There are at least two distinct, but opposing, impressions of the B.C. Lions' performance in a 27-21 loss to Saskatchewan on Saturday night. On the one hand, the Lions weren't overly impressive for much of the game, and both their offence and defence displayed substantial shortcomings that might come back to haunt them down the road. On the other, though, despite struggling throughout most of this contest, they turned in an incredible effort at the end and just about came away with a victory. If these Lions continue to play the way they did for the first 50 minutes Saturday, they may be more vulnerable than their league-best 9-4 record suggests. However, if they can deliver the kind of offensive performance they displayed in those final 10 minutes, B.C. will be extremely tough to beat.
On the whole, this was a dismal showing from the Lions. Yes, the Riders may have been more desperate to improve their playoff positioning and turn in a strong home performance, and the rowdy Saskatchewan crowd certainly didn't help. For most of the game, this didn't look like the team that had stormed to a CFL-best 9-3 record and dominated the league in both offensive and defensive statistical categories. On the night, B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay threw for just 232 yards with two interceptions, and he didn't have a touchdown until the final four minutes. Running back Andrew Harris was remarkably efficient, collecting 78 yards on just eight carries, but he rarely got the ball. The vaunted defence also had one of its worst nights of the year, allowing Saskatchewan's Darian Durant to complete 26 of 34 passes (76.5 per cent) for 371 yards and three touchdowns (although he was picked off once thanks to a gorgeous play from Ryan Phillips) and conceding 103 rushing yards on 17 carries (6.1 yards per carry) to Kory Sheets. By the Lions' standards, that's a pretty horrible evening.
Yet, what the B.C. offence did down the stretch was nothing short of miraculous. Trailing 20-7 with just under 10 minutes left, quarterback Travis Lulay found a way to revive an offence that had had been moribund at best all night. Lulay led an 11-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Marco Iannuzzi just before the three-minute warning, extending his remarkable streak of games with a touchdown pass to 24. Many would have settled for making things somewhat close, especially after Saskatchewan quickly scored to expand the lead to 27-14. Lulay didn't, stringing together an incredible three-pass, 78-yard drive in just 46 seconds to put the Lions just six points back, and after the Riders' Taj Smith muffed an onside kick and it bounced off B.C.'s Anton McKenzie to give the Lions another possession with over a minute left, they had a chance for the win. That didn't come to fruition, thanks to curious playcalling that had them going deep on both first and second down of the ensuing series, but the near-comeback still showed off this team's incredible potential. The question is how often they'll be able to live up to it.