The BC Lions punched their ticket to the 2014 CFL playoffs for the 18th straight season, but made it tougher on themselves they needed to. Here’s how I saw the game, From the Couch.
They All Count
A win is a win and the Lions did reach down to beat the Bombers so you have to give them credit. But it should be noted that there is lots of work to do for the Lions in the next two weeks.
There appeared to be a lot of bye week rust with the Lions, who faltered early mainly due to a parade of penalties. Unnecessary roughness calls, offsides, time counts, illegal blocks, you name it the Lions probably got called for it and that simply can’t continue heading into the playoffs against teams that will make you pay for it.
But the coaches weren’t immune either. There were some time management issues, mainly some poor clock management to end the first half that resulted in a field goal instead of a possible touchdown.
I know, I know, quit being so negative…but these things are fixable, and as we said a win is a win.
As was the case against Ottawa the Lions once again got a big game from Ernest Jackson who racked up 149 yards of receiving. Jackson is a great story, often being the odd man out of the lineup when the Lions were healthy. To think back to the catch he made in Calgary and the last two games he’s played and right now I don’t think he’s in that position anymore.
Keola Antolin also had another strong showing on the ground grinding out 84 hard earned yards on the night and adding a touchdown.
And on special teams Marco Iannuzzi probably had his best game of the season as he gave the Lions solid field position most of the night. He had a 92-yard return for a TD called back by a couple of the aforementioned penalties as well. Someone owes him a dinner.
After Kevin Glenn went down in the fourth quarter, John Beck came in to throw two touchdown passes and even the often not noticed Kito Poblah chipped in with a 55 yard catch and run touchdown that proved to be the winning points the Lions needed.
The Lions defensive touchdown shutout streak ended at 54 possessions, but the defence unleashed a sack attack that Lions fans haven’t seen this season, racking up 10 on the night. Khreem Smith who had four of those sacks was a one-man wrecking crew in the fourth quarter to lead the way for the defensive line.
The Lions seem to have found a good one in national David Menard as well, who had two sacks on the night. One of them was a prime example of his fight and determination as he fought off a hold at the line to follow up and sack Drew Willy. Along with Jabar Westerman, his starting status gives the Lions the luxury of starting that extra import on the offensive line, or at receiver and that’s been the difference maker in their last two games.
After a four-tackle performance, Solomon Elimimian is six away from the CFL tackle record of Edmonton’s JC Sherritt. The Lions most outstanding player this season also added a fumble recovery and a sack.
Everyone’s favourite whipping boy JR Larose also deserves to be mentioned. He had some bone jarring hits in this one and added the final sack of the night on the last play of the game. LaRose always seems to be the target when things go wrong for the Lions. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes he’s just the guy everyone likes to point at. Regardless, he had a solid game against the Bombers, and he also deserves his recent Tom Pate Award nomination as well. There are few if any CFL players in the league that do more in the community than LaRose.
The Lions defence did have some issues dealing with the small and shifty Paris Cotton. Strangely though the Bombers got away from him in the fourth quarter and Willy, who was running for his life most of the second half, got himself in trouble with two interceptions. One was to Cord Parks, the other to Ryan Phillips, the 40th of his career.
With the Lions clinching that of course means the Bombers are done. There were some solid strides made in Winnipeg this season, and I don’t think many thought the Bombers would cave the way they did. Mike O’Shea is a good coach, and there seems to be some good football people in place. Willy got beat up this season, and the Bombers will have to address that and their poor run defence this off-season.
Onto the Playoffs
The Lions still have an outside shot at a home playoff game and a chance to catch Edmonton. They have to beat the Eskimos by eight points, then have Edmonton lose while they must beat Calgary in the final week. One more Lions win I believe would also make Saskatchewan the crossover team, as they have just one game left and lose in any potential tie situation with the Lions.
What were your thoughts on the game? Are the Lions poised to make a run in this year’s playoffs? As always your comments are welcome. We’ll have more on this week’s Pawdcast, and you chat Lions with me @BCLionsDen on Twitter.