There weren’t many offensive fireworks in the B.C. Lions home-opening loss to the Edmonton Elks, but there was no shortage of heat between the two sides.
Discipline proved to be an issue and both teams combined for 265 yards of penalties, with tempers boiling over on a handful of occasions. That was something that was to be expected, according to Lions’ receiver Lemar Durant.
“We knew it was going to be a chippy game,” he said post-game. “Edmonton hadn’t won a game yet, so they were coming out guns blazing, and we knew it was going to be that way.”
The Lions benefitted from the exchange on offence, with the Elks gifting them 100 yards of penalties on a night where they only produced 184 yards of their own. Still, Durant wasn’t happy with the result of a few heated exchanges late in third quarter.
“What gets me is we’re driving down there and they’re getting chippy with our quarterback and we know in any type of football you play, you gotta protect your quarterback,” Durant said.
“Everyone’s got to protect them — the players, the refs, everyone. So when something’s going on with our quarterback, the players are going to get his back and then we get called for a penalty for that.”
“I can understand the penalty, but I feel like we gotta protect our quarterback. One or two of those calls, I don’t know, but I got to watch the film and see exactly what happened.”
An unnecessary roughness penalty against Elks linebacker Nyles Morgan helped move the Lions down into scoring position on the drive, but the situation heated up down near the goal line. Offensive lineman Sukh Chungh got dinged for rough play in a scrum after a Shaq Cooper run, but once back on the goal line thanks to a Jonathan Rose pass interference penalty, things really intensified.
As Michael Reilly extended for the QB sneak touchdown, the Elks played well past the echo of the whistle and the two sides had to be separated by the officials as players sprang to their quarterback’s defence. And no penalties were called on the exchange.
It wasn’t the first time Reilly had been roughed up that evening. The Elks pass rush was in his face all night and he came up gingerly more than once. Those plays were within the confines of the whistle, but the extra shoving after the sneak was not. Durant attempted to toe the line when asked if it should have been penalized post-game.
“I’m not a referee, so I can’t say. It seemed like [the rough play] was pretty equal on both sides. We were both getting after it, but on one side you got people getting after the quarterback, so I feel like if we took a penalty, they should’ve taken a penalty,” he said carefully.
“I’m not criticizing the refs or anything like that. I’m just saying that’s how it feels from my perspective, that it should have been offset. I mean, it’s Mike Reilly out there and people are going at him.”
The CFL has emphasized protecting their star quarterbacks in recent years, but Durant made clear that the Lions will always be ready to step in for Reilly when officials do not. After a rough night Thursday, I’m sure the quarterback hopes that sentiment extends prior to the whistle as well.