|Ottawa Rough Riders||
Led by quarterback Warren Moon the Edmonton Eskimos won their fourth straight title in 1981, staging a thrilling second-half comeback to beat the Ottawa Rough Riders by a score of 26-23.
The 1981 Grey Cup wasn’t supposed to be this close. The Eskimos were seeking an unprecedented fourth straight championship, winners of a league record 14 games during the regular season. Their opponents were the Ottawa Rough Riders - perhaps the worst team in CFL history to make a Grey Cup final - winners of just five regular season games.
The Eskimos entered the game as 22½ point favourites. But someone forgot to tell the club from Ottawa. Led by rookie quarterback J.C. Watts, the Riders jumped out to a surprising 20-1 advantage at halftime in the freezing temperature of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
A pair of 34 and 37 yard field goals by Gerry Organ in the game’s opening 10 minutes gave the Riders their initial lead. Ottawa continued its assault late in the first quarter when Rick Sowieta intercepted a poor throw by Moon, helping to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Jim Reid.
Those who thought Ottawa’s 13-0 lead was an anomaly continued to be amazed in the second quarter. Moon was intercepted again, this time by John Glassford, helping to set up Sam Platt’s 14-yard touchdown run.
Moon was lifted for a short period in favour of Tom Wilkinson, playing in his final CFL game. Once his composure was regained, Moon was sent back on the field and jump started the Edmonton offence in the second half. Jim Germany scored Edmonton’s initial touchdown, running in from two yards out.
It helped Edmonton that Ottawa began to self-destruct. A Watts fumble was recovered by Dale Potter, putting the Eskimos on Ottawa’s three-yard line. Four plays later, Moon scored on a goal-line sneak.
Moon, however, had a costly fumble of his own in the fourth quarter, setting up Organ’s 28-yard field goal to put Ottawa in front by eight.
But Moon made up for this gaffe with another goal-line touchdown with less than five minutes remaining. A successful pass to Marco Cyncar for a two-point convert tied the score, setting up some late-game dramatics.
With three seconds left in regulation, veteran place kicker Dave Cutler booted a 27-yard field goal to send the Eskimos into the record books. Cutler had missed from 24 yards out in the first half.
It marked the last game forOttawa’s Tony Gabriel in his Hall of Fame career. Gabriel played the final with an injured left knee.