On the CFL scoresheet there’s nothing remarkable about the play.
No Huddle-Shotgun #12 C.Kelly pass complete deep right to #86 D.Coxie for 25 yards to the MTL00 TOUCHDOWN
There was so much more to it than that.
With Damonte Coxie’s probable return to the lineup for Friday’s game against Calgary at BMO Field, Argonauts.ca thought looking back at perhaps the most outstanding play of the season was warranted.
In the Toronto Argonauts 35-27 win in Montreal on July 14, one play stood above all others; a feat in itself as it came during perhaps the most entertaining game of the season to date.
On a second-and-eight from the Montreal 25-yard line, Damonte Coxie lined up as the outside receiver to the right side of the field. After taking the snap, quarterback Chad Kelly took two steps back, never taking his eyes off Coxie. The receiver had stopped at the 20-yard line, then released and sprinted down the sideline. Kelly threw the ball without much loft, hoping his receiver could make a play.
Coxie stuck out his right hand and somehow made a diving, one-handed catch to break a 20-20 tie with just over five minutes left in the game.
Kelly obviously knew where he was going with the ball, even though Coxie was covered stride-for-stride by Montreal cornerback Kabion Ento. Coxie was asked if he was the primary receiver on that play.
“I really don’t know,” the affable receiver told Argonauts.ca. “I know it’s a play call where everybody can get the ball, so you’ve got to go win. I’m glad he (Kelly) had faith in me and believed I was going to win for him.”
In retrospect, it was surprising that Kelly released the ball as there was virtually no window to throw it to.
“He was covered, he definitely was,” Kelly replied when asked by Argonauts.ca if he saw something nobody else did. “I heard Dan Marino say one time that you can’t defend a perfect pass, right? One of my guys that I played high-school ball with was like ‘Man, that guy was covered.’ But that’s what happens; great players make great plays and you see that in Coxie every single day. He comes out here and he works hard. I think there’s just a lot of guys that are wanting to become the best player ever.”
While Kelly and virtually everybody else thought the receiver was tightly covered, one person thought Coxie was open – Coxie.
“I feel like I was open,” said the receiver. “He did a good job covering me. I was trying to sell him in a little bit more, but I kind of rushed it because he looked like he wasn’t biting because his eyes were more on me than the backfield. After that point when it was one-on-one, I felt like it was whoever wanted it more and I had to want it more.”
It should be noted that if you ask a receiver, “Were you open on that play?” the answer will be “Yes” one hundred percent of the time.
With the ball in the air, Coxie had to make the determination of whether he should use one or two hands. He opted for the former, something he hadn’t planned on doing, but something that he felt needed to be done.
“It’s more in the moment,” he said when asked at what point he decided to use one hand. “You try to go with two hands as an instinct, but when you can’t get the other hand free, you don’t want to give up on the ball, so you’ve got to put an arm out there and just focus in on the one hand.”
After Odell Beckham Jr. made a remarkable one-handed catch for the New York Giants in 2014, receivers started practicing catching with one hand on a more regular basis. Argo receiver Chad Owens admitted he was one of those players after he made a spectacular game-winning, one-handed touchdown catch in Ottawa in 2015.
Coxie is not one that practices one-hand grabs.
“No, I like two hands. I had a coach – Coach David Johnson – when I was at the University of Memphis; he didn’t like one-handed catches, so we always had to make sure we had two hands on the ball. One handed is just when you absolutely can’t use your other hand. The one-handed thing is just in emergencies (laughs).”
The native of Reserve, Louisiana – located just up the Mississippi river from New Orleans – hauled in the pass from Kelly in spectacular fashion, but the play wasn’t over yet. It was reviewed; not only to see if it was a catch but if there was offensive pass interference.
The quarterback was oblivious to everything that happened, he only saw that Coxie was celebrating and the official was signalling touchdown.
“I didn’t really get to see it,” said Kelly of the catch. “I didn’t even know he caught it with one hand until after they started reviewing it. I was like, ‘Wait, did he catch that?’ They were like, ‘Ya, he caught it.’ I was like ‘Holy smokes.’ It was an amazing catch, obviously, that was one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen.”
What makes it even sweeter is that Coxie is having such a successful season following a serious injury last year in a game in Calgary – one that left him forced to spend the rest of the season using a knee scooter to get around. This season he’s third in the league with an average of 18.4 yards per catch and was leading the Argos in virtually every receiving category before hurting his ankle.
“It’s past fun,” said Coxie of getting the chance to play again. “Going through the adversity and rehab and to go through the process and come back and play and to be feeling great; it’s been a blessing.”
Coxie missed the last three games with a mild ankle injury but barring a setback should be good to go against Calgary on Friday.
We’ll then see what he can do for an encore.