Well. That was…something.
The BC Lions sure aren’t making life easy for the people who cover them this season. It’s my job as a writer to never be at a loss for words, but that’s precisely the state that I was left in after this week’s heartbreaking 39-38 loss to the Montreal Alouettes.
This is the second week in a row that I have had to change up the manner in which I was going to cover the team, on account of the bizarre performance by this confusing organization.
It’s odd to say that an offense was terrible when they managed to put up 38 points. It’s also unusual to suggest that a defence was atrocious when it managed to keep an opposing quarterback to less than a 50 percent completion percentage, while also accumulating six turnovers.
Only 14 of the 38 points were scored off of touchdowns, both passes to Shawn Gore. Two points were scored off of a safety, and seven came off of a missed field goal returned by Tim Brown. The remaining 15 points were scored off of field goals. It’s inaccurate to judge the offense based on points alone.
Jacques Chapdelaine has to take the blame for the offense’s problems. He has taken some criticism in the past for a lack of imagination or conservative disposition when it comes to play-calling. This has never been more apparent than the 2013 season.
The problem is not only that Chapdelaine is averse to risk-taking (a less-than-admirable quality for an offensive coach). He takes the wrong risks. This is a problem that I know all too well as a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan. It’s as if Chapdelaine has been studying method to play Andy Reid in an upcoming biopic.
Early in the season, trick plays involving reverses and slotback runs to Shawn Gore and Marco Iannuzzi averaged around 10 yards per attempt. Chapdelaine became too tricky by consciously trying to not be too tricky.
He fell in love with the same few gadget plays and has run them over and over to the point that they no longer fool anybody. If he mixed things up a little more, perhaps those same plays might still be effective.
Another painful resemblance between this Lions team and Eagles teams of old is the profound impotence in short-yardage situations. Andrew Harris is a fine back, but he’s incapable of being the sledgehammer that ensures you get those tough 2, 3, 4-yard runs to move the chains.
The offense has been incapable of running out the clock even when it does manage to get a lead. For years this has been a main criticism of Andy Reid coached teams: lacking a short-yardage back and passing when you should be focusing on moving the chains and running down the clock.
Let’s continue the Eagles comparisons. New head coach Chip Kelly has stated that he will use statistics and matchups instead of trick plays and schemes when it comes to gaining an advantage over opposing defences.
This is something Chapdelaine’s offense has failed at in almost every respect this season.
The Lions offense made no noticeable adjustments for Montreal’s blitzes this week. This would normally be frustrating, but it is only magnified by the fact that the Lions have an incredibly deep pool of talented receivers. No adjustment was made to spread out the defense, and the Lions neither gained an advantage in the run game nor managed to find an open receiver.
Compare this to what Chip Kelly said in a recent interview of his approach to football, and how he plans to utilize 3 tight end sets to create matchup problems: “We are going to go three tight ends in a game. Now, if they go three linebackers, we spread them out and if they go DB’s, we smash you. So, pick your poison.”
That kind of thinking is tactical, it’s creative, but it’s not tricky for tricky’s sake and it’s not too cute.
The Lions need a fresh set of eyes on offense. They need a new pair of hands to work with the bounty of pliable clay the offense has to work with. Most importantly, they need a vision on offense. They need a philosophy, a point of view to direct the raw talent on the roster.
We’ve been hard on Travis Lulay, and questioned Mike Benevides. For now, I blame Jacques Chapdelaine.