Sports are full of examples of teams that have had that defining moment where the switch went on. Whether the BC Lions had that moment in a convincing 40-13 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats remains to be seen, but if this team get on a roll and makes the playoffs, you can certainly consider it one.
At the beginning of the year, we had former BC Lions offensive lineman Angus Reid on the Pawdcast who told us that he saw the BC Lions starting out slowly and getting better as the season went on. With 22 new faces and the youngest team in the league, it wasn’t hard to agree.
Over the past few weeks, the Lions have played some good football. A Winnipeg loss, combined with the Lions win on the weekend has put the Lions back in control of their own destiny. A win next week in Toronto would eliminate the Bombers, a Montreal loss combined with that win would see the Lions join the playoff dance for the 19th straight season.
So there is work to be done, but in the spirit of looking at the positives, let’s take a look at some reasons the Lions will make the playoffs.
Cue the coronation, the Lions have found themselves a new quarterback. The poise and confidence that Jonathan Jennings displays at just 23 years old is impressive and has revived the Lions offence. As he continues to grow and get more experience, it should continue to improve not only in the passing game but in opening things up for Andrew Harris.
The Lions offence is no longer one dimensional, and Jennings has his receivers making plays for them by simply trusting in them to do so and getting the ball to them quickly and accurately. The resurgence of Manny Arceneaux and the contributions from Bryan Burnham, Lavelle Hawkins and Shawn Gore over the past few weeks have been key.
Jennings is going to make the odd rookie mistake, but the good far outweighs the bad and for the Lions and their fan base there is a lot to get excited about.
The Lions defence was scorched by opposing defences early and often in 2015. It’s no coincidence that with more success on the offensive side of the ball, the defence has improved as well. In too many games this season they were on the field way too long.
The secondary is starting to gel under the leadership of Ryan Phillips as well as the strong showings of players like TJ Lee and Ronnie Yell who is starting to look more and more like long time Lion Dante Marsh every game.
The defensive line has found its groove led by newcomers Mic’hael Brooks, Zac Minter and Craig Roh. The Lions are rotating players in throughout the game and national David Menard continues to impress, while the Lions have moved up the sack total ladder in recent weeks, boding well for the team down the stretch.
Some of you may disagree with this, but I think Jeff Tedford is on track to getting this team playing the way he wants them to play. There have been plenty of examples to dispute this theory, but in the end hindsight is 20/20 in the coaching profession.
But consider the fact that Tedford has been able to keep this team together through some very tough losses. There has been no finger pointing, no visible discord in the locker room and Friday’s performance against the Ticats showed that the players are behind their coaches.
Just as the start of the year was a learning curve for the new players, it was also the same for their new coach. The offence has become more aggressive under Jennings, and Tedford was brought in with the reputation of being a fast tempo, aggressive offensive coach. We’re now starting to see that as Jennings is able to go down field.
The Lions best chance to qualify for the post season is this week. The win against Hamilton was key, especially since the Alouettes won. Montreal now travels to Edmonton where the Eskimos are looking to clinch the CFL West and will be amped to do so at Commonwealth Stadium. The Lions travel to Toronto to take on an Argonauts team that is coming off back to back losses, but will be playing just their 4th game of the year at home and will have Ricky Ray at quarterback. If the Lions win and Edmonton wins, the Lions are in.
The Lions made their own bed, but they still have a chance to make it to the dance. Ryan Phillips told his teammates after last week’s game that he’s never missed the playoffs in his career, and he doesn’t plan to start now.
If they do get in, you would think both Calgary and Edmonton, teams they played tough this season will be in for a tough fight in the Western Semi. The Lions are starting to roar, whether they get to eat or not, will be decided in the next two weeks.