With the perfect conditions of BC Place Stadium as the backdrop, we were treated to a much better game than our Edmonton friends were a week ago in monsoon-like conditions at Commonwealth. Fortunately for BC Lions fans, the end result was the same as the Lions beat the Eskimos and in the process locked up the season series between the teams.
Here is how I saw things, from the stands.
I thought the Eskimos would come to play, and I feel they lived up to that in a hard-fought first half that saw both teams have some success and make some mistakes. I thought Mike Reilly had a pretty good game and when he got decent protection from his offensive line, made some things happen.
Fred Stamps was a non-factor until late in the game, and if he’s not a focal point of the offence the Eskimos will struggle. Combine that fact with the Lions holding Hugh Charles to 50 yards on 11 carries and the experienced Lions were simply too much for the rebuilding Eskimos in the second half.
There was lots of talk about Reilly and a possible QB controversy in Edmonton after Jonathan Crompton led the Eskimos on an efficient late drive for touchdown, but I hope they give Mike more time. I think he’s a great character guy, and he’s played two games in horrid conditions with a young inexperienced team. The Eskimos have some nice pieces and I hope Mike gets a chance to develop with them.
The Lions started the game moving the ball pretty well, but with an interception and a couple of stalled drives could only manage to head to the room tied at the half. Once again, their adjustments at halftime paid immediate dividends as the Lions built a 24-10 lead.
Andrew Harris found the end zone three times and I was so impressed with his patience to hit holes throughout the night. Harris is emerging as a true leader on this team and as he goes, so go the Lions. We saw what happened when he was eliminated by the Stampeders in week one, so it’s great to see Harris being so involved and successful in the game plan.
A huge part that success has been the play of the offensive line of which heading into the season the Lions had questions, starting two young players and the 34-year-old Patrick Kabongo. Matt Norman is settling in nicely at centre, while Kirby Fabien has been very impressive in his first four pro games. Kabongo has rejuvenated his career and has been solid, meaning all three of these question marks to start the year have worked out pretty well for the Lions.
What can you say about Emmanuel Arceneaux? His 77 yard touchdown was a thing of beauty, evading a tackle and walking a tight rope to stay in bounds. His speed and size are so much to deal with for any DB that has to cover him. He’s third in the league in receiving and is averaging 26 yards per catch. With these young receivers and a dominant Harris, this Lions offence is only scratching the surface of what it could become this season.
On the last BCLionsDen.ca Pawdcast I talked about how I felt Khreem Smith was under-appreciated a little when people discussed the defensive line. He had a few sacks slip out of his hands last week in Edmonton but racked up two Saturday. He continually gets huge push from the line of scrimmage and creates pressure that often results in someone else getting a sack. It awesome to see him have an outstanding game and pick up two sacks in the process.
Dante Marsh led the team with eight tackles, including the 500th of his career, all with the Lions of course. He also got the award for hit of the night when he rocked Fred Stamps in the fourth quarter and on a night when the Lions were celebrating Wall of Fame inductions, you have to think Marsh will be finding his way to that wall someday, if not the ring of honour.
With 10 days off there is a good chance that the Lions will have Adam Bighill back when they take on the Argos, and for defence finding its groove again that’s a scary prospect for opposing teams.
On special teams, I liked the running of Tim Brown when he had time to do anything. Return blocking still seems to be an issue, and it didn’t help that 15 yard no yards calls were inexplicably being missed by the officials.
I was a little surprised to see Paul McCallum doing all the kicking, besides kickoffs, as word was there would be some sort of split duty between himself and Hugh O’Neill. McCallum performed well in his return and it will be interesting to see how things are handled as we move forward.
Wall of Fame
It was a great ceremony at halftime to induct Damon Allen and Don Matthews into the BC Lions Wall of Fame. I was glad to see Matthews in attendance because I wasn’t sure if he would be there due to his health issues. He provided my favourite part of the ceremony when he told Lions fans in attendance about how the stadium used to be filled with 50,000 fans and how it used to be the loudest stadium in the league. He then gave them the order to, “Make it happen again.” Well said coach, well said.
Once again it was a beautiful night to have the roof open. The crowd of 26,623 was better than the opener, but it’s obvious that summer in Vancouver is a tough time to draw the casual fan. I know we will see larger and louder crowds as we go past Labour Day.
The offensive wave tried to get going, but it looks like some sections are getting the message as there were enough in the know to not let it come around the corner of the end zones. A quick look at the family section showed that it’s a popular idea and perhaps the Lions should look at expanding it if the demand is there.
Those are my thoughts from the stands, what were yours? Leave a comment or get me on Twitter, @BCLionsDen.