Lions loss shows rebuild far from complete

Now here’s some cheery news… after being hammered 35-16 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders dropping to 2-7 on the road, the B.C. Lions can now look forward to another game away from home in the playoffs. While pondering that prospect, some other thoughts:

  Not done yet: They were just three words, but they spoke volumes when uttered earlier this year by Ed Hervey, and after another horrendous road outing Saturday might provide solace when thinking about the road ahead.

“I’m not blind,” the Lions GM said.

Hervey was commenting days after he had acquired Shawn Lemon earlier this season as a response to what had not been happening to the pass rush at the start of the season for the Lions.

It was his way of acknowledging his team’s shortcomings, which he followed up by signing DeVier Posey for the passing game and Micah Awe to help out the run defence.

And after watching all three phases of their game struggle against Saskatchewan, the only hope for the Lions is that Hervey realizes he is not done reshaping his new team whenever the current season comes to a close.

B.C. has indeed made progress and can consider their playoff appearance an accomplishment. But to be beaten by a team in Saskatchewan that completed exactly nine passes for 96 yards surely must show the man in charge he cannot rest.

The Lions dropped to 9-8 on the year. They are 4-6 against playoff-bound teams.

“Right now this was a dress rehearsal,” nickleback Otha Foster told TSN 1040 postgame, repeating the pre-game narrative of coach Wally Buono. “Next time we’re in a position like this will be in the playoffs. We can’t come out and play like we did tonight (otherwise) we’ll be going home.”

Foster’s right. If that was a dress rehearsal, the Lions better find a new tailor.

Numbers game: It’s indicative of probably very little, perhaps nothing other than never to take things for granted when thinking about past greatness from players like Geroy Simon and Andrew Harris, but the Lions are on the cusp of a less than flattering achievement without a slight bump in offence in their final regular season game against Calgary.

There’s an outside chance they will have neither a 1,000-yard rusher nor receiver this season, a stat that is hardly flattering when assessing the work of first-year offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson. Blame injuries to consistent producers like Manny Arceneaux if you like, a late change of starting tailbacks or inconsistent quarterbacking play but nobody has put up big numbers in any key statistical category this year. Not having a member of the 1,000-yard club as either a runner or receiver has only happened once this decade (2014) with the Lions.

Bryan Burnham is the closest to hitting four digits with 986 yards receiving, but after the passing game went totally cold against Saskatchewan no achievement should be a foregone conclusion in the regular season finale.

Knockout blow: The signature play of the debacle was another reminder of the speed at which the three-down game is played but also served to illustrate officiating improvements still have a way to go.

Though the hit by Odell Willis which knocked Zach Collaros out of the game was not penalized, replay officials got it right when the Lions defensive end was ultimately flagged but not until after the Riders had to burn a challenge.

It was the right decision, as Saskatchewan scored its first touchdown of the onslaught two plays after the successful challenge, but the reaction ran the gamut of outrage, ranging from how Collaros was allowed to stay in the game after the hit to how referee Andre Proulx missed the call in the first place. That was just the reaction in a Toronto television studio. In Regina, based on social media, it was evident the former mayor of Swaggerville was not going to preside in Riderville.

“Not sure what Andre Proulx was looking at. That was a defender going high and trying to take a player out,” TSN panelist Matt Dunigan said. “That needs to be fixed.”

Added teammate Davis Sanchez: “If the guy (Collaros) has a (concussion) history get him out of the game and make sure the man is going to be OK.” Thumbs up on both points.


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.