2022 CFL BC Lions vs Edmonton, photo Paul Yates
The gun-metal-clad BC Lions (11-5-0) came out fast and physical and picked up a huge victory on the strength of a solid performance by return specialist Terry Williams. In the end, a solid finish by the defence helped close out a 40-32 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-3-0) in front of 24,082 fans at BC Place. The Lions are now one step away from their first home playoff game since 2016. With a two-point cushion on the Stamps, a victory in Edmonton next week or a loss by Calgary in one of their two remaining games would give the Lions second in the West and home-field advantage for the November 6th Western Semi-Final. Now for some game takes:
Special Teams A Bit More Special
It was finally the breakout game from Williams they were waiting for as the speedster finished with 341 total return yards: 155 on a pair of missed field goal returns, 152 on four kickoff returns and 34 on three punt returns. Not a bad night, Mr. Williams. All that was missing was that long-awaited house call.
“I’d say it was good yardage wise but I’m going to hear about it and I’m harder on myself than anybody’s going to be,” chuckled Williams after the win.
“I’m going to beat myself up tonight about it but I’ll get over it because we won, first off. I feel like I helped the team a little bit. The kicker got me (on a near-touchdown return) and we talked after the game. I couldn’t do anything but laugh. I’m going to learn from it and keep learning.”
The Lions’ first-half output was fuelled by two big returns which led to ten points. Williams took the opening kickoff 40 yards to inside Bomber territory which set up a James Butler major to open the scoring. He then opened the floodgates in the second quarter with a 90-yard return on Mark Liegghio’s missed field goal to set up a successful try from Sean Whyte.
Simply put, it’s this kind of production in the return game that can change an outcome in an instant and also take pressure off the offence to chew up yards on every single drive.
The crazy second quarter ended with a highlight-reel touchdown grab by Dominique Rhymes to give the Lions a 27-10 lead at the break. Williams also made a heads-up play to help seal it late when he stepped out of bounds before fielding a Mark Liegghio punt. The ensuing penalty gave the Lions possession at their own 50 and made it near impossible to complete the comeback.
“To be honest, just knowing the game and knowing how to not make a mistake,” added Williams.
“Know the game. Just don’t overthink it. Be patient. Go with what you know.”
Defence Backs Up The Offence
It wasn’t a banner night for either offence, save for a furious comeback attempt by quarterback Dru Brown- who hit Rasheed Bailey for a pair of majors and Dalton Schoen for another in a second half that saw Winnipeg outscore the Leos 25-13.
Vernon Adams Jr. was only 13/22 for 138 yards and the touchdown to Rhymes but was backed up by a solid James Butler running attack and a bend but-don’t-break defence which got interception return touchdowns from Marcus Sayles and TJ Lee. The Lee defensive score went for 102 yards and put the home team up 40-24 after the Bombers were threatening to pull to within two points.
Looking at it through a wide lens, head coach Rick Campbell would rather focus on improvement in the areas that did well.
“That’s what we’re striving for as a football team is to improve on whatever; offence defence or special teams so we can be more consistent because that’s what we’re striving for,” said Campbell.
“The thing I’m happy (about) is we made enough plays and we stuck with it and found a way to win the game, which is the most important thing. It’s a lot more fun to correct things and get better when you win. We’ll obviously strive to make sure we’re as consistent as we can be on all three sides of the ball.”
Added Lee on the win: “Because it’s toward the end of the season, it’s the most important one. We want to turn the tide and we want to turn these games into wins toward the second half of the season. We want to win out. This is the first step. We don’t care who Winnipeg brings across, we’re ready for it. It’s their fault they didn’t play their players. They’re going to have to turn it on. Because we’re turning it on.”
Along with sitting starting quarterback Zach Collaros, offensive linemen Stanley Bryant and Jarmacus Hardrick plus cornerback Deatrick Nichols were among those who did not play. For what it’s worth., the Lions were also depleted by the injury bug. These teams will meet two weeks from now to close out the regular season and perhaps a third time in the November 13th Western Final at IG Field. One game at a time.
341- worth mentioning one more time, the total return yards for Williams.
104- rushing yards for James Butler, his second-highest total of the season. His opening-drive touchdown was a major tone-setter.
25:14– the Lions prevail despite being a solid ten minutes behind Winnipeg in time of possession.
266- the Lions’ total offence in this contest; good enough to pull it out.
14- points off turnovers coming in the form of interception returns by Sayles and Lee.
The Lions visit Edmonton for a Friday night clash with the Elks next week. Kickoff is 7:00 pm PT.