It’s never as good as it looks when you win and it’s never as bad as it looks when you lose.
It’s an expression my former co-host Chris Burns would use when describing a lopsided game in the CFL. Actually, I think Burnsy might have learned that expression while playing offensive line for the late Ron Lancaster when the latter was the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but I digress.
That expression could probably be used to describe what happened at IG Field in Winnipeg on Thursday night.
In the much-anticipated showdown between the B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it was the Bombers who scored the knockout punch early in a decisive 50-14 win against the Lions – and in the process avenging a 30-6 loss at home to the very same Lions on June 22nd.
So what happened?
The Bombers were coming off a bye-week, well-rested after an 13-day break and were buoyed by the return of Kyrie Wilson and Winston Rose on defence. Corner Demerio Houston, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and receiver Kenny Lawler were also in the lineup this time around.
Meanwhile, the Lions were playing on a short week with four days between their 27-0 victory in Edmonton on Saturday and the game in Winnipeg.
It really wasn’t as much about the short week – the Lions beat the Bombers in June on four days rest – as it was the inability to meet the Bombers energy level and intensity that did the Lions in.
“I thought they played really well and give them full credit. They played with great energy and we just didn’t match it. Part of our calling card is not giving up big plays and those big plays…especially early in the game…we were just trying to recover from them and we never could,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell told the media after the game.
The Bombers came out flying, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions totalling four plays that accounted for 162 yards. Zach Collaros hit Dalton Schoen on a 71-yard pass on the opening drive after the Lions had the Bombers pinned on their five-yard-line facing a 1st and 15 situation. On the very next series, the Bombers scrimmaged from their own 53-yard line after the Lions punted and all it took was one play for Collaros to hit Kenny Lawler for a 57-yard strike for a touchdown to make the score 14-0.
The rout was on.
A Lions defence that had come into the game not giving up a touchdown on their previous 44 possessions wound up surrendering six majors in 15 drives.
What made a bad situation even worse was when the Lions lost starting quarterback Dane Evans due to a rib injury right before the half after being hit by Bombers’ linebacker Adam Bighill. The end result was the Lions only touchdown of the night coming on a 30-yard fumble recovery by Bo Lokombo five minutes into the fourth quarter.
“We have nothing to say really. They played their best game and we didn’t show up. The biggest thing we can do now is go back to Vancouver, get our bodies healthy, learn from our mistakes and come out next week ready to play,” Lions safety Quincy Mauger said post-game.
There will be those who might dismiss the Lions after such a humbling defeat but history has proven that great teams – championship teams – can get drilled during the course of the season.
It’s just the nature of the game.
Burns would always point out that the Ti-Cats Grey Cup Championship team of 1998 suffered a 52-19 loss to the Montreal Alouettes in September. For a more ‘modern’ reference all one has to do is look at last year’s Toronto Argonauts. The Lions crushed the Argos 44-3 at BC Place on June 25 – five months later the Argos were Grey Cup champions.
It’s professional football.
The Lions and the Bombers have each won a round but there is still another round to go -and most likely two - to see who wins this bout.
It should make for a great game in Vancouver on Oct. 6.
* Going back to 2017, Winnipeg is now 12-1 coming off the bye-week. The Bombers 576 yards of total offense was their highest total since 2018. It came against a B.C. defense that was averaging giving up only 256 yards per game. Collaros was lights out in throwing for 369 yards and two touchdowns.
* Evans’ rib injury doesn’t appear to be too serious but more will be known after he is evaluated in the next few days. “It’s to be determined. He was actually available to come back into the game if needed but he was a hurting guy. He took a shot to his ribs. It could be something very minor or not. We just don’t know yet,” Campbell said after the game. There is the possibility that Vernon Adams Jr. maybe ready to start as well.
* Receiver Keon Hatcher also took a big hit from Bighill in the third quarter and re-aggravated a hip injury. Hatcher gutted it out for a couple of more series but then was pulled from the game.
* A bright spot for the Lions was defensive tackle Marcus Moore, who was making his CFL debut as a replacement for injured defensive tackle Josh Banks. Moore sniffed out a screen play intended for Bombers running back Brady Oliveira on the final play of the third quarter for an interception. Banks, who is dealing with a hamstring issue, is expected to be ready when the Calgary Stampeders visit BC Place next Saturday.
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.