There are always critical points in a season for any team.
The common denominator in any of those critical points is usually having to overcome adversity which can present itself in many forms.
It could be injuries, poor play, a tough part of the schedule, or as in the B.C. Lions case, generating effort.
You can break down all the X’s and O’s you want but when it came to Saturday’s 30-13 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BC Place Stadium it all boiled down to one thing – effort.
“That’s what bothered me today. I thought the energy they brought was better than ours and that’s not typical of our guys. I sure like this football team but I didn’t like the way we came at it today. I’m not sure why that was. We had a good week of practice. Everything seemed good and the guys seemed excited about getting back out there,” Lions Head Coach Rick Campbell said after watching his team’s record drop to 7-4.
I’ll give the Lions a pass on this one as each and every team will have - as the legendary Tom Larscheid would say - a clunker during the course of a season.
Now it’s up to the Lions to get back on track and if they’re to maintain any hopes of winning the Western Division, they’ll need to beat the Alouettes in Montreal this upcoming Saturday.
It’s not going to be easy as the Als will be looking for a bounce back game themselves after getting drilled by the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg last Thursday. It was a tale of two halves as the Bombers led 20-17 at the half and then came out and scored 27 unanswered points to rout the Alouettes 47-17. The loss dropped Montreal’s record to 6-4, which is still good enough for second place in the Eastern Division.
I don’t like using the term ‘must-win’ when it comes to a game just over the half-way point of a season but it’s just that if the Lions want to maintain their aspirations of dethroning the Blue Bombers as the top team in the West.
After their visit to Montreal, the Lions enjoy their final bye week of the season before playing host to Ottawa, traveling to Edmonton and then entertaining Saskatchewan before Winnipeg comes to town on October 6th.
At the very least, the Lions need to be within one game of Winnipeg when the Bombers visit Vancouver. A win in their third meeting would give the Lions the season series over the Bombers – which is the first tiebreaker should the two teams finish with the same record.
To get to that point, the Lions need to run the table in the next month while the Bombers would have to drop at least one game in their next four. Winnipeg will have a home-and-home with Saskatchewan as part of the Labor Day extravaganza, then play in Hamilton before taking on Toronto at home.
Given that schedule, I can definitely see the Bombers dropping one game.
Which brings us back to the Lions.
This team has enough talent to win the division but it can’t afford any more ‘no-shows’ during the second half of the season.
That means, as Campbell put it after Saturday’s loss, fighting their way out of it.
“When things aren’t going our way for whatever reason maybe we can handle that better of digging ourselves out when things aren’t going our way for whatever reason. I think we just got stuck when it didn’t go our way. We never fought our way out of it,” said Campbell.
Winning in Montreal isn’t going to be easy but the Lions need to show to everyone – and more importantly themselves – that they are still an elite team that’s capable of winning a Grey Cup.
* Despite going 23 for 35 passing with 348 yards and a touchdown during pre-season action, the Jacksonville Jaguars waived former Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke on Monday. The Jags are hopeful that Rourke can clear waivers so that they can sign him to their practice squad but given his pre-season performance that seems unlikely. If claimed by another team, Rourke would have to be added to the 53-man roster.
* Former Lions defensive coordinator Rich Stubler passed away on August 27th at the age of 74. The most common word used to describe Stubler in many of the online tributes is ‘lifer’ as the man basically lived for the game of football. Stubler’s ‘bend but don’t break’ philosophy as a defensive coordinator saw him be part of five Grey Cup winning teams – including winning a championship with B.C. in 2000. Stubler had four different coaching stints with the Lions with his last being as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2019.
* Despite losing back-to-back games and being on the road, the Vegas books have instilled the Lions as 3 ½ point favorites against Montreal with the total sitting at 45 ½.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.