VANCOUVER, BC - SEPTEMBER 28: The Montreal Alouettes play the BC Lions in their CFL game September 28, 2019 at BC Place in Vancouver, BC. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions)
They still have a pulse. And until the machine stops registering one, the 2019 BC Lions (4-10-0) won’t stop fighting.
The resilient home side got second half touchdowns from Bryan Burnham and John White, while the defence made a huge stop on a third and one from the two when the Montreal Alouettes ( 7-7-0) surprisingly decided against a go-ahead field goal attempt with just over a minute to play. TJ Lee got to Antonio Pipkin after the Montreal quarterback fumbled the snap and the end result was a 25-23 victory on a chilly, open-roof night at BC Place.
With the win, Shawn Lemon and company kept their slim playoff hopes alive, staying within six points of the fourth-place Edmonton Eskimos with four games to play. With Edmonton taking care of business earlier in the day at Ottawa, there is officially zero room left for error should they want to play beyond November 2nd. All they can do is continue to go undefeated every week. Easy enough motivation.
“Most definitely. Just one win at a time, come in here and keep working, adding up wins and seeing where we end up at the end,” said Lemon in a happy Lions locker room.
We also had to ask the question: how surprised were they to see the Alouettes go for the big dagger instead of the field goal?
“No, not at all,” added a fired up Lemon.
“They were disrespectful to us all week, as a defence. They figured they could come in here and win with their backup quarterback. That (the stop) was just icing on the cake for us and we felt like we had to blow it up and get a stop. We want to teach teams a lesson that we’re not a cakewalk.”
You can say this for Alouettes quarterback Matt Shiltz who was pressed into starting duty after the one-game suspension for Vernon Adams: he put them in a position to win. With the Lions leading 9-3, Shiltz connected with Eugene Lewis on a 97-yard touchdown strike to open the second half. On their next series, Pipkin’s one-yard plunge put them ahead by eight before Reilly and the offence went to work. The Lions’ pivot finished 30/34 for 309 yards and the touchdown pass to Burnham that served as a nice response before the third quarter came to an end.
“We’ll take it,” added head coach DeVone Claybrooks.
“Kudos for my team for being resilient. Those guys fought and battled and found a way to make a play in the end when you need to win the game. They’re never going to be as pretty as you think but if you look at the growth and maturity of the team over the course of the year, you can see that when it started going downhill and we gave up a 100-yard play because both guys jumped the out and they moved over the top, you’re winning the defensive battle at that point. They were just taking short throws and we were getting decent pressure on the quarterback. To have those plays happen and the guys still being able to rally and find a way to finish the game out, it’s kudos to those guys and the resiliency and the maturity of what we are trying to develop and lay the foundation here.”
Once the offence got rolling, Reilly was able to rely on a couple of his favourite targets, namely Burnham and Lemar Durant who led the charge as far as the receivers went tonight. The quarterback gave credit to his entire squad for pulling out.
“It was a good football game. We knew it was going to be they’re a good team, of course,” said Reilly.
“It was back and forth, started out slow for us offensively and then I thought we did some really good stuff. (We) kind of set the tone right before halftime, being able to pick up a field goal. When your head coach calls a timeout with whatever it was, 30 seconds left or something like that, you kind of know, standing on the sidelines, you better go down and get points or it’s a wasted timeout. Then we played a very very good second half that was, unfortunately, derailed by a couple of really bad penalties. So we’ve got to be better than that. We’ve got to clean that up.”
Those penalties he speaks of forced them to settle for a couple of field goal attempts, rather than get the chance to score touchdowns.
But hey, all they can ask for after a 1-10 start is a shot to make some noise down the stretch. And not only are they still alive in this race, but they are also playing for each other.
“It’s very special man, “said Lemon.
“We feel like just adding pieces like Newsome and playing with Odell again and picking up right where we left off last year says a lot. We have another big one to win next week.”
And it’s old squad, the Toronto Argonauts paying a visit on Saturday.
2,089– career receiving yards for Lemar Durant after his 107-yard performance tonight.
88.2- Reilly’s completion percentage on a night he simply wouldn’t let the offence pack it in.
35- points allowed by the defence over the course of this three-game win streak.
6- the number of Lions points off turnovers. Those came after the Willis fumble recovery and a fourth quarter interception by Chris Edwards.
32:27- the Lions time of possession, yet another week where they win that category.
248- the Alouettes’ total rushing yards.
The football Gods move in mysterious ways. The Alouettes put themselves in a position to win after blocking Sergio Castillo’s 50-yard field goal attempt that would have put the Lions ahead by five. William Stanback’s 40-yard run set them up inside the ten. But that’s the beauty of this league. If you finish, no one will ask questions.
You have to applaud Claybrooks and the coaching staff for their approach in trying to complete a long pass to Burnham to ice it at the end, instead of running it and potentially giving the Alouettes another chance. Burnham drew a pass interference call and it was lights out for Montreal.
Another week and we will give the old tip of the gap to Lemon who helped set the tone on defence. He had a pair of sacks in the first half, including one led to a fumble recovery from Odell Willis.
Good for Durant on his milestone. You get the sense they have a star for a few years to come.
The Lions will welcome in the 2-11 Toronto Argonauts to BC Place next Saturday, October 5th. It is a 7:00 PM kickoff and presentation of Purolator. Fans are encouraged to bring food or cash donations to support Purolator’s Tackle Hunger program.