Lions Reprieve: Hamilton Sets Up A Cat Fight
The BC Lions woke up this morning needing a helping hand from the Hamilton Tiger Cats if they hoped to play in the CFL playoffs next weekend. Their feline cousins in the east came through with a decisive 39-17 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to knock them out of the playoffs and give the Lions another one of their nine lives.
Of course, the Lions put themselves in this position with an embarrassing 45-13 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos Friday night at BC Place.
The night started poorly for the Lions when on his fifth play from scrimmage, Casey Printers injured the thumb on his throwing hand and could not continue. Buck Pierce would be done 15 plays later and the Lions hopes fell on the shoulders of young Zac Champion, who has been on and off the practice roster all year. But even that wouldn’t matter, because the Lions defense was shredded for 260 yards rushing, and another 248 in the air.
It was like the team quit, and for the third time this season at home, fans left BC Place in droves in the third quarter of a game.
The Eskimos ran the ball right down the Lions throats with Arkee Whitlock amassing 165 yards of their impressive total on the night. Ricky Ray went 19 of 26 on the night, with one TD and one interception.
Even the troubles with short yardage were evident again. With BC needing less than a yard at midfield to sustain a drive, they were stuffed as they have been too many times in the last two seasons, and the result was a 14 point turnaround for the Eskimos to end the half. Things just went from bad to downright embarrassing in the second half with no resistance on defense, and and offense that couldn’t move the ball under the guidance of a young and green QB.
Then there was the penalty for two many men on the field that gave the Eskimos seven points instead of three. Whatever could go wrong, went wrong.
“It’s unbelievable,” said slotback Geroy Simon. “We can’t keep a quarterback healthy to save our lives.”
“This is amazing. It’s like we’ve never played football before. How many quarterbacks do we need to go through in a season?”
“This game is the story of our season. It’s biggest game of the year and we don’t show up to play.”
Indeed, it seemed when Printers went out of the game, so did the Lions fight and that was the most discouraging thing of all for the crowd of over 31,000 in attendance.
The Lions will have their work cutout for them next week against a Hamilton club that swept them this year and ran through them much like the Eskimos and other clubs have done all year. With an uncertain quarterbacking situation and many issues to work through over the next week, the Lions will be clear underdogs in the first playoff game to take place in the the Steel City since 2001.
Reports Sunday indicated that Printers thumb my not be as bad as first thought, and Province beat writer Lowell Ullrich reported on his blog that the thumb was definitely not broken, and that Pinters could be ready to practice Tuesday. Travis Lulay is also reportedly ready to start practicing this week, leaving a possible QB rotation of Printers, Lulay and Champion for the game.
The defense will have their pride tested and will have to solve their run stopping deficiencies in a hurry. The Ticats DeAndra’ Cobb will head into the game against the Lions with the confidence he can have success against their run defense after he racked up 369 yards of offense on the Lions in two games, 267 of them along the ground.
The game will also feature a number of former BC Lions facing their old team. Otis Floyd, Jamal Johnson, Matt Kirk and Markeith Knowlton are all former Lions, as well as GM Bob O’Billovich who was with the Lions for years. Should Printers be able to go there would certainly be an interesting storyline there as well.
Friday night’s game was the last game that will be played under the roof of BC Place Stadium. The team will return to it’s roots and a temporary 30,000 seat facility to be built on the old Empire Stadium site at the PNE next season.