Somewhere Kay Stephenson was looking and laughing and saying 'Now that's Eskimos football!' It was the kind of bore-you-to-death sort of game only the coach of the mind-blowingly bland 1998 edition of the Edmonton Eskimos could appreciate.
It was sad. And in the end, as Tom Higgins's Eskimos strangled themselves in front of 41,113 fans, it made a serious statement about the way the defending Grey Cup champions have had their helmets screwed on for so much of this season.
Jason Maas said it going in about "showing our identity and character.''
The quarterback had the most miserable night of them all. If a game ever begged to be grabbed by the throat this was it, especially after the first half.
GRABBED HIMSELF BY THE THROAT
Maas didn't grab it by the throat. He grabbed himself by the throat.
"This one hurts,'' said Maas.
"To lose this game in our own back yard when we had an opportunity to win ... to have had such a poor showing on offence ...
"I had a lot to do with it.''
Suddenly, after blowing the 8-0 lead and losing 26-17, the Eskimos are a 7-7 team which has gone 0-2 against Toronto, 0-1 against Montreal and 1-2 against B.C. - a combined 1-5 against the top three teams in the league.
He had some balls dropped in the first half which could have put the Eskimos up by a much greater margin, but Maas wasn't grabbing for any excuses when this was over. He was pointing the finger at himself.
"I could talk about that but I'd rather talk about me,'' he said.
"I was careless with the football. Anytime you are careless with the football, bad things are going to happen.''
But what about the coaching? You have to ask questions about coaching after this one.
"I feel we have a very nice plan in place,'' said coach Tom Higgins at the pre-game press conference of the Stephensonesque game plan.
"It was one of those games which left you questioning almost everything you do,'' said Higgins. "You question coaches about their ability to coach and players about their ability to play.''
EXAMINE AND RE-EXAMINE
Higgins said losing a game like that, at home, has to make you examine and re-examine everything.
"Everybody has to be concerned with the non-productivity of the offence and the collapse in the second half,'' said Higgins.
"We never got on track offensively in an extremely important game for us.''
The game was lowlighted by the least entertaining, least eventful first half of allegedly professional football here in more than a quarter-century. The only thing worse than the first half was the way the Eskimos played in the second half which only managed to get marginally better when Toronto decided to step from the rear and claim the game the Eskimos didn't want.
You had to go back to 1976 when the Eskimos scored a 5-1 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to find anything which was anywhere near as woeful. The only place where this game could possibly have been any fun to watch was in the press box where it made for a plethora of press-box one-liners.
The game corporate zone sponsor was Waste Management Canada. It was also military night with a football brought in by helicopter (surprisingly not a Sea King) to centre field on a stretcher. Like much of what the Canadian military has to work with, not much worked for either the Eskimos or the Argos.
Concerns about coming off a CFL classic the week before in Vancouver and having to refocus from chasing first place to securing second were certainly validated from the git-go.
The Eskimos broke a 0-0 tie with a field goal after 20 minutes and 59 seconds of play of the second quarter, made it 5-0 with a three minutes and 21 seconds left in the half and 8-0 with a minute and 48 seconds left.
Each team managed the grand total of 113 yards of net offence in the first half. Toronto took 11 penalties for 94 yards, most of them for defensive linemen jumping offside. But the Argos came out a more focussed team in the second half and the Eskimos didn't.
Higgins always makes a big deal about splitting his seasons into thirds and was 0-3 for starters in the first third, 0-2 in the second third and is now 0-2 in the third third.
And it's back to the drawing board again.
"It's disappointing, no question. Now we really have to work and reload.''
His response was to give the team two days off.
Might make sense.
"It will allow them the opportunity to lick their wounds, to get home and don't say anything you haven't had a chance to think through.''
Higgins likes thirds. There's the old saying about having a third of the team which loves you, a third of the team that hates you and that the trick is to keep the third that's undecided away from the third that hates you.
Sorry. These guys don't need to be kissed, the need to be whipped.