Over the last decade, there has been the occasional mention about Jacques Chapdelaine and his miss late in the 1983 Grey Cup. Some of you have said that had Chapdelaine made the catch the Lions would have been hoisting the Grey Cup in BC Place that November 27, 1983. But there's been some disagreement about exactly what the play was, where the miss was, and how easy that catch was. It looks like Chapdelaine was certainly the scapegoat when in fact, both the Lions offence were responsible for not putting any points in the second half, and the Lions defence allowed the Argonauts to get back into the game and eventually take the lead.
Finally, here's a clip that will set the record straight once and for all and I will state some important facts.
1. The play in question was on a 2nd and 20 from the Lions own 35-yard line with roughly 1:35 remaining in the 4th quarter.
2. Chapdelaine leaped very high to try to catch the long pass and contact was made at around the Argonauts 37-yard line.
3. Had Chapdelaine been able to catch and secure the ball, the momentum would have brought him to the Argonauts 35-yard line. And that would have given the Lions a first down and with some conservative rushing plays with the worst situation of no gain, it would have been a 42-yard field goal attempt for Lui. Likely Lui would have completed it but still no chip shot at that distance.
4. Looking at the replay, it does look like an extremely difficult catch to make as it looks like the ball only glanced off Chapdelaine fingers or hands, and the ball didn't land on his chest in which case Chapdelaine could have had better control of the ball. Even if there wasn't good defensive coverage, it's unlikely Chapdelaine would have caught the ball. And if Chapdelaine was wide open with no coverage, then there would be a stronger case against him. But as the next point indicates, that was certainly not the case in the fact that there was indeed excellent coverage.
5. Above all though, Chapdelaine was NOT wide open as Argonauts defensive back Darrell Wilson was covering Chapdelaine very well on that play. Looking at the replay, it looks like Darrell Wilson made an outstanding defensive play by using his left hand to punch out the ball out of Chapdelaine's hands just as Chapdelaine was trying to control the ball. So Darrell Wilson should get full credit for ending the 31-year drought for the Argonauts with his great defensive play.
At 3rd and 20 from their own 35-yard line, the Lions chose to punt. In the Argonauts next and final possession, Joe Barnes ran for a crucial first down that put off a lot of precious time off the clock. By the time the Lions got the ball back there was only 1-second left. If there was a time to gamble on 3rd down, it would been right then and there.
Therefore, considering the huge difficulty of the catch as well as the excellent defensive play by Darrell Wilson, I personally do not blame Chapdelaine for the Lions losing the 1983 Grey Cup. I don't think any other receiver would have caught that pass given the extreme difficulty of the catch and the great coverage by Darrell Wilson. Wilson would have punched that ball away from any receivers hands in that play. If anything, I'd rather blame the Lions defensive secondary for allowing Joe Barnes to complete several long passes in the drive that allowed the Argonauts to take the lead late in the fourth, and by allowing Cedric Minter to be totally wide open when he made the Grey Cup winning TD catch.