With last week’s game against the Alouettes setting off alarm bells amongst fans, the BC Lions returned to work Friday against a formidable Hamilton Tiger-Cats club and sent 30,564 fans home happy with a hard-fought 29-26 over their feline cousins. Here’s how I saw the game, from the stands.
We have to start here, because clearly the offence was the biggest concern coming out of last week’s loss. Travis Lulay threw for 359 yards and likely would have upwards of 500 had it not been for some dropped passes, most notably a deep strike to Manny Arceneaux that was dropped and would have resulted in six points. He also missed a wide open Courtney Taylor that might have gone for a touchdown as well. You can’t blame Jacques Chapdelaine for that, folks. In fact the Lions offensive coordinator moved Lulay around a lot against the Cats, rolling him outside the pocket more often.
It was nice to see Marco Iannuzzi have a strong game with Shawn Gore contributing once again as well. Gore had a pretty strong game in Montreal, and the Lions will need continued contributions from their Canadian receivers in the second half of the season. I still wonder however why Paris Jackson isn’t used in more situations than catching onside kicks.
Arceneaux made amends for his earlier drop with a beautiful catch and run that answered a Ticats touchdown. It looked like Arceneaux slow played a Ticats defender before changing gears and blowing past him on the sideline.
The Lions didn’t address all their problems however. The running game still needs improvement but that should improve if the Lions can continue to make strides in their passing game. Lulay was sacked just once on the evening behind much better protection from the offensive line. When Hamilton did blitz the Lions handled it much better and were able to neutralize it.
One thing the Lions will need to find is the killer instinct to put a game away. It would have likely been a moot point had the Lions capitalized on the missed chances I mentioned above, but they are letting teams hang around with penalties and mistakes, like Thomas DeMarco’s fumble on third and short.
The Lions had five sacks on the night and did get some pressure on Henry Burris, but the veteran Hamilton pivot was 29-36 on the night, and when he did get protection he fired lasers to open receivers. But for the most part the Lions defenders kept the ball in front of them, and didn’t really allow the big play to do any damage.
There should be concern about last-minute drives in back to back games, but for an offence like Hamilton’s who had been rolling pretty good the last three weeks it’s pretty hard to find much fault with the performance of the defence.
Nice to see Dante Marsh pick up a key (albeit Korey Banks aided) interception at a key time in the game, after being the victim on last week’s Hail-Mary.
With Solomon Elimimian out of the game the Lions didn’t really miss a beat. Hamilton is not a team that runs the ball a lot. We’ll see if they throw more of that in next week if the Lions linebacker can’t go.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the largest crowd of the season Friday night, especially with a traditionally lower draw like the Ticats as the opponent and the fact it was the start of the last long weekend of the summer. Slowly but surely fans are starting to understand the football culture and it will be great to see that continue to grow with big divisional games still to come on the home schedule.
The roof was open and you could feel the start of the cool crisp air that indicates the arrival of fall. How nice would it be to experience a few cool crisp nights this October and November?
The Lions Gemstone Grill and Family sections were once again well populated and it’s encouraging to see more and more orange in the stands.
Fan without HD will be pleased to know that this was the last of the five games the Lions will blackout this season.
What were your thoughts on the game? Did the Lions do enough to make you forget the previous week? Do you have more confidence in the offence after last night? I’d love to hear your comments, so post them here. You can also follow me on twitter, @BCLionsDen.