Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lions and Esks keep it competitive in game three of the weekend

With some rather lopsided efforts to kickoff the season,  the programming department (not to mention sales) at TSN no doubt were thankful that the Lions and the Eskimos could keep things a little competitive for the second game of the Saturday doubleheader.

To be honest, prior to kick off, that's not exactly the scenario we anticipated, with memories of Edmonton's dysfunction of last year still fresh in our memories, combined with the anticipation that the Lions were ready to launch their march to a home field appearance at Grey Cup 102 in November.

And if the truth would be told, the blue print for our Lions / Eskimos review was going to feature the theme of insurance.

The focus of our pre game item planning along the lines as to how Kevin Glenn's arrival in British Columbia, was another reminder as to the wisdom of the ages that Wally Buono brings to the Lions management.

Always planning for the unexpected, making the moves that take into account all possibilities.

And while we still suspect that theme will play out through the 2014 season, we have to admit we were starting to rewrite the outline shortly after the half time kickoff.

That was not the case in the first thirty minutes, as Glenn, who took on the starters role with the placement of Travis Lulay on the injured list for the next six weeks, started the Lions season opener off with some impressive play management.

Pacing the Lions to seven points on the team's first possession, just the kind of of sign that Lions fans had been hoping to see and while the Edmonton answered that opening salvo nicely in the first quarter, when the first quarter came to an end, the Lions were in the lead by 7 and looking confident.

Then the stars began to adjust a bit, the Lions offence sputtered, the defence who were outstanding through three quarters, were on the field far too much through the game and finally began to give way to the Eskimo attack.

By games end Kevin Glenn would find that his statistical review on the day was something to put behind him.

While 18 completions on 28 attempts is a fairly good day at the office, the key statistic of Saturday afternoon's review was the Interceptions column, with Glenn surrendering four picks on the day, timely turnovers if you were an Edmonton fan.

The Eskimos the push back came from the play of the defence and the arm of Mike Reilly, who started turning around the momentum in the second quarter, taking charge of the game in the second half and pacing the Esks to their 27 to 20 victory.  

Edmonton which had a season to forget in 2013, clearly has banished the negative vibes with a new head coach in place, as Chris Jones reconfigures an Eskimo squad that might just get Edmonton fans interested in the on field work, as opposed to the off field dramas.

Creativity would be highlighted from the Eskimo side of the field on Saturday, with two plays that caught the Lions unaware and flat footed.  A fake field goal that set up a touchdown drive and an onside kick that gave the Eskimos field position and clock control. Both surprises, offering up the theme for the Lions practices this week, where special teams assignments will no doubt get a lengthy review.

The confidence of the Eskimos seemed to burst forward from those two plays, with Reilly taking charge of the game through the fourth, delivering a fairly significant win for a team that will be building on everything they brought to BC for opening week.

The opening day results for the Green and Gold provided pretty well everything that they could have hoped for and provides a foundation for turning around what was once one of the most impressive football machines in the country.

In Vancouver, Lions head coach Mike Benevides will be looking at adjustments in the week ahead, mostly from the offensive side of the ball, where the need to focus seems greatest.

While it's unlikely that Kevin Glenn will be making a habit of serving up four interceptions per game, per week. He will require a bit of time, both on the field to create plays (the Esks defensive play provided for much pressure on Saturday) and off the field, the latter to better mesh with the moving parts that for the moment make up his offensive unit.

One game does set the tone for a season and having an experienced hand such as Glenn at the wheel, while Lulay recuperates, should keep any sense of early season panic to a minimum.

Prior to Saturday's kickoff the Lions were considered to be one of the favourites for the long term of the 2014 season, that probably should still be the conventional thinking for CFL followers, the miscues of the season opener a blip on the overall plan.

Still, the return of the Eskimos to a competitive frame of mind, bodes well for an exciting season in the West.

Our original theme of the day was that of Insurance, one of those things that you don't really think about until it's needed.

Wally Buono clearly had the early season in mind when he picked up Glenn from the expansion RedBlacks, it will take a few games for Lions fans to learn if that was the right policy.

The concept would suggest it is, however after game number one,  you might have a problem convincing some of the Lions fan base of the theory.

Some reviews of the Lions and Eskimos can be found below:

Vancouver Province-- Kevin Glenn's game magnifies Lulay's absence
Vancouver Sun-- Opening loss stuns Lions
Edmonton Journal-- Eskimos tame Lions in season debut
Edmonton Sun-- Edmonton Eskimos overcome early deficit to edge B. C. Lions
CBC-- Mike Reilly rallies Edmonton past Lions in opener

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