Our post-game report as first published in The Fifth Quarter on The Province.com
Usually for a road game this blog is entitled From the Couch, but seeing how I was in Calgary to witness the carnage that was the Lions opening game of 2013, the title fits.
First of all let me say I was truly impressed with the resolve and the feeling of pride the city of Calgary displayed amidst the worst tragedy to hit in the history of their city. One of the best things about going to a game in Calgary, is a pastime near and dear to my heart, tailgating. I was invited to several parties around the lot through various friends I have met through my CFL travels. Ray Greenland, a 20 plus year tailgater, rolled out the red carpet for us, while Brock Shepard and the members of Nik Lewis Nation welcomed us with open arms and put on a spread fit for royalty, despite being displaced from his home because of the floods. To me this is what the CFL is all about, and I was only too happy to donate to the relief efforts there after seeing the resolve of these people and their city.
As for the game itself, it was a tremendous letdown from a Lions fans point of view. The first half was one of the worst I’ve witnessed by any BC Lions team, while the Stampeders were ready to play and get a win for their devastated city. Here is how I saw it, from the stands.
The Lions had no answer for Jon Cornish who did what he wanted, when he wanted. There were far too many runs where he was 10 yards downfield before being touched by a Lions defender. The pass defending wasn’t much better, and finding themselves down 31-6 at half time, the mountain was too far to climb, despite a better effort in the second half.
Anton McKenzie struggled throughout the night and with Solomon Elimimian back at home nursing an injury it was the Jon Cornish show. The interior of the Lions defensive line was no match for the Calgary offensive line, and one was left to wonder if the Lions should have given Khalif Mitchell more time to work out his issues with the club.
Drew Tate looked confident and effective in the first half, connecting with receivers at will and once again, receivers were left open, especially on underneath and sideline routes.
Travis Lulay looked shaky and ineffective in the first half. There were still way too many miscommunications with receivers resulting in incompletions. There were multiple snap issues as well, letting everyone know that the loss of Angus Reid is going to be a troublesome one at least to start the season.
The Lions continue to struggle to find ways to get Andrew Harris involved in the game, and this is a serious issue. With no hint of anything resembling a successful running attack, and getting down big early, the Lions were forced to go to the air, and even screens to Harris were snuffed out quickly by the Stamps. This has to change, but with new pieces on the offensive line, this is also going to be a work in progress, unfortunately. The heat will be back on Jacques Chapdelaine quickly, if it isn’t already, to get this fixed. Near the end of the game, a frustrated Harris stood alone on the sidelines, and he has to be getting a little concerned about the lack of success the Lions are showing in his area of the game.
One bright spot was Manny Arceneaux who had a nice deep ball connection with Lulay for a touchdown, and looked as though he will be a force to be reckoned with once again in the CFL.
Tim Brown was the returner on the night. Not sure where Korey Williams was but it would have been nice to have him back there with Brown on kickoffs rather than Stu Foord. The Stamps coverage was outstanding on the night, and Brown had little to work with on almost every kick.
Hugh O’Neill landed himself on the all-time blooper reel, botching an extra point that he kicked before the ball was placed. His kickoffs were good and deep, but it’s clear that Paul McCallum will still have value to this team when he is healthy.
It’s only one game, but the Lions have plenty of things to fix. The Stampeders made a statement Friday night, and now it is up to the Lions to make one next week against the 1-0, Grey Cup Champion, Toronto Argonauts at BC Place stadium.
It’s hard to believe they could play any worse.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. Give me a tweet @BCLionsDen or comment below.
Edit: I wrote this blog after seeing the game live and without seeing a replay of the O’Neill point after attempt. It should be noted the hold was not perfect and O’Neill was not entirely to blame for the botched kick.