B.C. Lions head coach Rick Campbell described it as a ‘bad day at the office’ and it pretty much summed up the Lions 45-24 loss to the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field on Monday night.
No one expected the Lions to come in and manhandle the defending Grey Cup champions in the same manner as they did when they disposed of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a 30-6 score in Manitoba last week but then again no one expected the Lions to make more mistakes in the first half than they had in the previous three games combined.
It was the type of game that had Campbell and the Lions feeling like the Bombers did a week ago: stunned at what had just occurred.
“I can’t pinpoint exactly why it happened but it was just way too much to overcome. We kept on fighting but we could never get all the way back. I’ll credit them too as they made plays. They’re a well-coached team and they have good players. We will show up better next time,” Campbell told us during the post-game show on AM 730.
The biggest story of the night was Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who threw for three touchdowns and 388 yards. The story, however, was that Adams Jr. also threw for a career-high six interceptions with the ensuing carnage resulting in the Argos scoring 31 points off those turnovers, including an interception return for touchdown.
Three other interceptions resulted in the Argos starting series at the Lions 22, 21 and 22-yard lines, putting the Lions defense in a bind all night long in just trying to keep the game competitive.
“It was a tough night for the good guys. Their defence did a great job of making plays out there. As for me, I’ve never had a game like this before. It hurts me but I just have to come back to work. I can’t be forcing things downfield. I just have to hit some checkdowns,” Adams told us afterwards.
Despite all the turnovers, the Lions still had an opportunity to make a game of it midway through the fourth quarter.
Down 35-24, the Lions took possession on their own eight-yard line with 7:59 remaining. Adams hit Keon Hatcher down the middle for a 20-yard gain to the Lions 28. Adams then found Jevon Cottoy for a 16-yard strike to give B.C. a first-and-ten on their own 44 with a little momentum starting to develop.
Then another interception was thrown – the fifth of the game, and probably the one which will frustrate Adams the most. Under pressure, he stepped up in the pocket and tried forcing a pass down the middle to Hatcher in double coverage that was intercepted by Argos defensive back Qwantez Stiggers.
What Adams Jr. didn’t see on the play was Cottoy streaking down the left sideline with no one around him as the Argos had a bust in coverage.
Had he thrown to Cottoy, it might have been for a touchdown that would have pulled the Lions to within possibly three points had they been successful on a two-point conversion.
The one question many had was why did Campbell stick with Adams Jr. despite the quarterback’s troubles with a capable back-up in Dane Evans available?
“We wanted to fight until the end. Even after all those penalties, it was still a two-score game. We were going to take a shot at it because it’s the CFL. I’m not going to be too quick to fall out of love with the guy,” Campbell explained.
Another turning point in the game occurred late in the first quarter.
With the Lions leading 7-0, they started a drive on their 13 yard-line and after four plays were faced with a second-and-two at their own 49.
The short-yardage team led by quarterback Dominique Davis came onto the field in an attempt to get the first down only to be called for a time count violation.
Now looking at a second-and-seven situation, Adams Jr. and the offense failed to convert, forcing the Lions to punt the ball.
Argos returner Javon Leake took the return 91 yards for a touchdown to get the Argonauts on the scoreboard and tie the game at 7-7.
Again, you can play the ‘what if’ game had the Lions continued their drive and made it a two-score game at that point.
* Penalties were also an issue as the Lions were flagged 13 times for a whopping 120 yards.
* At least Adams Jr. six picks didn’t put him in the Lions record books. Al Durrow threw seven interceptions in a game against Edmonton on October 25, 1958. Adams Jr. did match the six interceptions that Danny McManus threw in a game versus Ottawa on September 4, 1993.
* Hatcher’s first game of the season after dealing with an annoying plantar fasciitis injury was a successful one as the former Arkansas Razorback caught 8 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Rhymes also returned after a one-game absence and caught two more touchdown passes giving him five for the season which leads the CFL. Running back Taquan Mizzell left the game in the fourth quarter with the same knee contusion injury that had plagued him all week long at practice.
* Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly was in attendance at BMO Field to watch his nephew - Argos quarterback Chad Kelly. Kelly looked as good as advertised in exhibiting good mobility and a strong arm in throwing for 249 yards.
* Kicker Sean Whyte’s six points allowed him to pass Winnipeg kicker Bernie Ruoff for 12th on the all-time CFL scoring parade. Whyte now has 1,773 career points and is just 67 points behind another Blue Bomber legend in Trevor Kennard.
* The Lions next game is when they host the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday, July 9th.
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.