Three big reasons the Lions didn’t repeat as CFL champs

Tough pill to swallow

I’m pretty certain we could all agree the B.C. Lions would have represented the West Division a million times better than Calgary did in the 100th Grey Cup.

It was quite frustrating to watch the Stamps completely sputter against a good Argos D, but a unit not nearly as talented as the Lions’. Kevin Glenn and his teammates just never seemed to get into that rhythm on Sunday, the same rhythm that had propelled them past the Leos and into the 100th championship game.

Not to take anything away from the Argos and their talented squad, but the Stampeders surely didn’t belong in that football game. It was hyped up as the biggest game in the league’s history, and rightfully so.

How many other leagues have a 100 year old title?

But the on-field product was not very entertaining under the bright lights of the Rogers Centre. Toronto started slow, but Calgary never capitalized, and Ricky Ray and the Boatmen cruised to victory without much worry.

As frustrating as it was for Lions fans to watch a sloppy performance by the team that knocked them out of the playoffs, it was a great thing for the Argonauts franchise, and the league’s well-being, that the game turned out that way in the big smoke.

Maybe the double-blue will build some much needed momentum from this big-stage win and develop a solid contingent of fans that proudly support their team. One thing is for sure, the league is in great shape overall.

The past few Grey Cups have been near the top of the list for fastest sellouts in the history of the game.

Okay back to the Orange and White’s woes in the West Final.

1) Calgary was hotter than B.C.

The B.C. Lions had another outstanding season, and battled adversity in the form of injuries all year. But their strong first half of 2012 made for a seemingly meaningless tail end of the season.

Once out in front in the West, the Leos seemed out of reach, and they started to let up a bit. Injuries to key players also contributed to this, but the overall mindset seemed like a “cruise-control” effort the final four or five weeks.

Travis Lulay

Travis Lulay is the leader of the Lions

The Stampeders were the opposite.

Calgary came into the playoffs winning four straight, including a whooping of B.C. Then the Stamps played an unforgettable, emotionally-charged game against the Riders to put themselves into the West Division Final.

They were riding an emotional high, and it carried them out onto the field at B.C. Place where they never looked back.

They started fast, and even though the Lions kept it close, there was never any doubt who the hotter team was… and that’s what playoff football is all about.

2) Lulay just wasn’t Lulay

Travis Lulay is the leader of the Lions. There is no denying or doubting that. But he spent the end of the season nursing an injury and saw little meaningful game reps heading into the postseason.

Just as a team needs to be peaking at playoff time, so do players. Lulay was anything but peaking going into the match-up with the Stamps. He was still good in the game, but he just didn’t make those amazing plays we have all become accustomed to seeing.

He was human, and that’s not what Lions fans are familiar with. They’d been so spoiled with number 14 lighting it up and playing nearly mistake free football they had forgotten what it’s like to not control the tempo of a game from start to finish.

Statistically Travis didn’t slouch, but he also didn’t outshine Kevin Glenn.

Lulay seems to beat every other QB in the league head-to-head, but he failed to do that against an aging Glenn, who some still consider just a back-up in a starter’s role. It’s definitely not Lulay’s fault alone that the Lions looked flat out bad against Calgary, but it sure would have been nice if he would have been their knight in shining armour.

3) Uninspired Football

There is really no other way to describe this. B.C. came out flat, and they let the Stamps push them around. The only real spark for the Lions was Korey Banks‘ interception return for a touchdown early in the first half.

He played some inspired football, but he was one of the few. It really was a head scratcher for fans. The stadium was rocking from before the kickoff until deep into the fourth. The Lions had every reason to play hard.

They had their injured stars back in the lineup, they had dome field advantage, and they had that feeling of how amazing a Grey Cup feels fresh in their memories.

For some reason, or maybe a few unknown ones, they just didn’t show up to play 60 minutes of playoff football. Football is a sport of raw emotion and passion.

Without those intangibles, you can lose with the best players and coaches money can buy, and that’s just what happened.

B.C. came in as sure favourites, but played as if nothing was at stake. Maybe Benevides is not the locker room motivator that Buono was.

Or maybe the veterans on the team just didn’t step up to the call. One thing is certain, they disappointed the fans and missed a great opportunity to become the franchise’s first back-to-back champs.

I hate to say “there’s always next year”, but in this case I feel comfortable with that statement.

The Lions will be just as dangerous in 2013, and should be marking their calendars for November 24th in Regina.


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About Bryan McFarlane

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