Toronto, Ontario- They were done in by some costly penalties, a couple of timely lapses in execution and had their fate sealed by a Sean Whyte field goal attempt off the upright. The end result was a 23-20 loss to the Toronto Argonauts (9-6-0) which drops the BC Lions to 10-5-0 and into a tie with idle Calgary for second in the West Division.
The loss in Toronto combined with the Blue Bombers winning over Edmonton later on Saturday means Winnipeg has wrapped up first place in the West and the Lions will meet Calgary in the division semi-final on Sunday, November 6th. The Leos remain in the driver’s seat for second and home-field advantage by winning the season series. Now for some game takes from Matt Baker.
Gutsy Finish Not Good Enough
The visitors trailed 16-10 in the final quarter but got some life on a strip sack of McLeod Bethel-Thompson that was recovered by Jordan Williams and returned deep into Argonauts territory. Vernon Adams Jr. then hit Keon Hatcher for a score to put them on top for the first time. After a Whyte field goal put them up 20-16 with under four minutes to play, Bethel-Thompson brought the Boatmen off the mat and would hit Tommy Nield for a 37-yard major and a three-point advantage with 2:50 left.
A solid return by Terry Williams helped Adams Jr. get them into range for a Whyte field goal attempt to tie it but it was off the iron and the Argos were then able to run out the clock. A valiant comeback effort, but no doubt a tough pill to swallow; especially for TJ Lee and a proud defence.
“We went aggressive and they took advantage of it,” said Lee after the loss.
“We just got to make plays. We didn’t make plays down the stretch, we took turns giving up plays down the stretch when it mattered and that’s what equals a loss.”
It was somewhat of a small victory for Lee and company to be only down 13-7 at the break. Along with the penalties, a fumble by James Butler was also an early difference-maker that led to Toronto’s first touchdown of the night. The Lions got life in the second quarter when Adams Jr. hit Alexander Hollins for a touchdown grab which was hauled in despite double coverage. It was a nice jolt for the offence which had started the game with three two-and-outs and the Butler giveaway on their first four drives.
Adams Jr. finished 21/32 for 258 yards and two touchdown strikes. Dominique Rhymes led all Lions with 76 yards on five receptions.
“The penalties are what was really frustrating,” explained head coach Rick Campbell.
“It was a game at halftime and we bounced back in the second half but too many penalties, too much going backwards and it makes it hard when you get into 1st and 2o or those situations on offence. It just didn’t help the cause.”
As always, Adams Jr. was his own biggest critic.
“I started slow. They gave me a few different looks,” explained the quarterback.
“It doesn’t matter about the personnel. They’re just bodies out there, you know? I just kind of started slow a little bit. I’ve just got to be ready for my hot throws and different things like that. I had a couple of guys open there and I just didn’t get to them. I just started a little bit too late.”
Complimentary football is what this team does best, at the end of the day.
“No moral victories. Like I said, I’ve just got to start faster for this team and help this defence out,” added Adams Jr.
“Our defence is frickin’ amazing, man. Our special team is amazing. Sean Whyte is amazing. I’ve got to be better early on, give us a chance and not even make the game that close.”
14/130- the Lions took 14 infractions for a total of 130 yards. There will surely be some sleep lost over a pair of offside calls in the first half which helped contribute to ten Argonaut points.
424– total offence for the Argos, aided by some timely deep throws by Bethel-Thompson.
33:00- Toronto owned the time of possession which is more often than not the big path to victory in these contests.
114- James Butler once again went over the century mark with 82 yards on the ground and another 32 through the air.
The Lions are home to Winnipeg in a big West Division clash next Saturday, October 15th. Fan Appreciation Night kicks off at 7:00 pm.