that nobody could take down.
The Winnipeg defence was at their normal ways which made it very difficult at times for the BC Lions to get into rhythm consistently. Winnipeg only allowed BC a total of only 28 rushing yards.
Nathan Rourke did a great job for his 2nd playoff in his career thus far. But the 2 interceptions proved to be costly. He would complete the day going 20 for 37 in pass attempts, for 300 passing yards, and for 1 TD.
The final result would be Winnipeg going back to the Grey Cup with a 28-20 victory over the BC Lions.
109TH Grey Cup
Number 1 in the West Division vs Number 1 in the East Division was set for the 109TH Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field in Regina, Saskatchewan.
This was a showcase with a lot of history behind these two legendary football teams with various headlines this season.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers going for a three-peat. Andrew Harris going for a three-peat being now it with the double blue colours. And Brandon Banks trying to win his 1st Grey Cup in his career.
And there were many more.
The Argonauts got off to a start of what you kind of wanted against a tough all-round good football team. And the same could be the case with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Like a heavyweight boxing match, you keep the pace of the game. Take a few jabs, move around, and try to get comfortable with your opponent. Spread the ball and take a shot of the big play whether it was a running game or a deep ball in the passing game. When the time strikes, you unload with your best punch.
Both the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Toronto Argonauts would trade blows for the majority of the game. It was a see-saw battle.
In the opening of the 4th quarter, WR Janarion Grant would return a punt for 102 yards. They would take a 23-14 lead with the missed PAT. It was a moment that Winnipeg knew all too well that they have made a habit of striking when it matters most. It also felt that they would begin to capitalize on more opportunities as they present themselves.
However, there was no panic in the Toronto Argonauts. Back to the drawing board, and continue to chip away with the remaining time in the game.
With a dislocated thumb on Bethel-Thompson’s throwing hand, he would be replaced by Chad Kelly to resume the duties for the Toronto Argonauts. Add in some big plays by Chad Kelly, and all, of a sudden the Argonauts are on top 24-23 from a field goal by Boris Bede and a touchdown by A.J. Ouellette.
Then the unthinkable happened. At 2:09 left in the game, the Argonauts would try a 42-yard field goal attempt which ended up being blocked.
At 00:54 left in the game, the Blue Bombers would attempt a 47-yard field goal attempt to take the lead. Only in this case, the football gods were on Toronto’s side which would also be blocked. Back-to-back blocked field attempts were blocked.
The Toronto Argonauts would go into victory formation as stun the Winnipeg Blue Bombers winning their 18th Grey Cup in franchise history.
In the end, the 2022 CFL season was a great one. We saw a few players make their debut in which they thrilled fans in the stands with their athletic ability. We saw teams struggle and falter as their bad season was an inevitable one. We saw teams get hot at the right time to qualify for a playoff spot. We saw a lot of close games during the regular season and into the playoffs and in the Grey Cup.
Thank you to the fans, coaches, players, training staff, team medical staff, and owners. It was good to have a full season of football back.
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