The BC Lions had a chance to really set themselves up for a home playoff date but will have to do it the hard way after a 31-17 loss to the Riders on Friday night. The Lions lack of a running game once again left the defence with the task of getting the win and this time the Riders with Kory Sheets back in the line were too much to deal with. Here’s how I saw the game, From the Stands.
(Originally published on TheProvince.com)
One Dimensional Offence
The Lions simply don’t have a running game and they haven’t had one all season. Andrew Harris had 10 yards on six carries and it’s not the first time that type of stat line has been posted this year. The lack of an interior running game is a huge albatross for the offence and with that being the main problem it’s hard to imagine the problem getting rectified anytime soon.
Harris himself doesn’t look all that confident carrying the ball at times. He stated at the start of the season he was learning to follow his blockers more and be more patient. That approach doesn’t seem to be paying off with the lack of inside blocking and perhaps Harris just needs to attack his holes more aggressively and make his own yards.
Of course the lack of a running game puts far too much pressure on the passing game and the Riders were up to that challenge for most of the night. Thomas DeMarco displayed the inconsistency we usually see in all young QBs who come into the league. In addition to off-target passes he threw three interceptions and could have easily had thrown two more. With problems opening holes for the run, the Lions offensive line also didn’t offer much support for DeMarco, as he was sacked five times by the Riders.
Fans and critics can point at Jacques Chapdelaine and at times they will certainly have a beef, but the bottom line is that unless the Lions can magically fix their running game, the offensive woes and inconsistencies will continue, and that’s not going to help to get a home playoff game, or for that matter win a Grey Cup.
The Lions defence has been winning them games in recent weeks and with the offence putting the onus on them to do so again, a rejuvenated Riders offence won the battle on the day. The return of Sheets was a huge factor for the Riders. The Lions were doing a solid job early on but a really questionable pass interference call set the Riders up for their first TD of the night and seemed to give them the confidence they needed to get rolling.
It wasn’t just Sheets hurting the Lions. The Riders had a lot of success with pass plays across the middle with the likes of Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and Taj Smith providing plenty of yards after the catch to make that a lethal combination.
The Lions defensive line got pressure in the Riders backfield, but too often Durant escaped the pressure or found a safety valve with Sheets.
There was a ton of hype generated for this game with the Lions promoting the game as “Lights Out” and a “Blackout”. The team sported their hugely popular gun metal jerseys and had their biggest crowd of the season in attendance aided by the presence of Rider Nation.
BC Place is a fantastic stadium and all the new bells and whistles allow the Lions to really raise the bar for live game entertainment. The pregame intro was outstanding with a video that would give any fan goose bumps. The lights were out with swirling spotlights as the Lions were introduced with AC/DC’s Back in Black playing in the background. It was a first class production that reminded one of a Canucks playoff game production. Despite the team’s play on the field on Friday, the game day production team scored a touchdown with the opening.
That said, the crowd was disappointing with their effort on the night. After a couple of games of being a factor I felt that the crowd let the team down in this one. The Lions have to find more ways to get the crowd loud on defence in addition to being told. Too many times at crucial points in the game I looked to my right and to my left only to find fans are just sitting on their hands.
As much as I hate to admit it, it would appear the average Vancouver sports fan is there to watch the game, rather than be a factor in it, and that’s a shame. I really wish every fan that attends Lions games could watch a football game in Regina, or down the I-5 in Seattle to see and feel how a real football crowd can affect a game.
It’s going to be an interesting next few weeks and if the Lions don’t get a home playoff game, they can look to Friday night as a big reason. If you look at the problems that have plagued this team for most of the season, it may be too much to expect the Lions can pull it off.
I’d love to read your thoughts on the game, so leave a comment here, and give us a follow on Twitter @BCLionsDen so we can talk Lions football with you.