Lions fall to Argos as discipline, decisions and execution falter.

Andrew Harris' first half performance wasn't enough to defeat the Argos. Photo:
Andrew Harris’ first half performance wasn’t enough to defeat the Argos. Photo:

You would think after 7 years of doing this social media thing and covering the BC Lions I would know better than to tweet something out of frustration walking out of BC Place stadium Friday evening, following the BC Lions 30-27 loss to the Toronto Argonauts.

I am a blogger, podcaster, and CFL social media enthusiast, but I am also a huge fan, not only of my Lions but also of the league as a whole, and sometimes the fan part of me takes over my emotions. Usually after a loss I wait 24 hours to let my thoughts process before I blog or tweet much, but Friday was one of those nights where frustration got the better of me.

I stand by my tweet that the 3rd down gamble by Jeff Tedford was a mistake. There was no need for such a gamble up by 11 points, regardless of whether or not you wanted to spark your offence. To say that if it had been successful it would have been genius is something we can’t know for sure. What we do know is it gave the Argos half a field to work with and they made the Lions pay.

Where that tweet went wrong was saying the loss was on Tedford, because when you break down the game, there was plenty of blame to go around and yes, you win as a team and you lose as a team.

Dumb penalties that continued Argos drives played a huge part and it seems to be some of the same culprits. Alex Bazzie’s roughing the passer call allowed the Argos to spark their offence and give QB Trevor Harris the confidence he needed after throwing two interceptions earlier. Josh Johnson took a bad face masking penalty in the 4th quarter that combined with an illegal contact penalty to put the Argos instant field goal position.

The offence, which looked so lethal in the first quarter simply dried up in the second half. Unable to react to the adjustments made by the Argos at half time, the Lions simply couldn’t get into a rhythm. The Argos brought a lot of players up to the line of scrimmage to focus on Andrew Harris and no one else stepped up to counter it.

For whatever the reason, perhaps the Argos record against the pass so far this season, the Lions decided the deep ball was their only option in the second half. Lulay is still struggling to find the right touch and over threw receivers at critical times.

Manny Arceneaux had a drop, Austin Collie had a drop and has anyone seen Shawn Gore? You may as well have put his picture on a milk carton the last two weeks. The bottom line is this team needs players other than Andrew Harris to step up when opponents focus on shutting him down. They have to be made to pay for that approach.

Defensively it was a nightmare for the Lions in the second half. No matter what happened on first down, Harris and the Argos found answers on 2nd down to keep drives alive. Every receiver seemed open when they needed him to be and Harris delivered balls on target as he was pressured little by the Lions front four.

This is a young team, and let’s hope they learned some valuable lessons against the Boatmen. A 21 point lead early in a CFL game is nothing, and the young Leos learned that the hard way.

Let’s also give some credit to the Argos here. Their half-time adjustments were outstanding and went unanswered by the Lions. Trevor Harris showed why he had the highest rating of any QB heading into the game and collected himself nicely after the two early turnovers. The Argos have weathered the storm on their extended road trip to start the season and have now set themselves up nicely in the CFL East.

Where are the fans?

Just 20,085 fans were in attendance Friday and that has to be concerning for the Lions. It’s a good thing the upper bowl was closed or the optics would have been horrible. Traditionally the Lions always seem to start slowly attendance wise and build as the season goes on and Toronto has never really been a big draw.

That said, the Riders game should have been a sell-out based on previous years, and it seems that the Lions are receiving very little in walk up numbers, leaving just the hard core fans in the building.

Everyone knows the impact that HDTV has had on live sporting events and there seems to be something to the theory that the success of the Seattle Seahawks have carved a place into some of the Lions’ fan base.

Beyond the obvious, the Lions need to engage the younger fan. Look around the league in places like Ottawa, where football is seen to be “cool” again. So many young people there are getting hooked on the Redblacks. Their marketing is outstanding and they make their fans feel part of the big picture. Yes, the Redblacks are the new cool thing in town, but you have to admire the ways they are getting to the younger demographic.

You can’t roll out ads every year with the same face painted fans and expect to make progress. Reward the loyalty of your season ticket holders. Hand out pins for 5-10-15 years of support. Create a “Wall of Fans” where long time season ticket holders have their name engraved on a plaque and added to it. Make your fans and their families feel part of something special.

A competitive winning product would help of course, and the last two seasons at BC Place haven’t always provided that. But something needs to change, because whatever the Lions are doing doesn’t seem to be working.