TORONTO -- Instant replay delivered a crushing blow to the Renegades playoff chances last night.
The instant replay of a sixth straight defeat. The instant replay of another loss in Toronto, a trend which hasn't been overturned by an Ottawa team since 1994.
And the instant replay shown on the large and clear video scoreboard at Rogers Centre. Only in the NFL are close plays reviewed and calls changed?
At least it very much appeared as though officials allowed themselves to sneak a peek at a controversial and deflating third quarter play in Ottawa's 29-18 hope-damaging loss to the Argos.
"I've never seen nobody in this league take points off the board after watching the Jumbotron before," said defensive back Korey Banks, who accompanied Greg Moss into the end zone on a 67-yard run following a fumble recovery that the men in stripes called back after the replay was shown, the crowd reacted, the teams had lined up for the convert, they had huddled a minute or so after the moment had passed. "I've never seen it, but I guess it happens. It's called home field advantage. We could use some of that in Ottawa."
All that truly matters is that the Renegades' dreadful losing streak was extended in front of 24,886 fans inside the open roof emporium formerly known as the SkyDome, and that the Renegades' record is now 5-9, leaving them with only a highly unlikely 4-0 finish as realistic hope of making the playoffs.
Excuses are old, tired and meaningless from this sad sack outfit -- which coach Joe Paopao said probably played "its best game in about six weeks, overall" -- but the men in stripes did appear to have a hand in the Renegades demise during their final game of a winless September.
Toronto was leading 17-11 early in the third quarter when John Avery fumbled the ball while being gang tackled. Moss scooped it up and ran the distance to paydirt and a whistle still hasn't gone to signal the play dead.
But even though TSN staff insisted five different views were inconclusive -- and even though CFL rules apparently say a controversial play cannot be shown on a stadium videoboard before the next snap -- the officials waved the touchdown off, suddenly deciding Avery was down when he dropped the ball.
Renegades defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall and Paopao were livid and animated while screaming their case in the referee's face, while assistant coach Jaime Hill was similarly infuriated with referee supervisor George Black in the pressbox. All to no avail, of course.
"It was a tough break for us," a subdued Paopao said later. "But we've got to keep playing.
"That's a veteran crew. I was told they didn't see it, and they decided to come back to the spot on the play. I'm going to trust their judgment. I thought it was a fumble, even on the screen. But I'm going to let it go."
Said team president Lonie Glieberman: "I think the refs do a great job, and I never want to see instant replay in our league. I just hope the crowd didn't influence their decision. At the end of the day, they made the right call.
"It's not why we lost the game."
No, but the Renegades did seem to sag after the controversy, giving up a safety and a field goal in the following minutes to fall behind 22-11. Four and a half minutes into the final quarter, they rose to life as Kerry Joseph hit Jason Armstead for a 75-yard scoring bomb.
But with just under six minutes to go, Damon Allen combined with Arland Bruce III for a 15-yard touchdown, his second of the night, that restored Toronto's two score lead.
Bo Lewis, who was cut by the Renegades at training camp and burned by the Armstead TD minutes earlier, exacted some revenge when he picked off a Joseph pass that had been in Armstead's possession on the next series.
For Joseph, it was the league-leading 19th interception of the season, followed up with less than a minute to go by his 20th.
Joseph earlier hit Yo Murphy for an 18-yard major in the first quarter as the Renegades built an early 11-3 lead. But the Argos had the lead for good by halftime.
"We still have a chance," said running back Josh Ranek, who a day earlier figured the Renegades would have to "run the table" to make the playoffs. "Now we're probably going to need a little help."