A short time after the B.C. Lions (1-2) took a bad loss against a winless Edmonton Elks team in week three, they headed to Ottawa to take on the struggling Redblacks (1-1) in their home opener. With the Lions looking to rebound and the Redblacks looking to prove their worth offensively, it looked like a promising matchup, but that didn’t end up being the case. Here are the main takeaways from the game.
Redblacks’ Offence Needs Movement
One thing that became very obvious for the Redblacks’ offence early in this game is that movement on the offence is critical for any level of success. Their first drive of the game was actually quite impressive in a sad kind of way compared to other teams around the league. It was a successful drive and probably their best of the season, but that’s the sad part. It ended in three points, but things were clicking.
Whether it was having Matt Nichols roll out of the pocket, motioning Ryan Davis across the offensive line, or sending Justin Davis to the sideline for a pass, movement on the Redblacks offence opened things up for them. Piece by piece, they moved their way down the field before settling for a field goal.
When the Redblacks relied on Nichols to sit back in the pocket and make a play, the results changed. Yes, there were a couple of drops that killed drives and forced them to kick field goals, but when the creativity stalled, so did the offence. If there is any good news to take from this game, it’s that Paul LaPolice is known for his creativity and the Redblacks offence did look better this week than they did last. Still not good enough, but maybe this can serve as somewhat of a turning point.
Lions’ Offensive Line Looked Solid
In 2019, the Lions’ pitfall was their offensive line. In week three against the Elks, it looked like the problem was going to persist for another season, but that wasn’t the case in Ottawa in week four. Michael Rielly, the Lions’ quarterback, was sacked twice in the game, but other than that, the Lions kept him relatively free of pressure allowing him to stand in the pocket and comfortably make his throws.
While this didn’t result in a massive amount of yards or touchdowns for the Lions against a stout Redblacks defence, it kept them on the field and allowed them to steadily build their lead. Not only did they make life easy on their quarterback, but they also opened up massive holes for their running backs Shaq Cooper and Chris Rainey in his limited carries.
All of this was accomplished without one of the big names on their line in Joel Figueroa who was injured earlier in the season. For a Lions team that has been held back by their offensive line in the past, this was an amazing step forward for them that they would love to carry into their week six game against these same Redblacks.
Keeping Them Close Only Matter If You Score Points
For the second time in as many games, the Redblacks defence put together a great game only to be let down by their offence. All season long, the Redblacks’ defence has been fantastic and the offence has been on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. While they can keep things close, they have no ability to finish drives and score majors, meaning they can’t capitalize on anything. Close only counts in horseshoes and grenades as they say.
Matt Nichols Wasn’t Good Enough
Not everything that is going wrong with the Redblacks is the fault of their veteran quarterback, but it’s easy to see that Nichols needs to be better for them to have any chance of winning football games going forward.
There were times in this game where Nichols looked alright, but alright isn’t going to cut it for a starting quarterback in the CFL. The most concerning thing came towards the end of the game when the Lions went back in prevent defence. Nichols refused to push the ball down the field and opted to take the check-down option far too often. This chewed the clock and proved that he doesn’t have the arm strength to throw the deep ball.
This may or may not be injury-related, but it needs to get better, and quickly. I’m not going to call for Dominique Davis, Caleb Evans or Taryn Christion at this point, but Nichols needs to get things going. He can’t blame the offensive line this week, and while his receivers could have done more for him, he didn’t do himself many favours either.
BC Did Their Jobs
I personally don’t think the Lions were spectacular in any phase of the game, but you can’t deny that they did their jobs and deserved the win. They came to Ottawa, put their heads down, and won an ugly game in downpour conditions for half of the game. They certainly could have been better, but hey, they did what they needed to do to win.
Passing Yards: Michael Reilly (BC): 301
Rushing Yards: Shaq Cooper (BC): 71
Receiving Yards: Jevon Cottoy (BC): 93
Touchdowns: Michael Reilly (BC), Jevon Cottoy (BC): 1
Tackles: Jordan Williams (BC): 8
Special Teams Tackles: Niklas Gustav (BC): 2
Sacks: Tim Bonner (BC), JR Tavai (BC), Randall Evans (OTT), Davon Coleman (OTT): 1
Interceptions: Jordan Williams (BC): 1
13th Man Sports Player of the Game
POTG: Jordan Williams
8 tackles, 1 interception