Things learned from the Lions’ come-from-behind win

An 87-point combined performance by the offence, a game in which the defences often dominated and special teams was almost the difference… yes, not much happened at B.C. Place Stadium Friday.

A few things worth noting from the B.C. Lions’ thrill-a-minute 45-42 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers:

Taking a pass: You could get the Lions to agree on basically two things after scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter for their second straight come-from-behind win against Winnipeg.

For one thing, they played too loose at times, or certainly lacked the kind of consistency to beat teams that figure to go deep in the playoffs. Two, most players in the Lions locker room had the same opinion of the Bombers’ Justin Medlock.

Great kicker, but not much of a thrower.

Medlock’s pass attempt on third down in his own end of the field with 8:39 left and the Bombers owning an eight-point lead had many shaking their heads.

“A lot of us were wondering what he was doing in that situation,” Lions receiver Bryan Burnham said. Winnipeg coach Mike O’Shea was non-committal in the post-game scrum but told the Bombers’ flagship radio broadcast that Medlock had inaccurately taken an option.

You couldn’t blame the Bombers for thinking they could succeed though because like a couple of the games between the teams last year, Winnipeg completely owned the Lions special teams to that point, not only collecting a blocked punt but a pooch kick sleeper play that even Lions coach/GM Wally Buono had to later concede was perfectly executed.

The Bombers saw such a hole in the Lions special teams cover units they called the league office during the week to ask if Medlock would be charged with a field goal attempt if he simply lined up and kicked the ball to a wide-open Mike Miller. For a minute, some might have thought Chuck McMann had returned to coach the Lions special teams.

That mindset, however, seems better for games when the Bombers don’t have such a big lead because being overly aggressive cost them a chance to made amends for last year’s West Division semifinal.

It also won’t do much for Medlock the next time he needs to kick a last-minute field goal in Vancouver. The last two attempts, including the notorious 61-yard miss last year and the 50-yard attempt that fell short Friday, surely will be in his head the next time Medlock comes to town.

Depth on display: The roster depth touted all season so far by Buono was definitely put into play. B.C.’s coach/GM assembled a lineup this year consisting of numerous of interchangeable defensive parts. It was badly needed Friday when two defensive backs went down.

Mind you, it was around the time when Keynan Parker joined Anthony Gaitor on the sidelines when a few people started questioning the viability of an eight-man defensive line rotation because an extra defensive back would have been quite helpful.

But being flexible had its advantages, and you only had to see the size of Loucheiz Purifoy’s eyes when he was asked if he liked the idea of moving back up to his former nickelback spot from safety once the Lions started juggling.

The problem, however, is that the Lions’ non-import depth is about to be tested even further. Parker’s suspected dislocated shoulder likely means a chance for practice roster draft pick Nate Hamlin next week and beyond. A few days ago, the Lions also lost non-import backup offensive lineman Jaz Dhillon (torn triceps), possibly for the year, meaning practice roster rookie Felix Gacusana was given a uniform for the first time.

A couple of non-import losses are sustainable. One or two more and the Lions may have to get out their non-import rolodex.

Right time, right place: New commissioner Randy Ambrosie made the rounds on Terry Fox Plaza before Friday’s game with Lions execs George Chayka and Dennis Skulsky and by the time the night was over must have wondered what the fuss is all about with respect to the never-ending speculation about the sale of the team by David Braley, a saga that amazingly been the subject of local reporting now for more than a decade.

There was a decent uptick in attendance, announced at 21,017, and anyone who left thinking they were not entertained clearly did not have a pulse.

Nobody, however, needs to be reminded how much work has to be done to restore attendance order. And the real problem are the TV numbers of Lions games prior to Friday, which aren’t down a little but by a lot and flies in the face of the narrative that fans simply are staying home to watch, or the team’s laudable social media and community work just needs more time.

Every relevant figure isn’t available, but you’d almost have to go back more than a decade to find the last time the Lions had fewer than 400,000 fans watching on consecutive games, as they did for the contests in Toronto and Montreal. The number for Hamilton, a 487,000 average according to 3Down Nation editor Drew Edwards, was a little closer to corresponding figures for this time last year.

Those figures inevitably will improve towards the fall, but with long-term box office success seemingly well in the distance and Buono making it quite clear he won’t be back next season, Braley is kidding himself if he thinks there’s a better time to sell a diminished asset to one of the two local suitors who have been far more than a little patient waiting for him to pull the trigger.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.