Saturday, July 05, 2014

More Meow, than a roar for Lions over two weeks...

The good news for BC Lions fans, the start of the CFL season, rarely resembles the finishing order (in most cases anyways), the bad news, the start for 2014 isn't going according to plan and answers are proving hard to find.

What looked like a solid approach heading into the 2014 CFL season is turning into a bit of a short term (he hopes) nightmare for head coach Mike Benevides.

The alarm bells began to chirp a bit during the final quarter of the Lions season debut last week, as the Edmonton Eskimos mounted a late game charge to hand British Columbia their first loss of the season. A late game collapse that caught many of the Lions loyal collection of fans by surprise.

The volume of those bells is now significantly louder following game number two.

The Lions, who were rattled by their opening loss appeared ready to reverse their fortunes as they headed into Montreal for week two.

The Als who provided for their own level of self destruction last week resembled anything but a squad ready to provide a challenge to a Lions squad that should have been angry and hungry.

Appearances as they say can be deceiving, instead, Montreal provided for much of the entertainment on the night spurred on by an impressive defensive and offensive punch for most of the night.

Chip Cox started the Montreal momentum, after taking a lateral from lineman Scott Paxson, who having recovered a tipped Kevin Glenn pass, had the good sense  to tossed the ball over to Cox who dashed for the first score of the night.

The defensive play an early game breaker and one which set the tone of the Als defensive domination for the game.

On offence, it was an impressive bounce back game for QB Troy Smith, the Als pivot, who like Cox is a former Ohio State Buckeye, had struggled a fair bit in Calgary last week, but appears to have set to studying in the week since, pacing the Alouettes to a convincing 24-9 victory over the now win less Lions.

Smith had a much better statistical review on the night, completing 17 of 29 passes for 187 yards, relying on the legs of Brandon Whitaker for yardage and scoring, with Whitaker taking the ball into the Lions end zone in the first quarter, the 14-0 lead a definite reversal of output from the week one effort.

Smith himself also contributed to the rushing totals, taking the ball for a ramble six times on the night, collecting 55 yards, serving to keep the Lions defensive unit off balance for much of the evening.

Things just kept rolling for the Als from there, Smith had a nice mixture of plays and made good use of much of his offensive corps on the way to victory.  The key to their game plan a strong defensive performance that just owned the Lions Offensive line, the latter a now cobbled together unit hoping for speedy recovery from its starters.

The O line is clearly one of the biggest concerns for the Lions coaching staff, they could not provide enough protection on the night to allow Kevin Glenn the time to wait out pass patterns or seek out secondary receivers.

For much of the night, Glenn was either on the run, on the ground or chasing down intercepted passes, the second week in a row where he has had his troubles, though not all of them of his own creation.

Still, the arrival of Glenn to the Lions camp was seen at the time as another master stroke from Lions GM Wally Buono. The experience and confidence that Glenn brings to the Lions was thought to be just the right mix for the team and his arrival a timely one as Travis Lulay went on extended medical leave owing to injury.

Two games in however things aren't going quite as expected.

Three questions are perhaps now at the top of the list for Lions fans, will Lulay return at full steam, can he remain healthy and in the shorter term, will Kevin Glenn find his groove as a Lions QB before the losses start to pile up.

The answer to all three would seem to be based on how the Lions renovate their Offensive line, a definite work in progress that has had to put together on short notice owing to injuries and departures.

Whichever QB takes to the field needs to know that he has the protection required to at least keep the ball moving down the field,  two and outs, rushed passes and the theme of interceptions through two weeks is a clear indication as to where the Lions key struggles are at the moment.

In two weeks of play the Lions starting quarterback has throw six interceptions, turnovers that have offered up opportunity and momentum to opposing teams at key points in each game.

Few teams can recover from the self inflicted wounds that the Lions have offered up in their first two weeks, items of concern that the Lions coaching staff will be working hard to reverse before a slide, turns into an avalanche.

For the Alouettes, week two as early as it is in a lengthy CFL season, could have been just what the team needed. The doubts of their week one shellacking by the Stamps could have festered had they not provided the push back that they did in week two.

And while there are no doubt still things that need to be worked on, coach Tom Higgins probably found his teams work ethic and attention to detail more than satisfactory in their home opener.

Montreal made the necessary adjustments to their game in the lead up to their week two game, that is a theme that Mike Benevides and the Lions will have to work on as they look to week three and the need to get things back on track before bad habits become major obstacles to the winning side of the standings tables.

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

Montreal Gazette-- Defence stands tall as Alouettes win their home opener
Vancouver Sun -- Alouettes overwhelm Lions with 24-9 win
Vancouver Province -- Latest Lions loss highlights QB problems
24 Hours -- Alouettes first team in East with victory
CBC-- Alouettes tame Lions for 1st win of season

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