Bombers played one trick too many: Lions

Marcello Simmons knows full well the value of the best laid plans.

The special teams coordinator of the B.C Lions this week was recalling the time in 2008 when he held the same job title with the Toronto Argonauts, and thought he had masterminded the perfect trick play.

Simmons’ unit worked on it all year until he became convinced it was unstoppable, and on the final day of the regular season schedule, put the work of his group into action. There was no chance it would be a failure, he thought.

Of course, it turned out to be a complete dud. Then as now, however, the same theory applies to all trick plays, including those used against the Lions so famously in their last game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Simmons’ ex-teammate turned head coach, Mike O’Shea.

“If it would have worked he would have looked like a genius…It’s a discovery process on both ends,” said Simmons.

That where the thoughts of at least two special teams coaches resided in the week after the units of both clubs at B.C. Place Stadium Friday were victimized in different ways. It turned out well in the end for the Lions, who cashed in an errant punt fake pass by Bombers kicker Justin Medlock to eventually record a thrill-packed 45-42 win.

It hardly started well for B.C., however, on special teams. Punter Ty Long was hammered so badly on his first kick of the night he was asking whether he should be charged with a fumble instead of a blocked attempt that eventually resulted in a Winnipeg touchdown.

It got decidedly worse in the second quarter when the Lions were put completely to sleep on a fake field goal sleeper play brilliantly orchestrated by Medlock and Mike Miller that had the home team days later still questioning its validity.

Simmons said he should have known what was coming from O’Shea beyond the fact the two once shared the same locker room. With almost an entire season last year to prepare prior to the Bombers’ first game against B.C. last October, Winnipeg ran two fakes on successive plays. The dagger was a touchdown not thrown by Matt Nichols, but caught by the Winnipeg quarterback.

The surprising part Friday came after the game when O’Shea indirectly called out the Lions work on special teams caught previously on tape among the reasons for pushing the creative limits of the Bombers.

On that point, Simmons is aligned with his former teammate.

“We’re both from the Don Matthews school,” Simmons said about the late, great CFL legend. “We’re about the element of surprise. Fakes. Win at all costs. I get that. Credit Winnipeg for forcing the issue. Maybe we need to coach our guys up better.”

Fakes are all about a mindset. It’s also a matter of approach. There’s the Winnipeg way with O’Shea. In B.C., the last memorable trick play by the Lions came on the first play in pre-season in 2012, when new coach Mike Benevides tried making his mark on his team with an onside kickoff attempt. There have been precious few by the Lions ever since, because in case you haven’t noticed coach/GM Wally Buono is definitely a product of another era. To him, the only fakes are fake news guys.

“That’s not me; I don’t like gimmicks, Everybody’s different, right? I’m not that creative. It’s easier to just kick it to the guy,” he said.

Buono was told by the league this week that O’Shea had found a loophole and that Miller was within his right to emerge from the vicinity of the Winnipeg bench to rejoin the fray once Medlock had kicked the ball into play.

Buono’s reaction, however, is anything but old-school. He wants to try and see if he can close the loophole by pushing a rule amendment to the board of governors. Not during the off-season, when the league’s rules committee normally meets to kick around changes. Right now.

Buono is willing to give the Bombers their due, but contends that the loophole which was closed to prevent players from appearing from virtually nowhere on passing plays should also apply to kicks.

“It just opens up a huge can of worms,” Buono said. “It was within the rules; kudos to Mike O’Shea. I enjoy watching his creativity, but live by the sword, die by the sword.

“We’ve eliminated a lot of gimmicks. We’ve taken a lot of the deception out of the game so if that is considered deception we should consider changing the rule. I’ve recommended that the rule be changed now.”

It’s all about proper planning all right. Just remember the next time a team pulls off a legal play that puts a smile on the collective face of the football-buying public, there’s usually another team wondering what just happened, just like the Lions did Friday.

LIONS TALES: The unbeaten Edmonton Eskimos won’t have Adarius Bowman in their lineup Friday against the Lions, who are taking several steps to ensure they will have their top receiver, Manny Arceneaux, available. Arceneaux only took part in practice briefly the last two days of the work week due to shoulder and knee concerns. The club said Arceneaux will start but rookie Maurice Morgan will be added to the roster as a precaution. Otherwise, free agent Buddy Jackson will make his Lions debut replacing Anthony Gaitor. Non-import rookies Nate Hamlin and Louie Richardson will also dress, with Kelvin Palmer returning to his spot on the offensive line at right tackle ahead of Antonio Johnson. Earlier this week, the Lions signed backup QB Jake Heaps to the practice roster and cut RB Josh Harris. Jon Jennings had more participation in practice this week but is not expected to play Friday.

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.