Originally posted on the Fifth Quarter Blog on the TheProvince.com
Having sat through last week’s game in Calgary live, I was really hoping for a rebound performance by the Lions in their home opener versus the Grey Cup champions from Toronto.
The Lions pretty much delivered on that hope with an inspired effort on defence and the play of their offensive line, both of which were missing in Calgary. Here’s how I saw it, from the stands.
On the last BCLionsDen.ca Pawdcast, I talked about how the Lions had to get Andrew Harris the ball more and establish the running game to have success on offence. The Lions did just that and Harris was a dominant force in the game, both on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield. With just five carries last week, Harris got the ball 15 times on Thursday and with a great effort by the offensive line helped open up the passing game well.
Nick Moore continues to shine, racking up a 100-yard game before the half. It’s clear that he and Travis Lulay have good chemistry and faith in one another. Manny Arceneaux is showing that his return to the CFL is going to be a productive one and seems to be a lot faster than I remember him being. Courtney Taylor continues to contribute, while Paris Jackson stepped in nicely for the concussed Shawn Gore.
Speaking of Gore, there should be a fine for that hit. Toronto’s Janzen Jackson launched himself head first into Gore, and even though it looked like he tried to turn, there was a huge collision to the head. These are the types of hits that football should be trying to get rid of.
The Lions young offensive linemen, Matt Norman and Kirby Fabien, really stepped up in the game. When I re-watched the game I really focused on those two for several plays, and they were just stellar. It’s no surprise to me that the game ball went to the o-line. I am so impressed with Norman’s collected demeanour on the field. I think he is going to be the prefect replacement for Angus Reid and could be the next great centre in BC for years to come.
Those fans (me included) that feel the offence of Jacques Chapdelaine is sometimes too predictable should have been inspired by some of the creativity shown by the Lions. The direct snap to Harris with Lulay calling out an audible was a beauty, despite it not having the desired result. It’s great to see some new tweaks being thrown into the game plan.
Of course red zone production was not quite up to standard and really this game should have been way more lopsided than the score showed.
Pick your poison.
Teams around the leagues must be a little worried about what they saw from the defence, particularly when Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill were both in the game. Both played with reckless abandon. Elimimian is so quick sideline to sideline and looked at home in the middle, with a solid nine-tackle performance. After Bighill went down, Anton McKenzie and Lin-J Shell stepped in with some solid work as well. Thankfully the Lions will have Bighill back sooner than most thought following the game.
The whole defence was just swarming the ball all night long. Two, three tacklers seemed to be in on the play consistently and it was a joy to watch after last week’s game. The Lions got good pressure on Ricky Ray and held the powerful Chad Kackert to just 20 yards on eight carries. Chad Owens racked up 111 yards through the air and was really the only Argo who posed a threat on the night.
The secondary was solid, with Dante Marsh showing on multiple occasions why he’s one of the best tacklers in the game and Cord Parks having another solid outing.
I was looking forward to the regular season debut of returner Korey Williams. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see him break one and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tim Brown back in the lineup against Edmonton. The Lions struggled with the return game in Calgary, and it wasn’t much better against Toronto, so it’s tough to say whether the root of the issue is the blocking or the returner.
Hugh O’Neill once again handled all the kicking duties and fared well, showing a good leg on kickoffs and punts. I think the Lions will be just fine when Paul McCallum is done. McCallum should be ready to go next week and it will be interesting to see what the lineup looks like and whether the Lions choose to activate him or keep the duties in the hands of O’Neill.
My worst fear about the first Thursday game in a long time in Vancouver came true and I was disappointed with the crowd of 25,255. Thursdays are tough sells in BC, with many coming from outside Greater Vancouver and from Vancouver Island. It was a beautiful night for football with the roof open and BC Place is now such a fantastic venue. Sure wish I had a dime for every person that said they didn’t go to Lions games because of the dome. Where are they now?
After two years of whining, I finally have in game stats to enjoy at the game. The Lions have included them on the ribbon board that goes around between the lower and upper bowls and they are a great addition.
The crowd itself was a quiet one I thought. There is still a lot of educating to do with football fans in Vancouver, who can’t seem to cheer when their supposed to (without being told) or be quiet when they’re supposed to. My solution would be more in game education from players and fans. I find the crowd reacts better to the defensive line coming on the video screen telling fans to get loud. There are all sorts of things you could to grow the culture here. The Lions need to explore these possibilities and build it into something, like the Seahawks have done in the NFL with their 12th man marketing.
Lastly, I hope all Lions and CFL fans take a moment to remember the late Bob Ackles this week. It was five years ago Saturday that we lost him.
What were your thoughts on the game? Leave me a comment or catch me on Twitter @BCLionsDen.