No offence for the B.C. Lions, but plenty of questions
Thursday’s loss to a short-handed Montreal team was the worst offensive output by B.C. in more than three years
The intriguing story at training camp is how are they going to mature?
— Angus Reid, The Province, May 2013.The injured centre of the B.C. Lions had it nailed perfectly as usual, even before the first practice of the year when he was asked about a discernible shift in locker-room culture.
It was always destined to be a year of change for the CFL team, but Reid wanted to know how his younger teammates would react when times were tough.
Sure enough, adversity met up with the Lions in the wake of their embarrassing 39-38 loss to the Montreal Alouettes, and the moments after their first subsequent meeting Saturday was a good first temperature check.
If there was wisdom to be gained from having a voice of reason like Geroy Simon among them all those years, it surely would show after coach Mike Benevides cancelled a scheduled rundown, and for most part, the Lions just talked.
If wisdom is evident, however, it stayed among teammates, because some of the younger talents asked to deal with the outfall of a miserable offensive performance almost sounded offended to be asked what went wrong, and where the club goes from this point.
“A loss is a loss. It ain’t no different, however you try to re-word or get in an interview. You approach each loss the same way,” reasoned Emmanuel Arceneaux, the player asked to replace Simon’s yards in the offence.
“No need to try and get verbal. Keep everything simple. I’m not that vocal leader on the team.”
Is there a lack of leadership on a team which signed him to considerable fanfare in the off-season?
“It ain’t no lack of leadership,” Arceneaux said. “Everybody on the outside, including you reporters trying to nitpick and find something to run with; we just ain’t (sic) pulled the game off we should have pulled out.”
Andrew Harris, whose 19 yards rushing was his lowest output in nearly two seasons, is normally introspective, but not when heading out of a meeting and late for an autograph session.
“Some things have to change; the whole attitude of the offence,” said Harris, who didn’t get his first carry of the second half until there was 3:41 left.
“I got nothing for you.”
What the Lions did when they allowed Montreal to rally from a 15-point deficit was buy about a month of doubt, as until they beat a proven opponent on the road, the questions will keep coming. There’s enough to go around.
Defensively, the Lions surrendered an average 23.5 yards per completion to a rookie Als quarterback Tanner Marsh. They generated a special teams touchdown from Tim Brown, but only drew even with Montreal, which got a punt return score.
Offensively, the Lions coined a new nickname for the scheme of assistant coach Jacques Chapdelaine, which resembled downtown traffic in Montreal: Gridlock.
B.C.’s best chance in a game in which the Lions managed 52 yards offence in the middle two quarters and didn’t generate a first down in 23:57 came when the Als took late-hit penalties on quarterback Travis Lulay.
That observation came from Reid, who has insider status at meetings, but also sees how it looks from the outside.
“We don’t have an offence right now,” he said on Team 1040. “I think our offence is not short on talent. We have yet to find our identity. To me it looks like we’re a little bit desperate. We’re guessing.”
Benevides, who probably thought the loss was bad enough until he sat for five hours on the flight home Friday with general manager Wally Buono, talked some more with his boss Saturday, leaving it to Lulay once again to discuss the Lions’ worst offensive yardage showing since July 2010.
“I can handle that for the guys,” the quarterback said. “That being said, it’s not like the other guys are sitting back. The team has shown some good maturity, just today with the guys having taken a good look in the mirror. It’s real honest. It’s not finger-pointing, and the wrong kind of adversity.”
But neither it is the same without Simon or Arland Bruce, said Lulay, and the responses of those who are needed to help him are proof.
“I would be lying if it said it was same old, same old. It’s not fair to Geroy, Arland or Angus. It’s definitely different,” Lulay said. “That being said, it doesn’t give me less confidence. The dynamic has changed, but I don’t see that handicapping us in the long run.”
With much being made of an inability to generate 300 yards through the air this year, the problem isn’t a lack of ball distribution in the passing game.
What got the Lions was their inability to stop the Als defence from blitzing. It means opponents won’t now stop sending extra pressure until the Lions show a means to make it go away.
“This is a bit of adversity. I don’t think that puts pressure on us to say that,” said Lulay. “Internally this an important week for us to be able to bounce back and show some mental toughness.”
Older teammates than the only discernible offensive leader on the Lions will be watching how they react.
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