The BC Lions fought a good fight but in the end it was Darian Durant who put his team on his shoulders and led his Roughriders to victory. The Lions season is done, and they will be thinking about the one that got away for some time. Here is our final Lions game recap of 2013, From the Couch.
For three quarters it was the Lions that dominated the time of possession putting together three long and productive drives, chewing time off the clock and keeping the Riders offence shivering on the sidelines. The Lions showed the Riders looks they weren’t familiar with including a four man deep I-formation and you certainly couldn’t accuse the offence of being predictable.
The combination of Andrew Harris and Stefan Logan continued to have success while Travis Lulay looked to be on his game and confident. The offensive line played outstanding; pass protecting for Lulay and opening holes for Harris and Logan who built on their recent success racking up a combined 146 yards along the ground.
Defensively the Lions were containing the likes of Kory Sheets outside of one big run that set up a Rider score but it was Taj Smith and Weston Dressler doing the damage for the Riders. Smith stole a sure interception out of the hands of Josh Bell, then out-fought Dante Marsh on another deep ball following a questionable pass interference call just before the end of the half that kept a Riders drive alive. Dressler was Dressler, and when the Riders need him to get open he did with amazing ease. With those players keeping the Riders close, Durant then took it upon himself to lead the comeback in the fourth quarter.
Entering the final quarter with a nine point lead, the Riders noticed a vulnerability in the Lions defence and Durant killed them with draws up the middle, rudely reminding all that Solomon Elimimian was back in Vancouver nursing a hamstring injury that he didn’t feel would allow him to perform in the biggest game of the season. The offence dried up in the fourth and couldn’t muster any of the success they had for most of the game, the defence couldn’t get the stops and as a result, the Lions season is over.
Every CFL fan can relate to the frustration of watching a game and tolerating CFL officiating and Sunday was no different. The Lions certainly weren’t on the favourable end of a few calls and that’s just the way it goes in the Canadian Football League.
The pass interference call near the end of the half, a very weak roughing the passer call on Durant on the same series and a curious decision by the command centre of the league on an apparent Lions touchdown all come to mind. These calls didn’t cost the Lions the game, but they also didn’t do anything to install confidence in fans who want to see the game decided by the players.
When I speak with fans around the league, it’s a constant topic that comes up. Officials have a very tough job, and I’m amazed at how many times they get it right at full speed, but we can only hope we won’t have anything to say about them in the final games of the year. Don’t hold your breath.
Where do they go from here?
Two exits from the playoffs for the Lions in the last two years will certainly mean changes are coming for the BC Lions and it may not be just player wise. The lack of consistency from the offence for the majority of the season has to be the focal point for the club moving forward, and it likely cost the Lions a home playoff game.
Despite what I felt was a great game plan by the Lions heading into the game on Sunday, I’m not sure it will be enough to save the job of coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine. Jacques has taken a lot of heat in BC over the years but the lack of a running game for much of the season may be the reason Wally Buono needs to go in a different direction in 2014.
I think that Mike Benevides will be back, but he will certainly be under pressure to return the Lions to the top of the Western division in a year when the Lions will be playing host to the Grey Cup. Of course it will be up to Wally Buono, Neil McEvoy and Roy Shivers to give him the team to do that and the Lions will have some tough decisions to make this off-season, beginning with who they leave exposed in December’s expansion draft.
Another question will be whether Travis Lulay will have surgery to clean up his problematic shoulder. He played like a warrior on Sunday, and injuries can never be predicted, but two seasons with the same problem indicate it should at least be considered. The Lions looked like a different team with Lulay back at the controls and they have to take every measure to make sure he doesn’t make it a shoulder hat-trick in 2014.
At 33 years of age, do the Lions bring back Stefan Logan? I hope they do, because I don’t think there is too much football mileage on that body. He provided a spark and a welcomed element to the Lions ground game and at the very least the Lions should be looking for a similar type back that can team up with Harris in the backfield and give them the same one two punch.
The offensive line will have changes as well and the Lions will need to hope that Kirby Fabien returns healthy. They seem to have an answer for replacing Angus Reid with Matt Norman, but the guard and left tackle positions need to be better. Defensively the Lions will be looking at an aging secondary and deciding whether they can get another year out of the group, while finding a way to start grooming others. The defensive line needs to be improved particularly at providing better first layer interior run support.
So it is over for another year. As always I will be heading to Grey Cup in Regina and hope to provide you with some insight from the festivities from the 101st edition of our great Canadian Football championship, both in this space and on BCLionsDen.ca and via Twitter, @BCLionsDen. My thanks to Lowell Ullrich and the folks at TheProvince.com for giving this fan a voice here and we hope to continue next year as Vancouver gets set to host the nation at Grey Cup 2014. Thanks for reading everyone, and enjoy the rest of the playoffs. Roar you Lions roar!