There is nothing like having depth when it comes to assembling a football team and the BC Lions proved theirs once again last night. Mike Reilly steered the Lions to a 39-19 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos to punch their ticket to the 2012 Western Final and I’m pleased to present my first place clinching thoughts, from the stands.
After the interception on the first series, Mike Reilly took command of the team and settled in. I thought he made some hasty decisions at times, but that’s being extremely picky on my part. The Lions couldn’t have asked for more from their backup QB who showed all he has the tools to play. Watching his mannerisms on the field one might have thought Lulay was in the game. The offence sputtered a little in the third quarter, allowing Edmonton to stick around, but again I’m being picky. It was a very impressive performance by Reilly. Not only did Reilly prove that he has the skills to play, he also reinforced that no one in this league finds and develops quarterbacks in this league better than the Lions.
I thought the unsung hero of the night was Tim Brown. Not only did Brown have a great night returning kicks, he was a force on offence as well, particularly on some nicely executed shovel passes. His 23 yard run at the end of the game was a nice way to cap a strong game in which he racked up 268 all-purpose yards. With the Eskimos doing a good job of containing Andrew Harris, Brown’s contribution was solid and well schemed by Jacques Chapdelaine and the Lions.
Mike Reilly, Nick Moore, Courtney Taylor, Ernest Jackson, Maurice Evans, Brandon Jordan, Jabar Westerman, Patrick Kabongo, Jesse Newman. All depth guys who have stepped in for starters in the last few weeks and the team hasn’t missed a beat. The Lions now have the chance to get some guys healthy the rest of the way, but they’ll also have some tough decisions to make as it will be really tempting to keep some of these guys in. One could even argue that the offence has been more productive in the last three weeks then it was earlier in the season. Regardless as some of the players on this team near the end of their careers, it leaves you with a good feeling about the future.
Stubler Let’s Em Loose
The Lions defensive pressure was relentless last night. It left them vulnerable to the long pass at times, but for the most part it had the desired effect. Eight sacks were racked up and Kerry Joseph completed just six passes all night long. When the defence wasn’t busy sacking Joseph, they were shutting down Hugh Charles, rendering the Eskimo offence a non factor for most of the night.
Shawn Gore is quickly becoming the Lions go to guy on 2nd down. His clutch catches haven’t come without a price either as for yet another game he took another big hit when he was sandwiched between two Eskimos in the fourth quarter. Akeem Foster also contributed which was nice to see. His 47 yard reception after the Reilly interception on the first series was important in more ways than one.
Proud Papa Phillips
Ryan Phillips had more than one chance to get an interception for his newborn son and finally got one in the fourth to really put a nail in the coffin of the Eskimos. Phillips had to be shocked after Cary Koch’s highlight of the year candidate catch, but he had a strong game overall and has been really noticeable the last two weeks.
Home Field Advantage
Lions fans are really starting to get it and the crowd of just over 30,000 were again a factor. It’s getting loud on defence, and not just at the end of the game. Imagine what type of advantage the Lions could have at home if it continues to improve, or if we can add another 20,000 people for the Western Final. I just love this time of year as the playoffs approach. The crowds get bigger, the fans get into it, and I just can’t wait for November 18th.
The BC Lions came into Edmonton on a roll and snuck out with a 19-18 win over the Eskimos. It was a tale of two halves with Edmonton controlling the first and the Lions dominating the second. Here is how we saw it, from the couch.
A Tale of Two Games
The best way to describe this game is that each team won a half of football. The Lions just got one more point when all the dust had settled. The Eskimos defence was able to get good pressure on Travis Lulay in the first two quarters. While they didn’t record a sack they often hurried the Lions QB forcing him to throw the ball away or miss his targets. While the Lions offence was out of sync, the defence was again steady, although they gave up the only major of the half.
In the second half the Lions defence cranked it up and the offence got on the back of Andrew Harris. Lulay once again showed his leadership and poise leading a much more efficient attack.
You know your defence played pretty well when Fred Stamps has just one catch for eleven yards. Adam Bighill continues to send a message that he isn’t going anywhere as a starter in coming weeks. His pursuit of the ball and spying of the QB was brilliant.
Eskimos Game Plan
The Eskimos seem to have a good game plan when it comes to playing the Lions. In the first half Jyles had good protection and went 12-13. His throws were crisp and on target. Hugh Charles is a nice weapon and Kerry Koch had some very nice receptions including one that will be on the year end best of reel.
Their defence was getting good pressure without three starters. The tide changed in the second half after the Lions started to control the line of scrimmage. It was a similar game plan to what the Eskimos displayed in the first game between the two teams in Vancouver. Regardless, the Eskimos have given the Lions a lot of problems this season.
Carrying the Load
Andrew Harris carried the offence on his back with 103 rushing yards and 78 through the air. In the second half he was amazing, especially with second and third efforts that at times just bowled over defenders. His big run to set up the Simon touchdown was the turning point in the game. Harris had to carry the full load with the injury to Tim Brown, who may not be in the lineup when the Lions face Saskatchewan next week.
Is it just me or was the Simon TD the same play call that Joe Burnett picked off for a TD in Vancouver? Gutsy call if so.
All eyes were on Khalif Mitchell, in the stadium, on the field and on TSN, where he seemed to be the topic of the night. Mitchell was simply having his way with the Eskimos offensive line between the whistles. But the attention was once again cast his way for his antics after the whistle and before the snap. Mitchell was seen for what appeared to be throat slashing gestures on three occasions. He claimed after the game that he was making a cross. Mitchell and teammate Khreem Smith also had words on the sidelines and teammates intervened.
Mitchell is an all-star defensive lineman. When he is on his game he is a force that is hard to contain. He was on Twitter after the game asking fans what they thought of TSN’s constant attention on him. If he would cut out the animated stuff and just let his play do the talking he would be getting attention in a totally different way. I get that he’s a unique guy and likes to play with passion, but there comes a point where you need to represent yourself and your teammates in a certain way. Away from the field Mitchell is a totally different person, on it he needs to learn how to reign himself in a bit.
I asked for some comments during the game on Twitter using the hash tag #fromthecouch and here are a few, with my two cents in response. I’d like to make this a regular part of the blog.
@Greasy_Munky: Champions do not simply prevail, they fight…ALWAYS! Lulay has given BC a comfort last had only with Dave Dickenson. #FromTheCouch
I wouldn’t say I was ever comfortable with Dickenson like I am with Lulay, just because of the durability difference between the two. More than giving them comfort Lulay has given them consistency at the position, which is huge in developing an offence.
@AviewFromABroad: @BCLionsDen @Bighill44 & @andrewharris33 were spectacular tonight. Ugly or not, a win is a win. #FromTheCouch #bc
@BClionsuperfan: Even when they don’t get the breaks the #BCLions still find a way to win #FromTheCouch
Absolutely, and the Lions made the better adjustments at half time. Steven Jyles didn’t complete a pass in the 3rd quarter. Good teams know how to win and the Lions have a veteran leadership group. That was the difference tonight. As far as getting the breaks, I was surprised that they overturned the Banks fumble recovery, as I didn’t see enough evidence to suggest Charles had the ball when he was down. As I said above I think they got the Johnson call right, for the same reason. That said this league really has to look at what constitutes intentional grounding, as one I thought should have been called on Jyles wasn’t, leaving them in position for a field goal which they made.
@MissLilDvl: Proud of KJ right now!! And noticing it’s taking 3 & 4 guys to take him down!!! Boy’s HUNGRY!!! #FromTheCouch #WildWest #BCLions
I thought Kierrie Johnson had a nice return to the lineup. He was certainly a focus of the offensive game plan at times and was getting behind defenders. When Brown went down he filled on kick returns as well. His fumble was unfortunate, but I think they got that call right.
Next up for the Lions is another western division battle against the Roughriders of Saskatchewan. Enjoy the rest of week 13 everyone!
The Eskimos and Lions engaged in a defensive battle for much of Friday’s contest, but as was the case in Saskatchewan a week earlier, special teams and a costly mistake were contributing factors in the team’s second loss of the season and second in as many games. Here are my thoughts, from the stands.
Gentlemen, Watch Mr. Harris Please
If every BC Lion started the game with the determination that Andrew Harris did last night, the result may have been a lot different. In fact, after some of the plays he had early on, it’s a wonder he didn’t jack his teammates up to his level. Harris refused to be tackled and early on it was clear the game plan was to get him involved to neutralize the Edmonton pass rush. For the most part they were successful, racking up 453 yards in offence against the “league’s best defence”. Harris finished the night with 185 yards, 120 of them through catch and runs.
The Lions racked up much of that offence because they were starting deep in their own end much of the night. The Eskimos on the other hand enjoyed numerous starts at midfield thanks to shoddy return coverage and below average punting from Paul McCallum. McCallum has had a shaky start to 2012, and looked visibly frustrated coming off the field at times last night. The Lions didn’t even attempt a 44 yard field goal, in the dome, with the roof closed. That has to tell you something about the confidence that the coach has in his special teams unit right now. I’m not sure what Benevides can do to fix the situation, but it needs to be rectified quickly.
All That Talent, So Little Use
With the exception of Harris and Marco Iannuzzi, who is proving he belongs, the Lions didn’t have many other weapons on the night. Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce had four catches between them and that’s just a waste. The Lions are going to have to find ways to get Bruce and Simon more involved, and what has happened to Akeem Foster? This was a guy who looked like he had arrived before injuring his knee last year, and now is almost invisible in the offence.
Travis Lulay looked uneasy at times and appeared to lock onto one receiver on numerous occasions. Nick Moore returned to the lineup and showed ok, although he dropped one with no one around him that won’t do him any favours in his bid to make more frequent appearances in the lineup.
The defence did their job for the most part. I thought Dante Marsh was having a strong game before he left with another dislocated shoulder. Hopefully he will be ok, and Marsh was telling anyone who would listen after the game that he would be fine. It’s the same shoulder he’s injured in the past.
Just two sacks for the defence on the night, and the difference was the two turnovers by the Eskimos defence. The Lions need to get more of those from their defence, especially with the offence not firing on all cylinders.
The Eskimos came as advertised. I though Steven Jyles had a pretty good game, connecting on some nice plays before leaving with reported concussion symptoms. Kerry Joseph did his job managing the game the rest of the way. I’m still not sold that the Eskimos can win a Grey Cup with that tandem though. Much like the Lions tried to neutralize the Lions pass rush, the Eskimos did the same with a lot of work for Hugh Charles who finished with 118 yards rushing and another 61 through the air.
Their defence is solid, but the Lions did a nice job with the Eskimos front seven, only allowing one sack on the night, although there were many hurries. Right now you have to say the Eskimos are playing the best defence in the league and that unit is definitely winning them games, but it’s not November yet.
The Turning Point
With the Lions looking to punch it into the end zone to take the lead they chose to pass the ball on first and goal. Lulay tried to force a pass into Geroy Simon a touch late, who had two defenders on him. TJ Hill contacted Simon, the ball deflected into the arms of Joe Burnett who took it back 107 yards for the touchdown that would prove to be the nail in the coffin for the Lions. With the way Andrew Harris was playing it was surprising to see the Lions pass on first and goal. Not only that, but they emptied the back field telegraphing a pass play and Lulay was hurried on the play. That’s the way it has been the last two of games; one mistake, game over.
The Mitchell Play
I didn’t see this during the game, so I had to watch it on the PVR. I just don’t see this intent to injure other are seeing. What I am seeing is Rottier having a hold on Mitchell, to the point where it actually looks as though his hand is caught in Mitchell’s pads. To me it looks like Mitchell was just trying to break free of the hold. I’ll call a spade a spade if it’s warranted, but that’s what it looked like to me. Mitchell is an emotional player, and I’ve often wondered if we would see him lose his cool at some point. He may be getting a little frustrated with all the double teams he’s seeing, but I really don’t think there was any “intent” to injure Rottier.
I’m all for player social media use, but it may be a little inappropriate that Eskimos offensive lineman Greg Wojt tweeted at halftime: “Annoyed at the play, that was bush league by Khalif Mitchell. Intentionally trying to injure a player #NoClass.”
On to a tough game in Calgary next week, and as Coach Benevides is fond of saying this Lions team has lots of work to do.
This series of blogs will take a look at some of the best parties of Grey Cup week as we count down to the Vancouver event, November 24th to 27th. In this edition, we take a look at the party that sets the bar for the rest, the always popular Spirit of Edmonton.
If you’re a Grey Cup regular, you know all about the spirit of Edmonton. If you’re a Grey Cup rookie, you soon will. There is one party that all others strive to emulate and that is the fine event put on nightly during Grey Cup week be the fine folks at the Spirit of Edmonton.
The Spirit is the melting pot of CFL fan fellowship, where fans from all teams come to gather and celebrate Grey Cup week. The event promotes the City of Edmonton as a great place to live and do business as well as promoting the CFL and the Grey Cup Championship and the Edmonton Eskimos football club.
Volunteer Coordinator and Web / Social Media representative Neil McCulloch says the Spirit is the benchmark for all other CFL parties for a few simple reasons.
“We treat each guest as a friend, family and with respect. Our hospitality suite offers awesome value to our guests, great entertainment, a friendly CFL environment and no cover charge, ever!”
The spirit was formed in 1974 and started as a typical Grey Cup room party. It has expanded over the years to what it has become today. McCulloch says the there are typically between 150 to 250 volunteers that help with the event depending on what city the event is in.
When asked what surprises the party has in store for Vancouver in 2011, McCulloch wouldn’t spill all the beans, but did indicate social media will have a role, particularly in keeping fans informed about lineups.
“We have a few kept secrets for Vancouver this year but, I can tell you is that our social media will be the way to find out what’s happening prior to and during Grey Cup. Live Twitter and Facebook updates letting people know what entertainment is coming up and letting our guests who are not in our room how long the line-up really is. We are also going to have a new feature in our room, Mojo Photo. Mojo Photo is best described as a “old school” photo both whereby guests can take their pictures in the CFL garb and a few other trinkets, goofy hats etc. as a takeaway with the Spirit logo on framed around their picture. There will be a minimal cost for this as the service is being provided by a 3rd party.”
If there is one drawback to the Spirit, it has become very hard to get into on Friday and Saturday night. So much so that the event has now opened it’s doors two hours earlier on thise nights to allow more people to get to attend. If you want to attend on these nights, you’ll likely have to get in early and be prepared to stand in line. Follow the Spirit on Twitter (@spiritofyeg) for lineup updates and possible wait times!
The Spirit of Edmonton runs nightly during the Grey Cup festival.
Sheraton Wall Centre – 1088 Burrard Street
Live bands, cheer teams and various other appearances.
Cash bar, and various food items for purchase.
Thursday: 4:00pm to 1:00am
Friday: 2:00pm to 1:00am
Saturday: 2:00pm to 1:00am
Admission: Free, must be of legal drinking age to enter.
***Footnote***: Due to BC Liquor Laws you will need a ticket to gain access to the Spirit of Edmonton room this year. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Click on the lick above and scan the QR code on your mobile device, or print the ticket and present it at the door. There is still no cost to enter, but this will be required thanks to our lovely BC governments archaic policy on liquor. Spread the word about this because a lot of people will not know about this.
The BC Lions defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 36-1 Friday Night (Photo Perry Nelson: Edmonton Sun)
The BC Lions knew they had to take care of business tonight against a depleted Edmonton Eskimos squad at Commonwealth Stadium, and take care of business they did. The Lions rolled over the Eskimos picking up their 2nd win of the season. With the win the Lions moved into sole possession of 3rd place in the CFL west and regained the crossover spot from Toronto who also moved to 2-6 the night before.
Defence was the story, picking up four interceptions and 8 sacks on the night. Edmonton had no answer for the BC pass rush and without Ricky Ray had little time to get in sync with a makeshift group of receivers that included former Lions Ryan Grice-Mullen and recent cut Dobson Collins.
While the Eskimos offence was depleted with injuries their defence also struggled badly. Travis Lulay redeemed himself after poor outing against Winnipeg going 22 of 37 for 343 yards, 4 TD’s and one interception. The offence sputtered on it’s first couple of drives, but got rolling on a great 56 yard catch and run effort by Akeem Foster to put the Lions up 7-0. The Lions built up a 20-1 lead by the half with two Paul McCallum field goals and the first touchdown by Arland Bruce as a BC Lion.
Bruce had a great game in his second appearance as a Lion, racking up two touchdowns and 129 yards on 9 catches. Rookie Kierrie Johnson also had a strong game for the Lions. The small but speedy receiver is making the most of his chance to crack the lineup and 6 catches for 84 yards. Johnson would leave the game in the 3rd quarter however with what the team is calling a bruised shoulder.
The most impressive part of the win was the fact the Lions kept their foot on the throats of the Eskimos in the second half, keeping the pressure on Ray and moving the ball. Ray eventually gave way to Kerry Joseph who wasn’t much more effective than his predecessor. The Lions defensive line was in the backfield on almost every play and the secondary played with some swagger (sorry Winnipeg) once again.
The Lions now head into the bye week on a high and can really get themselves back in the playoff picture with string back to back efforts against the Toronto Argonauts.
- The Eskimos have given up 18 sacks in the last three games, including eight to the Lions.
- Geroy Simon passed Darren Flutie to move into 3rd place all-time in receiving yards. His 87th touchdown also ties Willie Flemming for the most in Lions history.
- The game balls were awarded to Marco Iannuzi (Special Teams), Jacques Chapdelaine (Offence) and Mike Benevides (Defence).
- Kudos to the Eskimos fans who donated over 109,000 pounds of food for the Purolator Tackle Hunger program, 5,000 more pounds than their Calgary rivals down the highway.
The Edmonton Eskimos are taking the 2011 CFL Season by storm. A perfect 4-0 record to start the season has everyone talking. Rookie Head Coach Kavis Reed has gotten the very best out of his players, and offensive coordinator Marcus Crandell has helped rejuvenate quarterback Ricky Ray’s career and taken him out of the dark days of Kevin Strasser. While we have only played four weeks in the season, and the Eskimos will eventually lose some games, it still proves one thing when it comes to the CFL, and that is, it’s an unpredictable field.
While Strasser is now off ruining an offence in Oregon City, coaching prep league, former CFL quarterback Marcus Crandell has taken the reigns and ran with them. For the first time since the 2008 season, Ricky Ray looks comfortable back in the pocket and it has showed in his play. Throughout the first four weeks of the season, Ray has thrown for 1,231 yards along with eight touchdowns and just a single interception. An interception he had not thrown until this past week in a 24-19 win over the Calgary Stampeders. It has been a great start to a season that Ray desperately needed to have to show that he is still worth every penny the Eskimos will pay him for.
The Eskimos play host to the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night, and while the Argos haven’t exactly impressed anybody in four weeks, it will provide a test for Ray and the Eskimos offence. In 11 previous meetings against the Argonauts, Ray has thrown for just over 2,700 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, and no multi-touchdown games.
While the Eskimos are the pinnacle team in the Canadian Football League right now, getting equally as much talk is the struggling BC Lions. The Lions are off to statistically their worst start to a season since 1996, although that could still be argued depending on how their next four games go. Last season the team started off the year with a record of 1-7 before winning their second game on Labour Day weekend.
In four weeks, Lions starting running back Jamal Robertson has seen the ball just 21 times on hand-offs out of the backfield. 14 of those 21 hand-offs came in the club’s last game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Robertson accounted for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 39-31 loss to the Tiger-Cats. It’s almost as if running the ball actually worked. But, how could that be possible after only giving a player seven carries in the first three games of the season? Ponder that one.
Other than their Week 3 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos where they scored just 17 points, the BC Lions have had no issues in putting up points on the board. They have scored the third most points in the CFL throughout the first four weeks, trailing the division leading Edmonton Eskimos, as well as the Montreal Alouettes. The issue of course lies in points allowed, where the Lions have given up 136 of them. Still not enough for the top spot in that category however, as the Roughriders have allowed 138 points. But, they have a win. The Lions do not. So, what exactly is the remedy for a BC Lions win in 2011?
Perhaps it’s the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Buck Pierce is coming off quite possibly his very best game as a CFL quarterback after coming from behind to beat the Toronto Argonauts 33-24 last week. Outside of that game, the Bombers have shown no flashes of being a force on offence. However, when you watch the Bombers play, there is something to be concerned about, and that is their outstanding pass rush. While the Lions have had no real issues in protecting Travis Lulay, having allowed just five sacks so far in 2011, they will have to be on their toes on Thursday in Winnipeg. The Bombers possess the league’s leading sack master in Odell Willis, and throughout the first four weeks he is on pace to break an all-time record with 27 sacks.
To grab their first win of the season, the Lions will need to disrupt Buck Pierce early and often and force him into making mistakes and not letting him get into a groove. This game will have some extra emotion in it, after Blue Bombers defensive line and assistant head coach Richard Harris passed away earlier in the week after being rushed to hospital. Harris spent time with the BC Lions as well, holding the team’s defensive line coaching position for four seasons, and coaching under Wally Buono for his final two years with the Lions in 2003 and 2004.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are finally into the win column in 2011. After upsetting the Montreal Alouettes on the road in Week 4, the Riders appear to have kicked off their 2011 season. And just in time too. The Riders now have two games at home against the Calgary Stampeders, with a road game splitting up the two meetings in Vancouver next Friday against the Lions. The good news about being 1-3 for the Riders is that only one of those losses came against a West Division team. That being a loss to the Edmonton Eskimos back in the first week of the season.
Through three games, it was drop back and pass mode for Ricky Ray, Anthony Calvillo and Kevin Glenn, as the three quarterbacks tore up the Riders defence with ease. Finally something changed in the gameplan of defensive coordinator Richie Hall, and they were able to pressure Calvillo into some early bad throws. So much so, that they even knocked the 18 year pivot out of the game, forcing back-up Adrian McPherson to come in for the remainder of the game. While injuries are not fun to see happen, it was a breath of fresh air for the Riders defence to be able to put the heat on a quarterback.
Much like the genius plan for Jamal Robertson to finally see the ball more than three times in a game, it was Darian Durant who kept the Riders offence going at times by using his legs to run the ball. Something that had been a rare feat throughout the first three games played. After rushing for just 40 yards in three weeks, Durant took off seven times in the game, accounting for 71 yards along the way. Again, like Chapdelaine in BC, we aren’t exactly sure what light clicked on in Doug Berry’s head that made it a priority to get Durant moving around. In two years as the team’s starter, Durant ran the ball 140 times for 1,119 yards.
This week, the Riders welcome the bitter rival. Henry Burris and the Calgary Stampeders are in town, and whenever these two teams get together for a game, everyone gets fired up. They have played in the past two West Division Final games, with the Riders being the victors in both games, and the Stamps know that in order to get back to the Grey Cup, they are going to have to shed the demon that has been the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Stamps come into this game struggling on all accounts offensively. Henry Burris has looked off and nowhere near the form that made him the 2010 CFL’s Most Outstanding Player. Running back Joffrey Reynolds has seen the ball just 35 times, which is the second fewest carries for a starting running back, next to the Lions Jamal Robertson. Reynolds has already been vocal about wanting to get the ball more, and infact did this past week against the Eskimos. One more carry than the previous game, a 21-20 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Hey, one is more, right? After carrying the ball 12 times in the opening week loss to the Toronto Argonauts, Reynolds has not had double digits in carries since. He has also not recorded over 50 yards on the ground since that game. It has instead been back-up running back Jon Cornish who has made the early season plays out of the backfield. Cornish has one rushing touchdown to go with two receiving touchdowns, including a highlight reel play against the Eskimos where he avoided tacklers and dove to reach across the goal line for the touchdown.
The Stamps and Riders wrap up Week 5 on Saturday night in Regina.
Follow Tyler Bieber on Twitter @CFLDaily for a wide range of CFL related news.
Travis Lulay and the BC Lions offence couldn’t get on track against the Eskimos
Photo Credit: Canadian Press / Ian Jackson
There is an old saying that says “The defence rests”. Saturday afternoon in Edmonton the Lions defence never got that chance as the Lions fell to the 3-0 Edmonton Eskimos by a score of 33-17.
An inept offence kept the defence on the field for most of the game and it was too much to ask against an Edmonton offence firing on all cylinders to start the season. With the win the Eskimos sit alone at the top of the CFL West division while the Lions are sharing the basement with the equally hurting Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Eskimos set the tone for the game early, methodically marching down the field and in the process using up half the first quarter on a drive that saw Ricky Ray go 7-8. Edmonton failed get a major but opened the scoring on a 20 yard Damon Duval field goal.
The Lions proceeded to go two and out on their first possession, and that would be the story of the first half. With the Lions defence settling down after that first drive they gave the offence the chance to get going by keeping the score close. But fatigue would soon set in.
Last week’s game saw Lulay the victim of drops by his receivers. But on this night he saw his passes bouncing off the turf or thrown over his targets head. The running game was once again not utilized, and the Eskimos defence barely saw the field.
Even when the defence appeared to make a stop, there were penalties that kept drives alive. An Eric Taylor offside penalty kept saw the Eskimos take advantage on the next two plays, with a 17 yard pass to Jason Barnes and then 42 yard pass and run to Fred Stamps for the game’s first touchdown. The Eskimos led 10-0 with the Lions only touching the ball four times.
The Eskimos would add a single on the ensuing kickoff after Tim Brown bobbled the ball in the end zone and the Lions ineptitude on offense continued as two more passes went incomplete with Lulay still looking shaky. Lulay was 1 for 6 for 7 yards in the opening frame.
When the 2nd quarter began, the Lions defence was again trying to do their part, forcing the Eskimos to punt on their first possession of the 2nd quarter. But the offense continued to sputter and after another two and out Edmonton blocked a Paul McCallum punt and things started going from bad to worse for the Lions.
With the Eskimos scrimmaging at the Lions 35, Ray drove the Esks into field goal position and Duval extended the lead to 14-0. The Lions looked to build on their 7 yards of offence but an end around to Shawn Gore went nowhere and Lulay couldn’t connect on a 2nd and 5 forcing the Lions to punt once again. McCallum pinned the Eskimos deep and the Lions defence who had practically been on the field for the whole game were able to get a stop and the Lions had great field position to start at the Eskimo’s 45 after the punt. Lulay completes a 7 yard pass to Geroy Simon but the Lions couldn’t convert on 2nd and 3 after Jamall Robertson was stuffed. BC sent out Paul McCallum to try a 45 yard field goal and he connected to get the Lions on the board, making the score 14-3 with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
The fatigue of being on the field for the whole half started to show on the Lions defence. Marcus Henry caught a pass in front of Dante Marsh for a nice gain, before Adarious Bowman went on a 46 yard romp after a missed tackle by David Hyland. The Eskimos punched it into the end zone on the next play with a Ricky Ray pass to Daniel Porter and it was 21-3 Eskimos.
The Lions got their first 1st down of the half with just over 2:00 minutes remaining. The set of plays saw a big completion to Geroy Simon of 38 yards as the Lions looked to get some points before the half. They accomplished that when Lulay found Simon in the end zone with 1:34 remaining and the Lions were amazingly only down by 11.
But with just over a minute left Ray wasn’t satisfied and marched the Eskimos into Lions territory. Once again sloppy tackling was a key by a tired defence. To make matters worse, nose tackle Eric Taylor had to leave with a leg injury and the Lions didn’t have a backup leaving the defensive line thin. The Eskimo drive stalled and a 44 yard Duval field goal sailed wide for a single, making the score 22-10 at the half.
The Lions received to start the 3rd quarter and scrimmaged from inside their 25. A two yard toss to Andrew Harris and a 2nd down conversion to Akeem Foster saw things start more promising for BC. The drive continued with completions to Dobson Collins and Kamau Peterson but stalled on the next two plays, forcing the Lions to punt.
The Eskimos first possession of the 2nd half started at their own 21. Daniel Porter ran for 8 yards to start the drive but the Lions stuffed him in the backfield on 2nd down and the Eskimos had to give the ball back. A great return by Andrew Harris on the punt was nullified by a Rolly Lumbala holding call however and the Lions scrimmaged from their 35 but failed to generate anything more than a first down.
On the next drive Ray scampered for 27 yards. The Lions had the Eskimos facing third and five, but Edmonton caught the Lions sleeping on a fake punt and direct snap to Mathieu Betrand to extend the drive. The move paid off for the Eskimos as even though the drive was stopped again it got them into field goal range. Luckily for the Lions Duval pushed it wide again for another single, extending the lead to 23-10.
The defence had kept the score within a couple of touchdowns and on the Lions next drive they decided to start using Jamall Roberston and it started to pay off. But then the wheels came off as Lulay threw a pass to the sideline that was jumped on by TJ Hill. Lulay did save a touchdown on the play by hustling back to make the tackle on Hill, but the Eskimos were threatening again. After a too many men in the huddle penalty on the Eskimos, Ray ran for a first down then found Jason Barnes to set the Eskimos up first and goal at the five. They only needed one play from Daniel Porter to punch it in, and the Lulay interception proved a costly one, extending the Eskimos lead to 30-10.
That seemed to suck the life out of any momentum the Lions had and the Eskimos added a field goal before Akeem Foster scored a late touchdown to make the final 33-17.
- Geroy Simon was one of the lone bright spots on offence for the Lions and surpassed the 14,000 yard mark for his career with a catch in the 4th quarter.
- The Lions rushed the ball just 8 times for 56 yards.
- Ricky Ray has yet to throw an interception in 3 games this season, and was 24 of 33 for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- The Lions next game is Friday July 22nd at 7:00pm against the Hamilton Tiger Cats at Empire Field.
I thought it might be time for some random thoughts after the first two weeks of the CFL season. There have certainly been some surprises to start the year and some events that leave you shaking your head. Feel free to comment below and leave us your musings on the season so far.
The BC Lions 0-2 start is a mild surprise. Not overly shocking considering they played two of the league’s expected contenders to start the year. Both losses were by a close score, although one could argue the Montreal loss result was the Alouettes easing off a bit in the 2nd half. So now once again the Lions find themselves in the hole to start the season and next up is the red hot Edmonton Eskimos. Even the most die hard Eskimos fan can’t say they saw their 2-0 start coming. Granted the Eskimo wins have come against two other struggling teams in Saskatchewan and Hamilton, but they are winning in impressive fashion with a combination of a lethal passing attack and most recently the strong running of former Lion Jerome Messam who will undoubtedly have something to prove when he suits up Saturday.
Speaking of the running game, as anyone seen the BC’s? They seem to have abandoned that part of their game. In game one you could argue that because they got down by 17 so quick they had to go to the air, but in game two the same lack of ground attack existed and when it did it was stuffed. If the Lions are to have success this year they will have to find more balance to their offence or it will be extremely one dimensional.
Things are not all gloomy however. The Lions seem to have found a solid replacement for Yonus Davis in Tim Brown. Brown has all the speed and shifty moves of his predecessor and has some wondering whether he should be getting a bigger role in the offence. It’s never been Buono’s style to use his returner regularly in the offence but Brown will and should be featured in a few packages before the season is done.
Travis Lulay has come as advertised, and if not for several dropped passes against the Stamps would have put up massive numbers after two games. The Montana State quarterback has settled in nicely to the starting role and with more support from his receivers should be just fine.
One of those receivers is Shawn Gore. Gore had a few drops against the Stamps but also had several nice catches as well finishing the game with 96 yards. There is no denying Gore has the talent and desire to star in this league and he seems to be taking advantage of a star tutor in Geroy Simon who told the Province’s Lowell Ullrich, “He’s determined to be a good football player and he definitely has the toughness.”
The Province newspaper is in my opinion the best Lions coverage in the city, bar none. The sports department there is very good at what they do and there is no better football writer in the country right now in my opinion than Lowell Ullrich. So when I saw this cartoon posted by their editorial cartoonist Bob Krieger I was pretty disappointed.
Yes, I get that the intent was to say even an injured player could play running back for the Lions since they never call a running play anyway, but considering that the Lions’ Stanley Franks is facing an injury that may end his career, it was pretty inconsiderate. I was going to blog more on this but the very competent Andrew Bucholtz at Yahoo.ca said everything perfectly in this piece. The cartoon drew the wrath of Franks’ teammate Dante Marsh who told me that at this point he and his teammates are just praying for a full recovery for Franks. Let me add those prayers and best wishes on behalf of BCLionsDen.ca.
If there is comfort to be found with the Lions slow start, it’s the fact that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are also winless after two games. The Lions have been here in the past starting 1-7 last year and clawing back to make the playoffs. The Riders lost both games at home and the natives are restless in Regina. They face Hamilton on the road this week and of they go 0-3 there could be a lot of manure on driveways pretty quick. After this week the Riders face Montreal, Calgary, BC and Calgary again in the next four games.
What can you say about the amazing Anthony Calvillo? The Montreal quarterback is quickly approaching greatest of all-time status, if he isn’t there already. This week, barring a defensive miracle, Calvillo will become the CFL’s all-time leader in touchdowns thrown, surpassing Damon Allen. In his first two games of the year Calvillo has completed 51 of 73 passes for a 69.9 completion percentage a QB rating of 132.9 and has thrown 8 touchdown passes, including five last week against the Riders. Before Calvillo is done he will be the greatest of all-time statistically but fans of the CFL should really savour watching this guy play the game now.
BCLionsDen.ca is thrilled to welcome Tyler Bieber to our group of bloggers. Tyler is a really bright football fan who is a mastermind with stats in addition to possessing a great passion and knowledge of the game. Tyler will be writing a column for the site entitled Eye On The West and after as wild week one to kick off the 2011 CFL season,we present his first contribution
It was an opening week unlike any other in the CFL’s West Division. The Edmonton Eskimos were the only team to come up with a win in the opening week, as they beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders in dominating fashion, 42-28. It was the first time since the 2004 season that so few teams in the West won a Week 1 game. Infact, in that 2004 season, none of the West Division teams won a game in the first week.
They proved to be the storm after the storm. After a slight delay due to a prairie hailstorm, Eskimos Head Coach Kavis Reed said it best when TSN showed his pre-game speech. “No one will see you coming”, said Reed to his team just before kickoff. Certainly none of the 30,000 fans at Mosaic Stadium dawning the green and white could have envisioned a worse start for their Roughriders. Following a two and out on their first possession, the Eskimos rattled off five straight scoring drives, adding three touchdowns and two field goals. They lead 27-10 late in the first half, before Darian Durant found a rhythm with his offence and brought it within seven points at the half.
That was as close as the Riders would get, as the Eskimos outscored them 15-7 in the second half. Eskimos receiver Jason Barnes had two touchdown receptions on his first two catches in the first quarter to really stun the Riders. Ricky Ray had three touchdown passes, and never had to feel overly pressured, thanks in part to his offensive line. The Eskimos allowed just one sack from Riders LB Barrin Simpson, and despite about eight hits in total on Ray, the veteran pivot never batted an eye on the way to the big win.
The Riders were without Chris McKenzie at the halfback position, and Tad Kornegay at the cornerback position, and it showed. John Eubanks replaced McKenzie, and on two occasions was not even close to covering his man for two Edmonton touchdowns. Quarterback Darian Durant was at one point 15/16 passing with a touchdown, but ended up going 12/21 thereafter, with two interceptions. It wasn’t exactly the start that new head coach Greg Marshall had envisioned, and it does not get any easier for the club, as they host the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday. The Eskimos will play in their home opener in Week 2, hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on the second half of a Saturday doubleheader.
The BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes played the first of their season opening/ending series on Thursday, kicking off the 2011 season. It seemed that the Lions played this game as if it was the entire 2010 season combined in one game. A slow start, a bruising start, they then found some momentum, and nearly got a win. The Lions got down quickly, 24-3, and managed to get it to 27-10 at the half. After some key halftime adjustments, the team outscored the Alouettes 16-3 in the second half, coming up one drive short of stealing a win in Montreal, losing 30-26.
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay threw 45 passes in the game, completing 26 of them. They had no time to establish a ground game, as after getting down at the half, Lions running back Jamal Robertson finished with just one carry for 12 yards. Defensive end Keron Williams had a strong game, despite only recording three tackles in the game, he was constantly after Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo, accounting for three QB hurries in the game. Hurries are defined as pressuring a quarterback to throw a ball too early, forcing him out of the pocket, or drawing a holding penalty.
When you play the BC Lions, you get the oldest receiver in the game, Geroy Simon. Still one of the top ten receivers in the game, Simon passed the retired Terry Vaughn for fourth place on the all-time receiving yards list with his first reception on Thursday. Simon will chase down Darren Flutie (3rd), Allen Pitts (2nd) and finally Milt Stegall for the all-time record. Simon entered the season just over 1400 yards away from passing Stegall, so it is unlikely that he will make the record in 2011, however if he has games like Week One, where he had 115 yards, he just may do it.
The Calgary Stampeders had Canada Day fireworks. Just… they never came out. The Stamps sat and waited until the fourth quarter to get their offence going, and while they did end up taking the lead late in the game, it was too little too late. After getting down 17-6 on a two yard run by Toronto Argonauts running back Cory Boyd, the Stamps fired off a quick 10 play, 76 yard drive to get the game within three points. After an Argos two and out, the Stamps got the ball back with tremendous field position, and capitalized once again, with a 5 play, 50 yard drive and a 21-17 lead with 4:39 left in the game.
Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon battled back on the next drive, getting the team in field goal range, and Noel Prefontaine made it 21-20 with 2:21 to go. The ball back in the hands of Henry Burris for the Stamps, the team went two and out after Argos LB Jordan Younger stopped receiver Arjei Franklin short of a first down. An 8-yard punt return from Byron Parker, followed by 7 play, 38 yard drive by Cleo Lemon set up a chance for Prefontaine from 43 yards. The Argos veteran kicker split the uprights, and that was that for the Stamps. A shocking week one loss at the hands of the Toronto Argonauts, a team that had not won at McMahon Stadium since Canada Day 2005.
You could argue between the Eskimos big win, the Riders big loss, the Stamps stunning loss, and the Lions slow first half which the most shocking performance was in the West, but at the end of the day, just one team sits with a win on the board, and that is the Edmonton Eskimos. It’s only one week, but it’s always good to know that you’re in control, and yes, while the Eskimos will likely have that lead last only a couple of weeks, their win still showed us that in the CFL, anything can happen.
In Week two, the BC Lions have their home opener against the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night, and you can already do the math for yourself. Both teams lost in week one, and so this will be a battle between two teams trying to avoid a 0-2 start to the season. The Saskatchewan Roughriders will host the defending Champion Montreal Alouettes, in a sure test for the green and white. Like either the Stamps or Lions, they could be in danger of a 0-2 start as well. The Eskimos will close out the week hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in what should be an interesting clash. Both teams performed the opposite of how most thought they would in the opening week. The Tiger-Cats were brutal in a home loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the Eskimos were brilliant in a road win at Saskatchewan.
Each week, I will pick out the top West Division players of the week for Offence, Defence, Canadian, and Special Teams. In Week 1, the top offensive player was Eskimos receiver Jason Barnes. Barnes scored touchdowns on his first two receptions of the game, on the way to a 5 catch, 104 yard performance and the two touchdowns. Defensively, it was Eskimos linebacker Rod Davis who had a sack on the Riders first play of the game, and had four tackles and a forced fumble to boot. Davis terrorized Riders QB Darian Durant, hitting the pivot twice, and adding two hurries. The Top Canadian for week one is a kicker, and that is Lions kicker/punter Paul McCallum. McCallum had four field goals in a loss against Montreal, and had a 44.2 yard punt average with a long of 56 yards. Staying with the Lions, kick returner Tim Brown is the special teams player of the week, with 182 kick and punt return yards, including a 97 yard touchdown.
The BC Lions announced today they have traded running back Jerome Messam to the Edmonton Eskimos in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2013 draft.
Messam was suspended by the Lions last week for undisclosed reasons and reports indicated it was a joint decision between management and his fellow teammates, suggesting he had become a distraction in the dressing room.
In 2010 Messam was invloved in altercation at an Ontario nightclub and plead guilty earlier this year. He received a suspended sentence and a $250 fine. Messam was also involved in a locker-room altercation that resulted in teammate Paris Jackson receiving a cracked jaw last season.