Just how close are the BC Lions to redeeming their season with a second half run?
The statistical fact is that the Lions are 2-6, but with points for and against perfectly balanced at 203 points. It all comes back to that Wally Buono mantra that a game comes down to four or five plays.
So following that lead, let’s take a look at the pivotal plays that led them to this record and consider if 2-6 is really representative of the talent contained on the roster.
When it comes to TSN Turning points, there are more bad than good for the Lions so far in 2011.
BC 26 at Montreal 30
After a dreadful first half, the Lions found their stride in the second half of their season opener on the road against the defending Grey Cup champions.
The Lions found themselves down by seven, third and four, with 1:47 left on the clock at the Montreal 38-yard line. Instead of going for it on third down – with an offence led by quarterback Travis Lulay who had produced 366 yards passing – Buono sent out the field goal unit.
The Lions got their three points then gave the ball to the Alouettes without a time out to stop them.
By the time Lions returned to their Surrey training facility, Buono apologized to his team and the fans through the media.
“I was greedy,” he said.
“I’m thinking to myself, the defence is playing better, we kick the field goal, we get one stop and you’ve got a chance to win the game.”
Not a blown play per se, but certainly a blown call. Calgary 34 at BC 32
The first game in the last season at Empire showed cracks that had been forming in the defence.
While the yet-to-gel receiving corps was busy dropping passes, it was the missed tackles which were the specialty of the evening. One play in the third quarter shifted momentum in game that was as dull as dishwater in the first half, and wacky in the second.
The teams traded touchdowns twice in the third quarter. However, what really tilted the scoreboard was a Nik Lewis 61-yard touchdown reception on a hitch screen which should have been limited to a short gain, if it weren’t for sloppy tackling and poor pursuit. The Stamps had the lead at eight to close out the third quarter. The inept tackling became a repeated sore point in other BC losses, and it was established in this game and punctuated by this play.
BC 17 at Edmonton 33
Just like their road game in Montreal, the Lions came out flat in the first half and began to rally in the second. After digging a 21-3 hole for themselves at one point in the second quarter, the Lions clawed back in the second and were within 12, on the march at the Edmonton 22-yard line.
Travis Lulay threw an out route that was jumped on by Edmonton’s T.J. Hill, who romped 71 yards the other way to the Lions red zone.
Hill’s interception killed not only the most promising offensive drive of the game for the Lions, it also killed all their momentum. Instead of looking at a possible five point deficit, the game was out of reach and the Lions were 0-3.
BC 20 at Winnipeg 25
Against the top team in the CFL, the Lions had their most complete game of the year. That would be minus one drive, and a signature play in the middle of it.
The Lions were down 19-14, and it seemed that good fortune was smiling on them. Starting quarterback Buck Pierce was guided to the Bomber locker room for a look-see with 13:18 left, after getting cranked by linebacker Solomon Elimimian.
Cue backup Alex Brink, who led his team on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Early in the drive, Brink provided the turning point with his recognition on second and long that there was plenty of room to run. The bold drive allowed the backup to cast off his training wheels, and play up to the level Pac-10 fans had seen him employ at Washington State.
It was also an emotional rallying point on a night where the Bombers responded to the sudden passing of assistant coach Richard Harris.
The Lions fell to 0-5 that night, and torches were aloft in the village as the mob was looking to claim Wally Buono’s head. Winnipeg 30 at BC 17
This was a game punctuated by three first half fumbles, a dropped pass by Kamau Peterson on second down at the Winnipeg eight, and a complete second half offensive collapse which resulted in Lulay getting benched.
One tends to forget the Lions looked sharp early against the Bombers, opening with a well scripted and executed drive for a touchdown.
What really set the implosion into motion came on the most explosive play of the game that never was. BC running back Andrew Harris went on an all-world romp of 69-yards to the end zone that was ultimately erased by a Dean Valli holding call. It took the wind out of the team and the fans. It also took a 14-10 Lion lead off the board.
On the next drive Peterson’s drop turned seven into three points. Instead of 21-10 BC, it was 10-10. The Bombers who knew they had dodged a bullet began to make adjustments and responded with 20 points from late in the second through the third quarter.
The miscue by Valli on the highlight reel run started the emotional vortex as the Leo’s offence spiraled into ineptitude from that point forward.
BC 36 at Edmonton 1
Don’t let the score fool you. The Lions offence in their first two drives looked like they were suffering from a hangover from the previous week’s loss to Winnipeg. Production was flat and Lulay was off the mark on throws where he looked tight.
Solomon Elimimian’s interception set up the Lions next play on offence. Lulay found Akeem Foster and the St. Francis Xavier, grad in his second pro season, did the rest in what amounted to a 56-yard touchdown.
Foster turned on the jets and blasted through four Eskimo defenders with a passing gear that left them in the dust to open the scoring and open the floodgates.
It was Foster making a statement that the young Canadians in the Lions receiving corps have ‘it’.
The question remaining for the Lions is whether the blowout win going into the break is enough to reset those one play blunders into one play wonders which can change the face of a game?