Hamilton, ON- In what would go down as perhaps their most impressive effort of an otherwise dismal season to date, the BC Lions couldn’t find an answer for Frankie Williams.
The Tiger-Cats’ dynamic return man took one to the house in the first half and then returned a punt 54 yards to set up the eventual winning touchdown catch by Brandon Banks with 1:02 to play as the hometown Tabbies stunned the Lions 35-34 on a windy Saturday night in Steeltown.
The fourth quarter collapse erased an epic offensive output for Mike Reilly and the offence. Reilly finished 21/28 for 302 yards and a pair of touchdown strikes to Bryan Burnham and refused to leave the game after suffering an ankle injury with the visitors leading by 12 points in the final minutes.
Although the club will evaluate him over the next 24 hours, Reilly does not plan on missing any time as the Lions layover in Steeltown for four days before heading to Winnipeg for a contest on Thursday.
“The ankle’s fine. I don’t miss practice, so I’ll be out there,” said Reilly after the loss.
As for his team’s inability to close this one out, the quarterback says it comes down t0 simple execution.
“We just had some mistakes. Turnovers, threw a pick, we got into field goal range and had an issue with the snap, lost 15 yards on second down to take us out of field goal range so that’s the kind of stuff you can’t do, you know? If we’re better on those drives, we win the game. That’s what we have to focus on. We’ve gotta keep our foot on the gas.”
The ill-fated snap he speaks of was when the ankle injury took place. The drive prior to that, his interception to Tunde Adeleke gave the home side life and led to a field goal that put them in position for the incredible comeback.
Leading 21-19 at the half, Reilly and the offence possessed the ball for an astounding 12:01 of the third quarter and went ahead by 15 on Burnham’s second touchdown on the opening play of the eventful fourth. At 1-7 and the playoff mountain climb getting higher and higher each week, all they can do is build on the positives, especially on offence.
“100 per cent. We did some great things offensively, but we also did some bad things offensively,” said head coach DeVone Claybrooks.
“From looking at it from back here, it looks it was a very good game offensively, but when you peel back the layers on the onions and the details, we weren’t as tight as we should have been when it mattered the most and that’s what kind of came back to bite us.”
As for the defence, what happened in the final minutes also negated a pretty solid effort on their part. After allowing the Ticats to score on the opening drive of the game and take an 8-0 lead, it was nothing but field goals until the crazy final quarter. The word we have talked about so much through eight games, finish, will continue to be the name of the game.
” I mean, it’s tough but life is tough,” explained TJ Lee.
“We’ve just gotta keep being resilient and keep coming to work and keep riding with each other until the very end. There is always going to be ups and downs along with adversity, but we need to make those plays when they count. You have to work on finishing and staying together no matter what.”
You have to wonder if some members of Rich Stubler’s defence will wear this one a little more after the offence played lights out for most of the game, save for those plays Reilly and the head coach spoke about.
“It’s a little bit of all sides,” added Lee.
“It’s a team game; either a team win or a team loss. Regardless of the offence played good or if the defence played good, we’ve gotta win by any means.”
With a couple of practice days at McMaster University on Monday and Tuesday, the players and coaches will continue to harp on all of these details and hope it leads to a happier ending against the West Division-leading Blue Bombers.
“We’ve gotta believe that we’re capable of winning the game, not get so wound up and so tight that mistakes are made but also stay aggressive and not think the game is in the bag and take our foot off the gas” added Reilly.
“We all know this game is 60 minutes plus change if you need it in overtime. The game’s never over prior to that.”
149- a season-high in receiving yards for Burnham who was very much a catalyst for an offence that needed a spark.
124- rushing yards for John White on 15 carries.
457- the Lions’ total offence in this one.
37:01- the Lions’ total time of possession in a game where they had a balanced attack on offence.
14- the number of Tiger-Cat penalties for a total of 109 yards.
If you thought the tweaked ankle was going to keep Reilly out in a game they really wanted to close, you were sadly mistaken. He continued to demonstrate the warrior he is for this franchise.
Once again, good things resulted in a power run game. White’s ability to make yards after contact was an asset, as was his production on first down.
Get your popcorn ready? Wins indeed matter the most, but if they can churn out a couple more efforts like that on offence, it could be fun to watch in the second half of the season.
This writer has been in quiet locker rooms before. Tonight took that to another level. That should tell you all you need to know about how badly they want to fix this.