The speedy receiver amassed a club-record 402 combined yards to help Toronto rally for a thrilling 33-30 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in its final Labour Day showdown at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Owens had two clutch receptions for 29 yards — including a sparkling one-handed, 18-yard grab — on the Argos' final possession with a stiff wind that kept the fateful 51-yard, seven-play drive alive and allowed Swayze Waters to boot the winning 33-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining.
The late-game heroics were also sweet redemption for Owens, who fumbled twice in the contest, losing one.
"It's something I have to be cognizant of and maybe sometimes stop trying to fight for those extra yards," Owens said of the fumbles. "I told Ricky (Argos quarterback Ricky Ray) I appreciate him trusting me and going to me in certain situations and trusting that I'll make the play."
And no play was bigger than Owens's key one-handed grab before a sun-drenched sellout gathering of 31,032 at Ivor Wynne, which will be demolished at season's end and replaced with a new facility that the Ticats will call home in 2014.
"It was behind me," he said. "This is about as long as I can give him (stretching arm out fully) and it hit my hand and I held on to it."
After Waters' field goal, Hamilton took over at its 35-yard line with 26 seconds remaining but turned the ball over on downs with three straight completions.
Hamilton dropped its Labour Day record against Toronto to 29-13-1. The Argos are 4-3-1 in their last eight Labour Day contests at Ivor Wynne but earned their first victory since 2008.
The two teams will play again Saturday night at Rogers Centre.
Burris dropped to 17-10 in head-to-head matches against Ray (16-9 during season, 1-1 in playoffs). Ray finished 32-of-45 passing for 375 yards with a touchdown while Burris was 13-of-30 for 218 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
"I've been in a lot of close games with Henry in the West and many times watched him go down for the win," Ray said. "But even after they scored to tie it, I knew we had the wind and if we just got a couple of first downs we'd have a shot to kick a field goal to win the game."
But Owens was a one-man show for Toronto, registering 11 catches for 176 yards and a TD, returning five punts for 90 yards and six kickoffs for 136 yards. The 402 total yards was the third-best performance in CFL history behind former Winnipeg star Alberta Johnson III (474 yards) and Calgary's Larry Taylor (441 yards versus the Argos this season) and broke the club record of 401 yards set in 1992 by Raghib (Rocket) Ismail.
Holding on to the football this season has been an issue for Owens but Argos head coach Scott Milanovich says that's something the club is willing to live with.
"I just have so much faith in Chad," Milanovich said. "That's why you don't get on a guy who is having a tough game.
"Chad was as much the reason why we won that game as anybody. We'll live with his mistakes and try to coach him out of them. He brings a lot to the table for us."
Hamilton rallied to make it 30-30 on Henry Burris's 10-yard TD strike to Brandon Rutley at 12:40 before finding Dave Stala on the two-point convert. That came after Toronto erased an 11-point deficit by scoring 19 points to start the fourth.
After Hamilton conceded a safety early in the quarter, the Argos pulled to within two points on Chad Kackert's one-yard TD run at 5:46. Just under two minutes later Ahmad Carroll returned a Burris interception 37 yards for a touchdown, and then a 26-yard Swayze field goal gave Toronto (5-4) an eight-point lead.
The fourth-quarter fireworks stole the spotlight from a record-setting achievement by Hamilton's Chris Williams, who registered his CFL-record sixth return TD of the season. The diminutive receiver ran a punt back 82 yards for the touchdown in the first, his fifth punt return TD of the season (the other came on a missed field goal). It also marked the third straight game Williams has taken a punt back for a score, another CFL record.
Williams had three TDs in Hamilton's 36-27 home win over Toronto, returning a punt and missed field goal for scores in that contest and has scored a league-leading 11 touchdowns this season. He's challenging Milt Stegall's single-season TD record of 23, recorded in 2002.
Williams also had a 52-yard catch and 63-yard punt return in the second half that set up field goals for Hamilton (3-6), which suffered its fourth straight loss. Williams finished with five punt returns for 158 yards.
"We've got to put it together," he said. "Whatever it is . . . we have to figure it out and we've got to figure it out fast."
Burris said the Ticats let a win slip away.
"We had the game in hand and we had great opportunities to really put it away," he said. "We left a lot of points and plays out there on the field.
"But you have to give the Argos kudos, they made plays and made it tough on me but we're a much better team than we showed and definitely this is a game we should've won."
Carroll's timely touchdown was also big for Toronto and came after the Argos' defensive back was flagged four times for 89 yards in last week's 27-16 home loss to Edmonton.
"It was a tough week for him and our team stuck by him and believed in him and it was great to see that play," Milanovich said of Carroll. "He's got that knack, he's got that ability.
"He's a big-play guy who understands the game. You're always happy when a guy has a tough week like that makes such a big play."
Not only did the Argos keep Carroll in the starting lineup against Hamilton but lined him up against Williams, the Ticats' top receiver who finished with just the one catch.
"I undercut him and made a play on the ball," Carroll said of his TD return. "He's a great receiver and I just appreciate coach Jones (defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones) having faith in me.
"We talked about the penalties and the thing about him and our (defensive back coach Orlondo Steinauer) is they treat you like a man. I gave up a big play (52-yard grab) but as soon as I came to the sideline coach Jones said, 'Let's go. You don't know what's going to happen.'"
Onrea Jones had Hamilton's other touchdown. Luca Congi added a convert and three field goals.
Waters finished with three field goals, three converts and a single.
NOTES — Ticats owner Bob Young announced during Monday's game The Tragically Hip will perform in the final concert at Ivor Wynne on Oct. 6. It will mark the first concert there in 33 years . . . Hamilton honoured former all-star receiver Earl Winfield at halftime . . . Receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, promoted from the practice roster Sunday, replaced veteran Jason Barnes on Toronto's 42-man roster for Monday's game. With rookie Chevon Walker back from a lower-body injury, veteran running back Avon Cobourne was among Hamilton's pre-game scratches . . . Ray became the sixth different quarterback to start a Labour Day game since 2006 for Toronto. Only Cleo Lemon (2009-'10) started multiple contests over that span . . . . Monday's game was broadcast in the U.S. by NBC.