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.
Don’t worry Hamiltonians, 0-2 is no big thing, really.
Friday’s game was entertaining but BC certainly didn’t make things easy on themselves. That said, all facets of the game contributed to the win in some way. Here was my view, from the stands.
Once again the offence was hot and cold, although credit has to go to the Ticats as well who have a pretty strong and aggressive defence.
Travis Lulay was 17-31 for 178 yards and two touchdowns and that seems to match his performance for the night. He seemed to be just a touch off on his deep throws all night long. He did manage the game well and in particular the last drive of the game (with a huge assist to Andrew Harris).
Harris had a big night and while most of it came on two carries, the Canadian running back rose to the occasion, sealing the win fourth quarter and finishing the night with 140 yards on 13 carries.
A nod has to go to the offensive line as well for opening the holes for Harris and surrendering zero sacks on the night.
In the first half the Lions defence had Henry Burris off his game. Following an Anthony Reddick interception to set up a Lions score, Burris was pulled to think about things by his head coach, George Cortez, but Quinton Porter was just as ineffective. When Burris returned to start the third quarter, the veteran showed his poise in the pocket and used it to find open receivers, particularly on two fourth quarter drives.
The pass defence gave up 359 yards on the night, and they will want to shore things up as they head into Regina next weekend to face Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf, Rob Bagg and company.
The front four were effective again albeit more so in the first half, but they did rack up four sacks and several hurries on the night. I thought Adam Bighill continued to show well at linebacker, and Anton McKenzie had another strong game.
Cover teams continue to struggle and it has to be a concern for the club. Yes it’s still early but this is a problem that has plagued the Lions for the better part of two seasons now. Where cover teams faltered Tim Brown and the return teams excelled. Brown was quick to acknowledge his blockers post game and his 296 combined kick/punt return yards easily made him the player of the game for the Lions.
Odds and ends
The purpose of my gig here is to relay the view of the game as a fan. That includes the fan experience, which I am happy to say was more comfortable with the roof open tonight.
Chris Palliser, on field announcer for the Lions teamed up with Crazy P to try and revive the historic BC chant. They almost got it going too. If they stick with it and maybe get the scoreboard involved, we should be hearing it more prominently in future games.
There were just 25,109 in attendance at the game. You have to think the first sunshine of summer had some people heading to the beach, camp grounds and patios. Still, I’m disappointed in the Vancouver sports fan. This is a really good football team who just won a championship for this city. Where is the support outside of the 25,000 diehards that are attending? Hamilton is traditionally a smaller draw, but let’s hope that when Edmonton comes to town this team gets a crowd it deserves.
BC Place; Can we please get some beverage service in the seats? Section 243 saw no water, pop, lemonade, or heaven forbid a beer vendor all game long. Thanks.
Tweets of the night
@winktweets: Hamilton, you might have more success if your coach didn’t spend the whole game sniffing a felt pen #tameTicats #Ticats
@RayRay2233 @You want a statement? Get the ball in @andrewharris33 hands #tameTicats #Lions
@RayRay2233 There’s NO such thing as an ugly win. It’s a W plain and simple, 2-0 @BCLions You win, you learn, you move on to Saskatchewan. #tameTicats
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.