Last in the West Division, first when it comes to back-breaking stupidity. That’s the B.C. Lions one-third of the way through the CFL season after their 27-18 loss to the Calgary Stampeders Saturday that produced these unsolicited observations.
Blame game, Part One – It’s entirely unfair to pinpoint a single play that led to their demise and chances are if the game really got close Bo Levi Mitchell would have stepped on the gas leaned more heavily on a superior receiving corps that more than compensated for the fact they were down to their fourth-string running back.
If you did want one play however, you’d get no argument from coach Wally Buono about the third quarter objectionable conduct penalty taken by Anthony Orange.
Still in the game trailing 18-10, the B.C. cornerback had helped generate a stop on defence when he deftly kicked the ball in the direction of the Stamps bench. It was subtle but well within the definition of the rules.
The penalty allowed the Calgary drive to continue and naturally, the Stamps scored to generate what turned out to be margin of victory.
Orange knew he had the Lions seeing red.
I made a mistake. I was just trying to get the ball off the field. My intentions were not malicious in any way. Didn’t know that was penalty. Lesson learned. Don’t give up on me just yet.
— Anthony Orange (@AJJefferson) August 5, 2018
Last time the Lions were on the field prior to their appearance in Calgary, Odell Willis was flagged for running through the Ottawa Redblacks bench, enabling the home team to continue a drive that resulted in a field goal in a four-point game.
If this was the Lions of another era, say the teams led by Dave Dickenson on offence and Korey Banks on defence, this team could get away which such silliness but the one assembled by Buono and Ed Hervey isn’t good enough to withstand lapses in judgment.
Buono wasn’t having any of it when it was suggested to him on TSN 1040 that the flag on Orange was borderline.
“It doesn’t matter. That’s the rule. The rule is the rule. Whether you kick the ball hard light or into something, its objectionable conduct Everybody knows that. So why do we keep making excuses for people?” he said.
Then when asked what the Lions can do to prevent discipline problems the coach was even more direct.
“Guys are disciplined,” said Buono, who has in the past imposed fines on dead-ball fouls. “The issue is you can’t release everybody. At this point you got to try to make them try to understand. You’re always at their mercy. Good teams don’t hurt keep hurting themselves like we have.”
B.C. had no business winning a game in which Calgary was simply dominant converting second-and-long situations. Mitchell was 8-11 passing on second-and-10 or longer for 270 yards and a touchdown, exposing the Lions secondary. B.C. cut Marcell Young after the Ottawa game but went into Calgary with two non-imports as reserves with only a rookie import on the practice roster, underlying an issue which has been apparent with the Lions since training camp.
They are guaranteed to remain division cellar-dwellers, however, should they continue to take insanely dumb and avoidable fouls that completely cloud the fact the Lions run defence continues to improve and the protection for Travis Lulay up front has been a quiet selling feature so far.
They are 1-9 in their last 10 against Calgary, 0-3 on the road this year against divisional opponents and 3-16 against the Stampeders, Edmonton and Winnipeg since the start of the 2016 regular season. There’s much more wrong here than a couple of silly penalties but a game free of brain cramps would be a good first step if the Lions are ever to be taken seriously.
Blame Game Part Two: There was no formal poll taken on the matter, but there were just as many post-game callers on TSN 1040 who had it in for Buono as those who came after Orange with torches and pitchforks.
Some callers felt the coach left his challenge flag in his pocket too long, failing to challenge a possible pass interference call on Manny Arceneaux early. There were calls questioning the play-calling wisdom of offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson for running Jeremiah Johnson on what became their final possession. B.C. was third-and-three with 1:58 left and Johnson was a yard short, stopped as usual by Calgary linebacker Alex Singleton.
Another social media contributor questioned Buono’s pre-season assertion that the Lions would be more liberal than conservative in his final year calling the shots.
@FifthQtr Hey lowell. Another Wally issue. Before the end of the half and calgary was going to score, he should have called time out to preserve time. Instead he doesnt and there is only 22 seconds left before the half. Where is this new gambler Wally we were supposed to see?
— David H (@stat56man) August 5, 2018
Taking a gamble late on third-and-three doesn’t count as reckless, which was the approach that was suggested by the coach he might take but it indeed has not been apparent so far. Buono said he would need to be convinced to use more gadget plays on special teams this year but that hasn’t happened either under new coordinator Jeff Reinebold.
The Lions appeared to have something going on in that vein in the first half when backup quarterback Cody Fajardo was part of the kick unit but pulled back from the plan at the last second.
Waving the flag: Two weeks ago in this space the Lions use of their non-import content was lauded when they started nine Canadians in Ottawa, but get an injury or two and it becomes apparent what they think of some of their Canuck depth.
An apparent shoulder injury to Shaq Johnson in practice put the Lions into juggle mode. They had planned to sit second-year Canadian Junior Luke and go with four imports on the defensive line and still had the ratio flexibility to do so by maintaining the ratio on offence.
Instead, the Lions went to import Kevin Elliott as the replacement for Johnson, which isn’t much positive reinforcement for 2017 Canadian draft pick Danny Vandervoort, who has had just as many practice reps as Elliott but instead was again limited to work on special teams. B.C. was knee deep in Canadians two weeks ago but against Calgary dressed McMaster running back Wayne Moore, who only got on the practice roster Sunday.