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THE MOJ: Too many negative plays sink Lions in their season opener

Overreaction not the right option, but B.C. has to be better
B.C.’s Alexander Hollins tries to evade Toronto’s Benjie Franklin during Sunday night’s game at BMO Field in Toronto. The Argonauts beat the Lions 35-27 in the season opener for both teams. Steve Chang BC Lions

Despite holding a 20-6 lead in the second quarter, the B.C. Lions couldn’t finish the job against the Toronto Argonauts and dropped their season opener 35-27 Sunday night at BMO Field in Toronto.

“Too many negative plays to overcome for us. We did some good stuff but we have to stay away from those negative plays – whether it’s turnovers, losing yards or whatever that is. It came down to one of the teams making a couple of more plays to win the game and they did it. I like our team but we definitely have work to do,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said afterwards.

Reading some of the comments on social media while flying home, I couldn’t help but think back on what Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet and his staff emphasized all season long – reset and refocus every day.

Clearly some Lions fans need to listen to Tocchet.

Then again, there is a reason ESPN runs a feature during NFL season called Overreaction Monday.

Football fans are a passionate bunch and judging by the ‘overreaction’ on social media after the Lions loss in Toronto, it shows they’re invested heading into the 2024 season.

Most of the criticism – although over the top – was warranted.

The Lions offensive line got its fair share of disapproval as quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was under siege most of the night resulting in six sacks for the Argos. Despite the constant pressure, Adams still managed to throw for 363 yards.

You also can’t ignore the fact that the Argos front four just may be the best in the CFL but the Lions still have to be better.

“We have to take care of him (Adams) better. There were too many hits on him tonight. We have to be better at that,” lamented Campbell.

The rebuilt defense, which was supposed to be better equipped to stop the run, gave up 120 yards rushing and also took its fair share of heat on social media.

Their performance wasn’t good enough, but again, the Argos offensive line is the best unit in the league.

Even Campbell and his staff came under fire with the team not being prepared to play the Argos.

Again, some criticisms were warranted while others were not.

Having Adams as your short yardage quarterback on third down is debatable. There is a reason why other CFL teams employ backup quarterbacks to handle those scenarios – namely to have the starter avoid taking some physical punishment in third-and-short situations.

Yet some of the criticism on social media was comical.

One online post ripped into Campbell for not attempting to kick a 47-yard field goal (opting to punt instead) while having kicker Sean Whyte later come on to successfully try a 52-yarder.

Maybe – just maybe - kicking into a ‘two-club’ wind and having that “two-club” wind behind you might have factored into Campbell’s decision-making process.

Despite all of the aforementioned faults, perhaps the one area that the Lions rightfully deserved criticism was ball security.

Ironically enough, turnovers were something we touched on in my last column (Nine Burning Questions).

Simply put, you cannot turn over the ball five times in a game and expect to win.

“Ultimately, we played good enough to win but I need to take care of the ball. It was the same story last year (in Toronto). I need to take care of the ball as the quarterback of the team and put our defense in better situations,” said Adams, referring to last year’s game at BMO Field in which he threw six interceptions.

The costliest of the five occurred with 3:37 remaining the fourth quarter and the Lions trailing 29-27. Faced with a second-and-six at the Toronto 36, Adams was sacked and fumbled the ball. With the wind behind them, Whyte could have easily hit from 43. Instead, the Argos took over possession.

In the end, it was a miracle the Lions were still in the game despite being -4 in the turnover battle.

Big picture wise, I’m not too worried about the defense. There are some new faces and some familiar ones playing different positions. There’s talent there but the group needs to gel and defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips needs to find out what his players can and can’t do in game situations.

The offensive line is a bigger concern. The Lions have enough flexibility with the ratio to start another American on the offensive line. Whether that means inserting Chris Schleuger or Kory Woodruff, the Lions do have options.

And then there are the turnovers.

If the Lions want to have championship aspirations, that area of the game has to improve.


* The Lions jumped out to the 20-6 second quarter lead with Justin McInnis scoring on 29-yard strike from Adams and then Travis Fulgham hauling in a 50-yard touchdown pass on his first-ever CFL catch. Defensive tackle Tibo DeBaillie scored on a 20-yard fumble recovery after Josh Archibald stripped Argos quarterback Cameron Dukes of the ball to complete the rally.

* The Lions caught a break late in the game when the Argos quarterback Cameron Dukes scored on a one-yard plunge with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter after the Lions turned the ball over on downs on the one. At first it appeared the Argos were going for two but head coach Ryan Dinwiddie corrected the blunder by having kicker Liram Hajrullahu come out to try and kick the extra point to give the Argos a nine-point lead. Hajrullhu missed the kick but the Lions couldn’t capitalise – managing to get to the Argos 40 before turning over the ball on downs.

* Next up for the Lions is the much-anticipated home opener against the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, June 15th at BC Place Stadium featuring the ‘kickoff concert’ with rapper 50 Cent. The Lios nare expecting a sellout crowd of 54,000-plus.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

READ MORE: Cameron Dukes throws 3 TDs as Argos beat B.C. Lions 35-27

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